• A new patent for a foldable iPhone highlights a unique design that would allow users to glance at notifications without having to unfold the device.
  • It’s unclear if Apple will ever release a foldable iPhone, but Samsung’s foldable smartphone lineup proves that there is a market for it.

A new patent application from Apple details how a foldable iPhone might allow users to check important notifications without having to open up the device itself. While a foldable device certainly provides users with more screen real estate, the downside is that information can only be accessed when it’s folded open. Apple’s design solution, therefore, is a foldable device with the fold positioned slightly off-center.

The end result, as evidenced below, is that part of the display itself would always remain visible, thus allowing users to quickly glance at their notifications.

Apple patent for a foldable iPhone design Image source: Apple

Apple’s patent specifically notes that the display area — which is labeled as 14P in the illustration — could be used to show emails, text messages, meeting reminders, alarms, location-based alerts, battery status, and other types of information.

Of course, it goes without saying that Apple’s patent here is by no means an indication that a foldable iPhone will hit the market anytime soon, or ever. Apple has a long history of patenting every type of idea its engineers come up with to bolster the company’s underlying intellectual property. All the same, we have seen an increase in foldable iPhone patents over the last year or so. Consequently, it stands to reason that Apple is, at the very least, exploring the idea of what a foldable iPhone might look like and bring to the market.

On a related note, a recent tweet from noted leaker Jon Prosser claims that Apple is actively working on a foldable iPhone prototype with “two separate display panels on a hinge.” If true, Apple’s approach would be markedly different from existing foldable devices that rely upon a single foldable display. Still, Prosser claims that the end result looks “fairly continuous and seamless.” Prosser adds that Apple’s prototype lacks a notch and boasts iPhone 11-style “round, stainless steel edges.”

Given how tough it is for Apple to keep any of its upcoming products under wraps, it stands to reason that if a foldable iPhone is in the pipeline, it’s not going to hit the market anytime soon.

All that said, it still remains to be seen if foldable smartphones represent the future of mobile computing. Samsung’s initial effort with the Galaxy Fold was less than inspiring, but the company’s Galaxy Z Flip was actually impressive. Though I’ve long been skeptical of foldable smartphones, I spent a fair amount of time with the Galaxy Z Flip and found it to be a cleverly designed and fun device to use.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.