Apple To Unfold A ‘Foldable’ iPhone Soon

Ever since the original iPhone was released nine years ago, the overall framework design has not changed much — a rectangular shape with rounded corners. But Apple could be overhauling the iPhone design soon. 

Apple To Unfold A ‘Foldable’ iPhone Soon

The images within Apple’s patented design shows a mockup of a clamshell device that looks similar to the Nintendo 3DS. Drawing from Apple patent #9,485,862

There has been speculation about what Apple will do with its future iPhones based on supplier leaks and patent filings over the last few months. Interestingly, Apple was recently awarded patent #9,485,862 titled “electronic devices with carbon nanotube printed circuits” — which involves a foldable device design, according to Patently Apple.

The images within Apple’s patented design shows a mockup of a clamshell device that looks similar to the Nintendo 3DS. How would that work? The conductive carbon nanotube paths described in the patent would enable an iPhone to be flexible and resistant to cracking. And the patent says that plastic, glass, ceramics, metal, fiber composites or a combination of two or more of those materials could also be used for a foldable smartphone.

Here is how the patent describes the flexible carbon nanotube paths that could be used for a device:

“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.”

In the photo above, you will notice that the design of a hypothetical foldable iPhone could be opened and closed with a flexible seam and a hinge. The patent was originally filed in August 2014 so it appears that Apple has been considering a foldable smartphone for more than a couple years. There were rumours that Samsung or LG was going to come out with a foldable smartphone first, but now it seems plausible that Apple could make it happen sooner.

It is worth mentioning that companies often file for patents without actually implementing the technology, but the filing supports previous rumours that Apple was going to make a foldable smartphone device. Citing a report by Nikkei, Forbes contributor Brooke Crothers reported in August that Apple is expected to offer one curved OLED iPhone in 2017, more curved OLED iPhone options in 2018 and two foldable iPhones in 2019. In 2019, it is believed that there will be a 4.7-inch foldable iPhone that can be turned into an iPad mini and a 5.5-inch foldable iPhone that can become a full-sized iPad when it is unfolded.

In 2017, Apple is expected to be releasing a device called the “iPhone 8.” And rumours about the iPhone 8 have been swirling for months now. Apparently, Hon Hai Precision Industry (known as Foxconn) — one of Apple’s biggest manufacturing partners — said that the company is making wireless charging modules for the next iPhone. And Forbes contributor Ben Sin reported that the next iPhone will have OLED panels as reported in a keynote given by Foxconn executive Tai Jeng-wu at his alma mater.

What are your thoughts about the possibility of a foldable iPhone? Do you think you would buy one of that kind of devices? Please leave a comment!