Apple’s new iPhone 11 (guide), iPhone 11 Pro (guide) and iPhone 11 Pro Max (guide) have only just launched, but these highly practical (if somewhat unexciting) upgrades already look set to be blown out the water. Why? Because Apple’s radical new iPhone plans have suddenly taken shape.
Spotted by the eagle-eyed folks at Patently Apple, Apple has published a flurry of new information about its so-called iPhone Fold with the US Patent and Trademark Office. And it’s unlike any iPhone you’ve ever seen.
Dropping its typically coy approach to future products, Apple has applied en masse for patents for a folding ‘electronic device’ which cover the technology behind the flexible display, control circuitry, hinge and new pressure sensors.
In them, Apple spells out how the folding display works in unison with control circuitry to detect the switch between open and closed form factors to trigger different operating modes and the integration of pressure sensors in a flexible display and chassis as a way to register input (HTC and Google have already popularised the latter in their smartphones).
Furthermore, Apple’s latest flurry of patents follow requests to copyright new flexible chassis materials and advanced techniques to bend glass displays (currently all rivals use plastic) in the last six months.
When might such as radical reinvention of the iPhone appear? Perhaps surprisingly, highly respected Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo is tipping an ‘all-new form factor design’ for the iPhone as early as 2020. While Apple is known to be working on a significant upgrade of the iPhone next year (including a new design, different screen sizes, ProMotion displays, in-display Touch ID, a move to USB-C and the adoption of 5G), I’d be surprised if an iPhone Fold appears before 2021.
That said, at this stage, Apple’s interest in the technology is undeniable and rival folding smartphones are already a commercial reality. So soon-or-later, expect Apple to continue its great tradition of watching others before showing them how it’s done.
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