Trendspotting: Will Apple make a foldable iPhone?

New USPTO grant suggests that Apple is working on a foldable version of the iPhone and iPad.

I’m going with a yes. That, yes, Apple will eventually — eventually! — make a foldable iPhone. Just expect it to take time. Apple likes to get things right, and if we know anything so far it’s that recent foldable phones have been clumsy, ill-conceived failures. To date, none have appealed to consumers who are perfectly fine with regular touch screen designs.

However…

A web site that focuses solely on Apple patents has uncovered a unique “Foldable iPhone/iPad Patent.” USPTO granted the patent today as part of 63 grants for Apple. The patent was reportedly originally filed in 2018, but made public today for the first time.

Interestingly when in folded mode the design allows for an exposed strip, presumably to display notifications and enable touch controls perhaps similar to the touch bar found on a modern MacBook. More in the diagram below:

USPTO Foldable Patent for Apple iPhone and iPad design
USPTO granted Apple a patent for this design. Could a foldable iPhone/iPad arrive in 2021?

It’s only a matter of time before Apple releases a product or two that are foldable. I could imagine an iPad when closed (folded) conveniently displaying notifications along that exposed “protruding display portion” making it handy to keep up to date at a glance without having to pickup or open the device.

Per Patently Apple:

“The content that is displayed may be interactive (e.g., the content may include selectable on-screen items such as selectable icons, selectable virtual ¬†buttons, selectable menu options, and/or other selectable content).”

In any case such a foldable design should be more refined and thoughtful than what we’ve seen so far. Manufacturers have seemingly been content to simply attach two screens together with some sort of hinge and call it a day. But I think the opportunity here for imaginative product design runs much deeper. Much like we saw with wearables maybe Apple is iterating on designs to get the perfect outcome. Recall that Google was first to market with smartwatches and Wear OS. Ultimately the project failed. Meantime Apple took its time. The Apple Watch came later, and yet not being first mover in this case played to its advantage. As we all know the design of the Apple Watch — with Apple controlling the entire vertical stack of hardware and software — was leagues beyond anything we saw on the Google platform, which by comparison was complicated and non-intuitive, not to mention missing the mark on health and fitness tracking features.

So once again Apple is learning from the failed experiments of its competitors. Surely a foldable iPhone and iPad will arrive some day — at least as an option in a lineup that will include traditional designs. With the USPTO grant, and this intriguing design, the question now is when.

Peloton: ClintTheMint