Speculation is growing that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone – which may or may not be called the iPhone Flip – and now reports from supply chain sources in Asia suggest that two prototypes have just passed the necessary durability tests.
As per United Daily News, these prototypes are just phone shells, which we're assuming include the casings and the displays but not the various internal components. They've reportedly been tested out in China, at a factory run by Apple's regular supplier Foxconn.
One prototype is said to use a clamshell form factor, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip or the Motorola Razr. When opened up, the phone has one single and unbroken display, and then the top half folds down over the bottom half.
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The second prototype apparently uses a dual-screen design, more like the Microsoft Surface Duo: it opens up like a book, with a hinge running down the center of two separate displays. As of yet, it's not clear if Apple has any preference for one design or the other.
Another hinge patent appears
Meanwhile, a new patent filing has been published, showing the hinge mechanism that Apple might be using on one of its foldable iPhone designs. It would actually enable the phone to fold both ways, inwards (like the Galaxy Z Fold 2) and outwards (like the Huawei Mate Xs).
Entitled "Folding Electronic Devices With Geared Hinges", the patent explains the need to give users as much screen real estate as possible without making the device too bulky – which is where the folding display comes in.
As always with patents, this one shows a potential design rather than an end product, and there's no guarantee that Apple will end up going with this dual-direction hinge. We've already seen different hinge designs, potentially for a foldable iPhone, covered in previous Apple patents.
With so much information leaking out, it seems clear Apple is at least seriously considering an iPhone Flip model, if it can meet the necessary standards of quality and durability. However, don't expect the device to appear before 2022 at the earliest.
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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.