Apple has been granted a patent for a foldable device featuring a hinge mechanism that can prevent the display from being creased when repeatedly folded.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published the details of the patent on Tuesday - although the patent was originally filed in 2015, indicating that Apple has been working on the feature for some time.
Titled "Electronic devices with flexible displays and hinges", the patent involves a flexible display that folds and unfolds using a novel hinge mechanism, which ensures that the folding portions are adequately separated "when the housing is bent".
That means that the hinge should keep the two flat portions from touching while bending the display in order to prevent creasing issues that similar devices have suffered from.
The patent also talks about two movable flaps that extend out like wings to cover the gap when the device is opened. When the device is folded, the flaps retract, leaving "room for a bent portion of the display along the bend axis."
Early foldable devices, such as Huawei's Mate X andSamsung's Galaxy Fold have clearly visible creases along the display where it folds.
Motorola's foldable smartphone Razr features a unique hinge design to avoid the creasing issue, although some early reviews complained about creaking sounds when the device is opened or closed.
While Apple is now showing an interest in folding phones, it remains to be seen whether the company will actually manufacture a device as described in the patent. Apple has a history of filing patents for ideas that it doesn't use. The company filed a similar patent last February for a folding device with a clamshell design.
After that, analysts predicted that Apple could produce a folding iPad sometime in 2021, but the company has not yet given any indication to suggest that such a device could come to fruition in next one or two years.
Even if a new foldable iPhone is launched in the market, it will no doubt be eye-wateringly expensive - like other foldable phones, but with an Apple premium on top.
The price of Samsung Galaxy Fold in UK in September last year, for example, was £1,900. Apple's foldable iPhone could be more expensive than Galaxy Fold, thus making it an ultra-premium handset.
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