Apple patent hints at efforts to develop foldable iPhone with OLED display

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Date: Thursday, November 24th, 2016, 05:52
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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An Apple patent published on Tuesday showed the company’s years-long investigation into a hinged iPhone format, the designs calling for a flexible metal-backed OLED display capable of being folded in half.

The patent, numbered 9,504,170 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and dubbed “Flexible display devices”, describes an iPhone with a foldable full-screen display. Such a device could be folded in half and easily put away.

In order to achieve the flexibility required, the document proposes nitinol, a nickel and titanium alloy known for its elasticity and unique shape memory abilities. Alternative embodiments involve flexible polymers.


Certain examples in the document cite both upper and lower sections, each containing processors, sensors and other typical smartphone circuitry. For example, an upper housing might include cameras, display controllers, speaker modules and light sensors, while the bottom portion holds microphones, CPU and GPU, vibrator and other necessary parts.

The two segments would be attached via a type of hinge that would also support rotational motion. The segments would be connected through flexible printed circuit boards.

Apple’s patent discusses ideas such as how to alternate the device’s housing to ease stress on the OLED component. One idea mentions tensioning members and rollers be employed for dispensing and retracting the display during hinge rotation.

In the near term, Apple is widely rumored to release an iPhone model with flexible OLED display in 2017, but the form factor is expected to remain faithful to the line’s monolithic design.

Apple’s foldable iPhone patent was first filed for in July 2014 and credits Fletcher R. Rothkopf, Andrew J. M. Janis and Teodor Dabov as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Via AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office

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