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Apple seeks new patent for folding displays as rumors of a foldable OLED iPhone heat up

On the heels of a rumor that Apple is working with OLED maker LG on a future iPhone that could fold in half, a new patent application from the company describes the very same thing.


Foldable tablet concept from Lenovo, via Jez C.


AppleInsider first discovered the new application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, very simply entitled "Electronic Devices with Displays." But within the application, Apple reveals its interest in future hardware that could be folded in half, making it more portable and easier to pocket.

Specifically, Apple's application calls for a device that has a "flexible portion" that could be folded. The filing notes that a "flexible display" would be necessary to accomplish this without seams or a visible hinge.


Via USPTO.


The intellectual property filing is particularly noteworthy, because it arrives just a day after a rumor claimed that Apple is secretly working with LG on the creation of a foldable OLED iPhone, potentially set to arrive by 2020.

For the soon-to-arrive iPhone X, Samsung is believed to be the sole supplier of OLED displays, chiefly for quality reasons. But as Apple looks to the next big iPhone design breakthrough, it has been suggested that the company has instead partnered with LG, so that rival handset maker Samsung cannot get advance word of its future product plans.


Via USPTO.


Fitting in line with the latest rumors, Apple's patent application specifically describes a foldable display with an organic light emitting display layer, or OLED. That display would be enclosed in a housing that could be made of a variety of materials, including plastic, glass, ceramics, fiber composites, stainless steel, or aluminum.

While the latest rumors are regarding a foldable iPhone, Apple's application notes that this concept could apply to a variety of devices, also saying future MacBooks, iPads, Apple Watches and more could benefit from such technology.

The filing also says that the technology could be accomplished with a micro LED display. Apple has invested in the next-generation display technology, which could lead to further power savings on portable devices.


Samsung foldable display concept.


Apple's concept includes a device with a hinge point where the affected portion of the display would be outfitted with "enhanced flexibility regions." These would help reduce or eliminate bend-induced stresses, the company said.

The newly published USPTO application is credited to inventors Terry C. Shyu, Paul. S. Drzaic, and Zhen Zhang. Apple first issued the invention to the patent office on Aug. 30, 2016.


Foldable iPhone fan mockup concept.


While the application is new, it's not the first time Apple has shown interest in bendable displays for future hardware. Last November, AppleInsider revealed that the company was granted a patent for a foldable iPhone with flexible display that could actually be clipped on to the user's clothing.

As iPhones grow larger, and with Apple rumored to debut an edge-to-edge 6.46-inch iPhone X in 2018, foldable technology could allow users the benefit of more pocketable devices. By allowing an iPhone to be folded in half, users could get the benefit of a large screen while also retaining the portable size of smaller devices.