A foldable, self-healing iPhone could be on the way, based on this Apple patent

(Image credit: Future)

A newly published patent suggests Apple is working on a folding display that can also cover over dents and scratches when needed – a patent that has immediately raised our hopes of seeing a foldable iPhone in the not-too-distant future.

Picked up by Patently Apple, the display outlined in the documents has "a hinge that allows the device to be flexed about a bend axis", with a flexible display on top that can operate around the hinge – so far so Galaxy Z Fold 2, then.

However, this patent also mentions a layer of self-healing material. This self-healing "may be initiated or expedited by externally applied heat, light, electric current, or other type of external stimulus" according to the filing.

In other words, the folding display could repair itself while the device is being charged, for example. Various types of self-healing material already exist, and work a bit like the human body, expanding themselves in order to cover over rips and tears.

It's unlikely that such a material would be able to perfectly repair big scratches or marks in the display glass, but it could minimize the effects of minor damage, and add an extra layer of robustness to a form factor that we know is rather delicate.

While we've focused here on a foldable iPhone – something we've heard plenty of rumors about in the past – the patent also suggests that Apple laptops and iPads could come with the bendable, self-healing display technology, so it could be used across multiple devices.

At least one well-known phone tipster has previously said that Apple is indeed working on a folding iPhone, though there's no way that these screens are going to be ready in time for the iPhone 12. Something might appear next year, but even that seems an outside bet at the moment.

As always with patents, this is no guarantee that a finished product will appear at all – it just shows the way that Apple's research and development division is thinking. The company has after all been filing patents like this for several years already.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.