Apple has been awarded a patent for a foldable iPhone, Patently Apple has discovered. The patent was filed on August 28 but was only officially awarded to the company today.
The company was believed to be researching foldable iPhone designs since at least 2013 and this new evidence would suggest that Apple is still serious about making this concept a reality.
Patently Apple claims that the concept was kept under wraps by using an engineer’s name during the filing process. Rather than referring to this concept as a generig ‘electronic device’, the patent explicitly uses the Apple moniker and shows several drawings of the curent design, including the home button.
Most interesting about the concept is the description of the materials that could be used for the device. Describing an iPhone houseing that could be made with glass, ceramic, fibre, aluminimum or plastic, the makeup of the device doesn’t seem too different. The main area of curiosity is the patent’s description of "carbon nanotubes" that would allow the iPhone to literally fold in half down the middle.
This is described by the patent:
Conductive carbon nanotube paths can form signal paths that are flexible and resistant to cracking. The carbon nanotube structures may be incorporated into signal cables such as flexible printed circuit cables, rigid printed circuit boards, printed circuits that include rigid portions with flexible tails (sometimes referred to as "rigid flex"), portions of display structures, portions of touch sensors such as capacitive touch sensor arrays for displays or track pads, camera structures, antenna structures, housing structures, internal device structures, electrical components, substrates, brackets, housing walls, other structures, or combinations of these structures.
While this concept might seem a bit too Buck Rogers to see the light of day any time soon, this may just be Apple’s way of keeping up with Samsung. The company’s chief smartphone rival has patented so many foldable phone designs that Patently Mobile had to create an archive to keep track.
Most patents, especially from Apple, have a tendency to stay in the conceptual stage without ever actually making it into production. With the direction taken by the iPhone 7, we don’t expect to be seeing a foldable iPhone any time soon.