While Samsung fights the hardware behind it’s presumptively named Galaxy F folding smartphone, recently published patents show that Apple continues to experiment with the same transformational technology.
Details of the new patent have been highlighted by Jack Purcher at Patently Apple. In essence it extends the previous folding iPhone patent to include new hinge arrangements and new materials to cover the workings of the hinges:
Apple’s second patent win covers a new round of patent claims that define the additions to the original invention. The main focus is on a flexible hinge. The secondary point touches on the use of fabric for the housing.
… a flexible hinge coupled between the first and second housing portions, wherein the flexible hinge flexes to allow the first housing portion to rotate relative to the second housing portion; …wherein the foldable display has first and second display portions separated by a third display portion, wherein the third display portion overlaps the flexible portion of the housing …wherein the flexible portion of the housing comprises fabric.
This trifold approach would allow a third of the Z-folded display screen to remain visible, allowing it to be used as a standby screen, or even full iOS features when closed. Apple’s first iPhone was a 3.5 inch display, and with a lot of people asking for a smaller iPhone, the Z-fold could offer a return to that form factor probably with the same thickness) but also the opportunity to fold out to a much larger screen more in fitting with ‘Plus/Max’ style of iPhone.
Of course the publication of a patent does not necessarily mean that the innovation will go into production. It could be that the technology finds another use. The iPhone XS and XS Max already have a folding screen in them, but this is to tuck the electronics at the base of the screen assembly back under the main screen to allow for Apple’s ‘edge to edge’ marketing of the reduced bezel size.
No doubt the geekerati will expect Apple to watch the competition (notably Samsung) and then swoop in with a ‘better’ solution. I think it’s more likely that Apple is building up a stock of defensive patents. After all Apple is still waiting to use its patents around wireless charging to improve on the industry standard Qi system. – Forbes