Apple seeks patent for a foldable iPhone

“Apple’s next big innovation may be a foldable iPhone that opens and closes like a book,” Jonathan Vanian reports for Fortune.

“The consumer technology giant filed a patent application last week with the U.S. Patent & Trade Office that details its research into electronic devices with flexible display screens,” Vanian reports. “The patent application said that the technology is related to any kind of electronic device that has a display, like a ‘laptop computer, a tablet computer, a cellular telephone, a wristwatch, or other electronic device (e.g., a portable device, handheld device, etc.).'”

Vanian reports, “If it were to create a foldable iPhone screen, Apple could likely use similar technology in its other products like Mac computers and Apple Watch.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote back at the beginning of the year, “Imagine this invention used not just in an iPhone, but also in an iPad and a MacBook.”

Apple teams up with LG Display for foldable iPhone due to concerns over tech leaks to Samsung – October 11, 2017
Apple, LG Display discuss OLED display deal for 2019 – September 7, 2017
LG Display to supply OLED panels to Apple – July 31, 2017
Apple to invest $2.70 billion in LG Display’s OLED production – July 28, 2017
Apple and LG Display plan to derail Samsung’s OLED expansion plans – July 25, 2017
LG Display to invest $3.56 billion in flexible OLED plant – May 30, 2017
Apple patent details foldable iPhone – January 26, 2017
Apple granted U.S. patent for bendable or foldable iPhone using advanced carbon nanotube structures – November 1, 2016
Will the next-gen iPhone be a flip phone? Apple is granted another patent for new flexible handset design – November 22, 2016

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “David E.” for the heads up.]


  1. We’ve heard talk of flexible/foldable screens for years, how can this not be something that has already been patented or even be patentable? I assume it’s not as broad as that, but some of these patents seem ridiculous.

    1. Journalists typically do a terrible job reporting on patents. Almost worthless to read most of these articles, or even worse that worthless – you could come away knowing only incorrect things.
      Rules for understanding patents:
      1. Patents give the holder the right to STOP someone else from doing a thing – the holder is not required to do the thing themselves.
      2. They do NOT show what a company PLANS to DO. At most, they show areas the company is thinking about, but it might be more about just adding to their arsenal of roadblocks they can throw at competitors or upstarts.
      3. They are usually a LOT more specific than the journalist describes them as. “Foldable phone” probably is actually some tiny specific detail about how such a thing could be done.
      4. Patents are supposed to require the applicant to provide detailed information on the research behind the thing. But, that information is often submitted in obfuscated, strange ways that would be of poor value to engineers trying to do the thing themselves.

      The patent system of the U.S. (and most other countries) is a mess. The idea is supposed to be: “rather than you hiding how you did this thing, we will give you a short-term monopoly in exchange for thorough documentation so that this advancement of the arts and sciences is not potentially lost by/with you at some point.” It is supposed to be a balanced quid pro quo between the private person and the public good. Unfortunately, like so many things, that balance is way out of whack.

      Disclaimer: I’m a lawyer who studied patent law, but I’m not your lawyer. And, this is info/opinion, not legal advice. If you think you’ve got something patentable, talk to your own lawyer. 🙂

    2. Apple has patented many things that have been patented in some form or other before, it’s about variations on a theme rather than the generalised theme itself while protecting yourself from others who patent (or modify) similar solutions, be it before or after your own. I remember Apple patenting the concept of the removable screen on a laptop to form a tablet years before it ever came to fruition elsewhere but they have never tried to stop others from doing it, which means I guess there must have been differences or some aspects had already been patented or publicly detailed previously, making protecting it as a whole difficult. Meanwhile in this specific case certain aspects of the foldable screen must vary from other patents I suspect to make it novel. I think it would be difficult to patent simply the concept of a foldable screen anyway it has to be something unique because how far back does the concept actually go. Think of the controversy over patenting the lightbulb with its enforced compromise or the fact for example that the first voice activated tv was demonstrated in at least 1939 yet bears no relation to modern concepts of it or related products.

  2. Interesting link in the source article of Samsung’s history of developing their foldable OLED tech since 2011. Lots of prior art (and awarded patents) for Apple’s patent filing to avoid.

  3. Way back in 2007, when the original iPhone came out, 3.5″ screen, I pointed out that a folding iPhone using two screens would be 5″ on the diagonal, 720×480. That’s what I wanted.

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