Apple files for patents all the time, and mostly, it means nothing. It just means that one of Apple’s engineers had an idea smart enough to be worth protecting. It also means that Apple has a lot of lawyers, and at least one guy who is good at plain white drawings in pencil.
But when the same concept pops up again and again in different patents, you have to assume that Apple is serious. And that’s how we get to the foldable iPhone.
Patent website Patently Apple has found two Apple patents relating to foldable iPhones in the past, dating abck to 2013. But a newly published patent, filed back in August 2014, shows that there’s been continuing and serious work on making a foldable iPhone.
The patent is specific about the materials that would be used to make this iPhone fold down the middle. The casings for the phone could be metal, ceramic, fiber or glass — basically anything — but the patent describes carbon nanotubes that allow the device to fold in half:
“Conductive carbon nanotube paths can form signal paths that are flexible and resistant to cracking. The carbon nanotube structures may be incorporated into signal cables such as flexible printed circuit cables, rigid printed circuit boards, printed circuits that include rigid portions with flexible tails (sometimes referred to as “rigid flex”), portions of display structures, portions of touch sensors such as capacitive touch sensor arrays for displays or track pads, camera structures, antenna structures, housing structures, internal device structures, electrical components, substrates, brackets, housing walls, other structures, or combinations of these structures.”
Again, this is just a concept. Apple is almost certainly not going to release a folding iPhone next year, although that would fit its mandate of shaking things up for the 10th anniversary.
Rather, it shows that Apple is thinking way down the line, to what we might see in three or five or ten years’ time. It’s refreshing to think that by then, we might have finally escaped the rounded rectangle.