Development of the foldable iPhone appears to be continuing as a recently discovered patent filing suggests Apple is looking for a way to better protect its device from falls.
Available on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website (opens in new tab), the application is called Self-Retracting Display Device And Techniques For Protecting Screen Using Drop Detection. Quite a lot, but it succinctly describes how Apple aims to minimize screen damage. As described, the device will have some sort of sensor inside, like an accelerometer. When it detects the iPhone being dropped, the sensor signals an “electronically adjustable locking mechanism” to quickly close the phone.
The application warns that if the iPhone is too close to the ground and it is left partially open, the mechanism may not close completely. But that’s okay because, according to the patent, “even folding the display at a lesser angle [than] 180 degrees can [still] provide some protection”. At least the impact will be on the sides instead of directly on the screen.
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Another aspect that Apple looks at in the application is the hinge. The foldable iPhone can consist of two separate screens that connect when the device is unfolded, rather than having a regular hinge in the middle. When the phone is closed, the top screen detaches from the bottom, which is said to help with protection. It’s hard to say for sure as the document doesn’t describe exactly how things will work. Rather, the application explains how things can work on the phone.
Much of the patent document talks about the capabilities of the foldable iPhone. For example, the sensor behind the fall arrest system may consist of “accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses, and/or other components” that detect motion. However, Apple does not directly refer to any specific technology. Most importantly for the company, the internal mechanisms can detect when the rate of fall “exceeds a predetermined threshold” to automatically snap shut. It remains to be seen whether the device will actually be able to register a fall quickly enough to close completely.
Rumors about a foldable iPhone have been circulating on the internet for about three years. During this time other patents have been leaked and we have been able to see the device concept changing in real time. One design “had two hinges for a hypothetical three displays,” allowing the phone to fold in a Z-shaped formation. While another prototype was experimenting with an electronic paper display. However, don’t hold your breath if the “iPhone Fold” is coming out any time soon. The The latest leaks point to a 2025 release So you have enough time to save on what is probably a very expensive smartphone.
If you want something now, check out TechRadar’s list of best foldable phones for 2023.
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