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Apple researching slide-out OLED iPhone screen for more usable area

Future iPhones may have displays you can pull out to increase the size

Apple is researching iPhone displays that could be pulled or rolled out of a device to show a greater screen area when desired.

Apple has previously investigated screens that can be rolled up, and then pulled out of an iPhone or other device when needed. Now a newly-revealed patent application shows how a flexible screen could be housed so that you can pull it out of a device and increase the display area.

"Electronic Devices Having Sliding Expandable Displays," is an Apple patent application, which aims to address the issue of just how much can be shown on a display. "If care is not taken, a display may not offer sufficient screen real estate to display information of interest to a user," it says.

"At the same time, it can be difficult to enlarge the size of electronic devices too much to accommodate larger displays, because this can make devices too bulky," continues the application.

Apple's proposed solution is to have the display in a housing, and then have that and the screen "slide relative to each other." Apple does specifically refer to how this may apply to "a flexible display such as an organic light-emitting diode display," and says that the screen "may be doubled back on itself once or twice."

Its descriptions and drawings do also fit the possibility of a more rigid display that slides in and out of a housing. Most drawings, though, depict a roller-style mechanism showing how a "double-back portion of a flexible display may be stored in an interior of the housing."

The patent application goes into detail of different possibilities around the circuitry in such a sliding display, and what sensors could be used — "eg strain gauges, capacitive force sensors, resistive force sensors." There are also issues around the specific types of display, such as OLED or LCD, plus the potential for audio components.

In all the variations, however, Apple's proposal is to have a device that might have a visible display which can then be pulled out to form a bigger screen.

Detail from the patent showing one method of a housing with a slide out display
Detail from the patent showing one method of a housing with a slide out display

"When compact size is desired, [the] device can be adjusted to be compact," says the patent application. "[The device and display] may, as an example, be folded inwardly or outwardly about [a] bend axis. As another example, sliding or scrolling display structures can be retracted so that device size is minimized."

"[Then when] a large screen size is desired, [the] device and display can be unfolded... or [the] display can be expanded laterally in one or more directions," it continues.

Apple's previous research in this field includes the possibility of a "wrap around" display. It's also filed for many patents relating to foldable iPhones, including one that could clip onto clothing.