Apple's foldable iPhone could have a way to see your notifications when shut

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2021
A foldable iPhone could provide visual notifications of messages and calls while closed up, with the display allowing for part of the screen to remain visible despite being folded shut.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold, an early example of a foldable smartphone display.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold, an early example of a foldable smartphone display.


Apple has been long rumored to be working on some form of foldable iPhone or other device, with it investing and researching related technologies for quite a few years. Despite the work, Apple has so far declined from offering products that include a flexible display that can be folded in sections.

This hasn't stopped its competitors from doing so, but the early releases in the field of foldable devices have had their issues. Not every problem folding devices have relate to stress and wear from folding, as sometimes the issue is usability.

One of the advantages of a foldable mobile device is that it can save space in a user's pocket, by folding in half. The move also helps protect the display, but it simultaneously makes the device harder to use in some situations when closed up, simply because the screen cannot be seen.

A viewable screen is useful for more than active usage, such as by displaying notifications with visual indicators without the user needing to unlock the device or to play a noisy ringtone. This also has an accessibility element, as people with hearing impairments will rely more on visual notifications.

An example of a foldable device with the fold off the center line, exposing the top edge of the screen.
An example of a foldable device with the fold off the center line, exposing the top edge of the screen.


In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Foldable electronic device with exposed display region," Apple suggests a fix to the potential problem by ensuring that there is always a part of the display on view, even when folded up.

While this could be performed by shifting the point of a fold off the center line of the display, Apple proposes quite different ideas, namely versions that do not rely on the creation of a rectangular flexible display. Instead, many of Apple's concepts revolve around the production of a screen with an extra tab section.

The folded-over element of the screen could leave another part exposed, complete with the camera and speaker
The folded-over element of the screen could leave another part exposed, complete with the camera and speaker


For example, for a book-style folding display, the device could have a taller display on only one side. When closed, this taller tab at the top will still be visible, while the rest of the screen is out of view.

A more exotic example is a dual-fold display, where a landscape-orientation screen has folding points at the quarter and three-quarter points of its length. An extra tab extending the display out running along the middle section of its length would provide a similar visible portion while it is closed up, with the extreme ends of the display folding inward to meet the center line.

To make the device more useful while closed, Apple includes claims where the extra display strip also house components for cameras, speakers, ambient light sensors, and touch sensors.

While the exposed extra tab of screen may make for an unusual display for normal use, Apple also offers the idea that the extra strip could simply run down the side of the device instead of being used as part of the main display interface. This is a concept that has been done before, such as with Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge.

Two sides could fold in, leaving a thin strip exposed at the top
Two sides could fold in, leaving a thin strip exposed at the top


The patent lists its inventors as Paul S. Drzaic and Hoon Sik Kim. Both have been involved with display patent applications in the past, including stretchable displays and substrates, scroll-like screens, and pressable flexible displays.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, but while the existence of a patent filing indicates areas of interest for Apple's research and development efforts, it doesn't guarantee a future product or service will actively use the concept.

Apple has a long history of flexible display patents, covering a number of key areas. For the display itself, Apple has come up with ways to reduce fatigue on the flexible section by using a larger bend radius, ways to create screens that are able to withstand bending by combining materials, and foldable covers to protect both the screen and the device itself.

Research has also extended to flexible batteries, allowing for the device to be powered without sacrificing battery life by accounting for the bend.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 4
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,422member
    No doubt that Apple will want to provide a built-in way to surface notifications from inside the fold, but even then, the Apple Watch already provides a highly capable way of doing so with no additional engineering required. 

    If Apple has engineers who are fascinated with folding things maybe they can help out the James Webb Space Telescope team to get some hands-on experience. 
    macpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 4
    DetnatorDetnator Posts: 287member
    dewme said:
    No doubt that Apple will want to provide a built-in way to surface notifications from inside the fold, but even then, the Apple Watch already provides a highly capable way of doing so with no additional engineering required. 
    Agreed, my first thought is Apple Watch makes for perfect secondary display for folded up iPhone. These patents seem awkward to me. 

    I love the RAZR - the form factor is awesome. The old one used that form factor really well and now the new one, while pretty obvious, is awesome again. And there’s not much more satisfying than flipping it open to make/take a call, and then flipping it closed again when finished. Lol. 

    They handle this screen thing quite well I think - with a separate smaller screen on the outside. That really seems like the obvious and most sensible solution to me. Anything else seems over engineered and I barely see the point. Alternatively the raised section at the bottom of the RAZR could also have a small screen on it which remains accessible whether the phone is opened or closed. Only problem of course is no iOS. ;) I’d love Apple to make an iPhone that looks, feels, folds, etc like that. Not holding my breath though. 
    edited July 2020
  • Reply 3 of 4
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    This patent threw Android manufacturers for a loop and they all dropped turds. Apple is working on this TO DO IT RIGHT. Not as reactionary.

    Awaiting the typicals who think Apple is copying samsumg or someone. lol
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 4
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Detnator said:
    dewme said:
    No doubt that Apple will want to provide a built-in way to surface notifications from inside the fold, but even then, the Apple Watch already provides a highly capable way of doing so with no additional engineering required. 
    Agreed, my first thought is Apple Watch makes for perfect secondary display for folded up iPhone. These patents seem awkward to me. 

    I love the RAZR - the form factor is awesome. The old one used that form factor really well and now the new one, while pretty obvious, is awesome again. And there’s not much more satisfying than flipping it open to make/take a call, and then flipping it closed again when finished. Lol. 

    They handle this screen thing quite well I think - with a separate smaller screen on the outside. That really seems like the obvious and most sensible solution to me. Anything else seems over engineered and I barely see the point. Alternatively the raised section at the bottom of the RAZR could also have a small screen on it which remains accessible whether the phone is opened or closed. Only problem of course is no iOS. ;) I’d love Apple to make an iPhone that looks, feels, folds, etc like that. Not holding my breath though. 

    It may never see the light of day but the industry reacts to everything Apple patents or rumors to be working on. It's pathetic.

    It could also be a new non-iPhone device. Poeple don't think outside the box.
    Remember when people thought Apple glasses would require an iPhone to the face?! L-O-L.  XD
    lkruppwatto_cobra
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