Apple seeks new patent for folding displays as rumors of a foldable OLED iPhone heat up

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2017
On the heels of a rumor that Apple is working with OLED maker LG on a future iPhone that could fold in half, a new patent application from the company describes the very same thing.


Foldable tablet concept from Lenovo, via Jez C.


AppleInsider first discovered the new application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, very simply entitled "Electronic Devices with Displays." But within the application, Apple reveals its interest in future hardware that could be folded in half, making it more portable and easier to pocket.

Specifically, Apple's application calls for a device that has a "flexible portion" that could be folded. The filing notes that a "flexible display" would be necessary to accomplish this without seams or a visible hinge.


Via USPTO.


The intellectual property filing is particularly noteworthy, because it arrives just a day after a rumor claimed that Apple is secretly working with LG on the creation of a foldable OLED iPhone, potentially set to arrive by 2020.

For the soon-to-arrive iPhone X, Samsung is believed to be the sole supplier of OLED displays, chiefly for quality reasons. But as Apple looks to the next big iPhone design breakthrough, it has been suggested that the company has instead partnered with LG, so that rival handset maker Samsung cannot get advance word of its future product plans.


Via USPTO.


Fitting in line with the latest rumors, Apple's patent application specifically describes a foldable display with an organic light emitting display layer, or OLED. That display would be enclosed in a housing that could be made of a variety of materials, including plastic, glass, ceramics, fiber composites, stainless steel, or aluminum.

While the latest rumors are regarding a foldable iPhone, Apple's application notes that this concept could apply to a variety of devices, also saying future MacBooks, iPads, Apple Watches and more could benefit from such technology.

The filing also says that the technology could be accomplished with a micro LED display. Apple has invested in the next-generation display technology, which could lead to further power savings on portable devices.


Samsung foldable display concept.


Apple's concept includes a device with a hinge point where the affected portion of the display would be outfitted with "enhanced flexibility regions." These would help reduce or eliminate bend-induced stresses, the company said.

The newly published USPTO application is credited to inventors Terry C. Shyu, Paul. S. Drzaic, and Zhen Zhang. Apple first issued the invention to the patent office on Aug. 30, 2016.


Foldable iPhone fan mockup concept.


While the application is new, it's not the first time Apple has shown interest in bendable displays for future hardware. Last November, AppleInsider revealed that the company was granted a patent for a foldable iPhone with flexible display that could actually be clipped on to the user's clothing.

As iPhones grow larger, and with Apple rumored to debut an edge-to-edge 6.46-inch iPhone X in 2018, foldable technology could allow users the benefit of more pocketable devices. By allowing an iPhone to be folded in half, users could get the benefit of a large screen while also retaining the portable size of smaller devices.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    So the competition have their eyes on an iPhone/iPad knockoff that folds. why?

    I’m getting sick of all the Apple piggybacking. I, as a normal human being have thought up original hardware and concepts in 2017 that don’t rely of copying Apple yet these multi billion dollar industries are too scared to take risks.

    One original idea is a gaming controller with a flat face. That’s all I can say as I hope to patent it some day. 
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Is this thread not significantly similar to this thread?: 

    Rumor: Apple working with LG on foldable OLED iPhone in 2020, leaving rival Samsung...

    How about a single thread for all of this? In other words, FOLD the threads together.
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 3 of 22
    cali said:
    So the competition have their eyes on an iPhone/iPad knockoff that folds. why?

    I’m getting sick of all the Apple piggybacking. I, as a normal human being have thought up original hardware and concepts in 2017 that don’t rely of copying Apple yet these multi billion dollar industries are too scared to take risks.

    One original idea is a gaming controller with a flat face. That’s all I can say as I hope to patent it some day. 

    Not sure how your getting to copying if your talking about the folding display.  Samsung, LG, Lenovo and others have been demoing folding displays and devices since at least 2014, with Samsung rumored to launch a device next year.  So unless your just saying anyone who makes a phone/tablet or some new form of phone or tablet is copying Apple, I don't see where the copying claim comes from.  
    gatorguy
  • Reply 4 of 22
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 743editor
    Is this thread not significantly similar to this thread?: 

    Rumor: Apple working with LG on foldable OLED iPhone in 2020, leaving rival Samsung...

    How about a single thread for all of this? In other words, FOLD the threads together.
    They're two different news stories. You're not new here, you should...

    Ohhhhh. Nevermind.  :D
    gatorguySpamSandwichfastasleepjony0
  • Reply 5 of 22
    It don’t see any potential for this. 

    Having a large phone than can be folded doesn’t help anyone. The size is not nearly as much of a problem when in your pocket as it is when using it. 
    macplusplus
  • Reply 6 of 22
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 743editor
    It don’t see any potential for this. 

    Having a large phone than can be folded doesn’t help anyone. The size is not nearly as much of a problem when in your pocket as it is when using it. 
    I disagree. I've heard countless complaints (and I agree) that Apple should stop making phones thinner, that the thickness doesn't matter. But what if this is the payoff? Fold it and double the thickness but halve the size in your pocket. Nobody cares about the thickness in their pocket, but the size does matter.

    As for your concerns about using a large display, what if the phone doesn't fold inward, like a book, but instead outward? What if you could use it in folded mode and just use half of the display in a one-handed mode? Without a physical home button, you could use your device in any orientation or physical state. That's when things start to get really interesting.
    netmagemuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 22
    frankiefrankie Posts: 369member
    Why not just make 2 screens that come together?  

    If one breaks you just replace that one.  Plus no need to worry about the constant wear and tear from folding something so delicate.  They're probably just experimenting with ideas (as they should and always are) and the rumor mill is bored.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 8 of 22
    nhughes said:
    Is this thread not significantly similar to this thread?: 

    Rumor: Apple working with LG on foldable OLED iPhone in 2020, leaving rival Samsung...

    How about a single thread for all of this? In other words, FOLD the threads together.
    They're two different news stories. You're not new here, you should...

    Ohhhhh. Nevermind.  :D
    Haha!
  • Reply 9 of 22
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,528moderator
    nhughes said:
    It don’t see any potential for this. 

    Having a large phone than can be folded doesn’t help anyone. The size is not nearly as much of a problem when in your pocket as it is when using it. 
    I disagree. I've heard countless complaints (and I agree) that Apple should stop making phones thinner, that the thickness doesn't matter. But what if this is the payoff? Fold it and double the thickness but halve the size in your pocket. Nobody cares about the thickness in their pocket, but the size does matter.

    As for your concerns about using a large display, what if the phone doesn't fold inward, like a book, but instead outward? What if you could use it in folded mode and just use half of the display in a one-handed mode? Without a physical home button, you could use your device in any orientation or physical state. That's when things start to get really interesting.
    I’ll be curious to see how any company creates an actively foldable device.  It’s an engineering marvel to get the display itself to fold, but will companies so easily discard the gorilla glass covers that have taken so long to perfect?  Will Apple be able to incorporate 3D Touch into such a device, or will they be willing to leave that behind?  What will protect the face of the phone if there isn’t a scratch-resistant layer covering the OLED or micro LED surface?  Seems to me there’s a missing link, an evolutionary step along the path to truly [actively] foldable displays, and that’s folded displays.  Folded once to form fit the shape of a device, like a wrap around Watch, and then covered over with a protective glass surface layer.  
    edited October 2017 SpamSandwichmacplusplus
  • Reply 10 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,202member
    nhughes said:
    It don’t see any potential for this. 

    Having a large phone than can be folded doesn’t help anyone. The size is not nearly as much of a problem when in your pocket as it is when using it. 
    I disagree. I've heard countless complaints (and I agree) that Apple should stop making phones thinner, that the thickness doesn't matter. But what if this is the payoff? Fold it and double the thickness but halve the size in your pocket. Nobody cares about the thickness in their pocket, but the size does matter.

    As for your concerns about using a large display, what if the phone doesn't fold inward, like a book, but instead outward? What if you could use it in folded mode and just use half of the display in a one-handed mode? Without a physical home button, you could use your device in any orientation or physical state. That's when things start to get really interesting.
    I’ll be curious to see how any company creates an actively foldable device.  It’s an engineering marvel to get the display itself to fold, but will companies so easily discard the gorilla glass covers that have taken so long to perfect?  Will Apple be able to incorporate 3D Touch into such a device, or will they be willing to leave that behind?  What will protect the face of the phone if there isn’t a scratch-resistant layer covering the OLED or micro LED surface?  Seems to me there’s a missing link, an evolutionary step along the path to truly [actively] foldable displays, and that’s folded displays.  Folded once to form fit the shape of a device, like a wrap around Watch, and then covered over with a protective glass surface layer.  
    I don't see "foldable" devices happening any time soon when we've barely even scratched the surface of curved displays. And then after curved displays* are common enough for elegant and seamless designs, then we'd move onto displays that are folded into a rigid device (which looks like how the iPhone X display is assembled). Is there an indication that the display could withstand being unfolded and folded hundreds of times of a day for several years or that its surface could withstand being pressed without a rigid covering like Gorilla Glass to protect it? We all know what happens to a display when you press on an LCD with a flimsy plastic covering.


    * I'm not talking about desktop computer monitors.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 2,752member
    I always liked my flip-phone better...
  • Reply 12 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,202member
    sog35 said:
    "The screen size of an iPad Mini with the pockeability of an iPhone5.

    That is the holy grail of Phones."

    I've said this FOUR YEARS AGO.
    You also said Tim Cook needs to be fired and for Jeff Bezos to take over as CEO of Apple.
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,202member
    sog35 said:
    Soli said:
    nhughes said:
    It don’t see any potential for this. 

    Having a large phone than can be folded doesn’t help anyone. The size is not nearly as much of a problem when in your pocket as it is when using it. 
    I disagree. I've heard countless complaints (and I agree) that Apple should stop making phones thinner, that the thickness doesn't matter. But what if this is the payoff? Fold it and double the thickness but halve the size in your pocket. Nobody cares about the thickness in their pocket, but the size does matter.

    As for your concerns about using a large display, what if the phone doesn't fold inward, like a book, but instead outward? What if you could use it in folded mode and just use half of the display in a one-handed mode? Without a physical home button, you could use your device in any orientation or physical state. That's when things start to get really interesting.
    I’ll be curious to see how any company creates an actively foldable device.  It’s an engineering marvel to get the display itself to fold, but will companies so easily discard the gorilla glass covers that have taken so long to perfect?  Will Apple be able to incorporate 3D Touch into such a device, or will they be willing to leave that behind?  What will protect the face of the phone if there isn’t a scratch-resistant layer covering the OLED or micro LED surface?  Seems to me there’s a missing link, an evolutionary step along the path to truly [actively] foldable displays, and that’s folded displays.  Folded once to form fit the shape of a device, like a wrap around Watch, and then covered over with a protective glass surface layer.  
    I don't see "foldable" devices happening any time soon when we've barely even scratched the surface of curved displays. And then after curved displays* are common enough for elegant and seamless designs, then we'd move onto displays that are folded into a rigid device (which looks like how the iPhone X display is assembled). Is there an indication that the display could withstand being unfolded and folded hundreds of times of a day for several years or that its surface could withstand being pressed without a rigid covering like Gorilla Glass to protect it? We all know what happens to a display when you press on an LCD with a flimsy plastic covering.


    * I'm not talking about desktop computer monitors.
    curved displays are stupid.
    1) You can't have a foldable display without it curving, Einstein.

    2) How exactly do you think that a transparent display matrix will work on glasses or a windshield if the display is flat and the glass surface is curved?
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 14 of 22
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,580member
    It's a foldable phone with a bendable/flexible display.  You say foldable display, people generally take that to mean as folding the way a piece of paper folds.  That's not what's being shown.
    Solimacplusplus
  • Reply 15 of 22
    Reminds me of this old concept from the early days of… What was that folding dual screen Microsoft notebook concept called, again?

    EDIT: Oh, the Courier.


    edited October 2017 macplusplus
  • Reply 16 of 22
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,528moderator
    Soli said:
    nhughes said:
    It don’t see any potential for this. 

    Having a large phone than can be folded doesn’t help anyone. The size is not nearly as much of a problem when in your pocket as it is when using it. 
    I disagree. I've heard countless complaints (and I agree) that Apple should stop making phones thinner, that the thickness doesn't matter. But what if this is the payoff? Fold it and double the thickness but halve the size in your pocket. Nobody cares about the thickness in their pocket, but the size does matter.

    As for your concerns about using a large display, what if the phone doesn't fold inward, like a book, but instead outward? What if you could use it in folded mode and just use half of the display in a one-handed mode? Without a physical home button, you could use your device in any orientation or physical state. That's when things start to get really interesting.
    I’ll be curious to see how any company creates an actively foldable device.  It’s an engineering marvel to get the display itself to fold, but will companies so easily discard the gorilla glass covers that have taken so long to perfect?  Will Apple be able to incorporate 3D Touch into such a device, or will they be willing to leave that behind?  What will protect the face of the phone if there isn’t a scratch-resistant layer covering the OLED or micro LED surface?  Seems to me there’s a missing link, an evolutionary step along the path to truly [actively] foldable displays, and that’s folded displays.  Folded once to form fit the shape of a device, like a wrap around Watch, and then covered over with a protective glass surface layer.  
    I don't see "foldable" devices happening any time soon when we've barely even scratched the surface of curved displays. And then after curved displays* are common enough for elegant and seamless designs, then we'd move onto displays that are folded into a rigid device (which looks like how the iPhone X display is assembled). Is there an indication that the display could withstand being unfolded and folded hundreds of times of a day for several years or that its surface could withstand being pressed without a rigid covering like Gorilla Glass to protect it? We all know what happens to a display when you press on an LCD with a flimsy plastic covering.


    * I'm not talking about desktop computer monitors.
    Yup, we’re saying the same thing.  
    Soli
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Don't see how you'd make a foldable phone without ugly lines or groves across the middle of the screen.
    macplusplus
  • Reply 18 of 22
    The Knowledge Navigator will live! (albeit 40 years later)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jiBLQyUi38
  • Reply 19 of 22
    I just don't get it...
    macplusplus
  • Reply 20 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 572member
    This would be really cool, but as others have mentioned, there are many engineering issues to overcome, beyond just the folding screen. Just think about Samsung making a folding battery! 🔥🔥🔥
    watto_cobra
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