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Apple patent reveals foldable iPhone with flexible OLED display

For some time now, we’ve been seeing patents emerge for foldable phones, with Samsung perhaps being the most high-profile company to register such designs.

But it seems Tim Cook isn’t to be outdone in that department, as AppleInsider has spotted a new patent for a foldable iPhone with a flexible OLED screen.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent, No. 9,504,170 for “flexible display devices”, which details a design for a hinged iPhone that can fold in two when not in use.

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apple patent

The device would rely on flexible components such as an OLED display and metal support structure made of a nickel and titanium alloy called nitinol, which has the elasticity needed for this foldable design.

Apple also mentions flexible polymers as a possible alternative to the nitinol design, with some versions of the phone coming with a chassis split into upper and lower sections.

These sections house the phone’s hardware and are attached via ‘a single- or multi-shaft hinge mechanism’ which allows for rotation so that the separate sections of the phone can move relative to one another.

apple patent

Flexible printed circuit boards allow the two sections to communicate with one another, while the display is overlaid across the two portions of the handset.

This allows the phone to fold into itself clamshell-style, while another design has the screen folding back on itself and facing outwards once collapsed, along with the ability to clip onto a user’s clothing.

The patent was first filed in July 2014, and outlines another configuration that has the display retracting into the sections themselves.

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apple patent

Of course, companies file patents all the time in order to protect their designs, but a patent is never a guarantee a particular product will make it to market.

Apple is expected to debut a new iPhone with an OLED screen in 2017, but rather than being flexible, the display is said to be an almost full-face design, that eliminates the home button from the phone’s case.

Whether we’ll see a flexible version of the iPhone in the future remains to be seen, but it looks as though Apple has at least investigated the idea.

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Let us know what you think of the patent in the comments.

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