Apple could be considering a folding iPhone, new patent reveals

Image credit: Apple

It's no secret that handset manufacturers are looking to foldable phones as the next big evolution in smartphone design, with upcoming devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X doing a great job of showing consumers what the future has in store for them.

Now, it appears that Apple is getting ready to join the folding phone revolution, with the US Patent Office publishing a patent filing that offers further proof that a folding iPhone is currently in the works, as reported by Patently Apple.

The latest patent application is focused exclusively on an internal heating system for a folding device's hinge. Apparently, the Cupertino company is trying to prevent cold foldable displays from cracking by bringing warmth into the mix.

"To facilitate bending about the bend axis without damage when the display is cold, a portion of the display that overlaps the bend axis may be selectively heated," says Apple's application, which can be read on Justia Patents.

Image credit: Patently Apple

Image credit: Patently Apple

According to the application, "the bend axis may be self-heated by illuminating pixels in the portion of the display that overlap the bend axis or may be heated using a heating element or other heating structure that provides heat to the portion of the display overlapping the bend axis."

Interestingly, the patent also describes a "latching mechanism that prevents opening and closing of the electronic device when the temperature of the portion of the display that overlaps the bend axis is below a predetermined temperature," which could cause some frustration if not perfectly implemented.

Of course, there's no way of knowing whether any of this will actually be used, as the patent application's submission dates back to December 2017. That said, a previous rumor from last year predicts a foldable iPhone to launch in 2020.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.