Apple’s 2020 iPhones will deliver some of the range’s best technological upgrades in years. That said, their external designs won’t change much. Why? Because it appears the company is focused on something truly radical to replace it.
In an exciting new patent (via AppleInsider), Apple has published detailed designs showing a potentially game-changing new folding iPhone design. Unlike any folding smartphone to date, Apple’s patent shows how the display can fold without a crease and even potentially use glass rather than plastic.
The secret is a remarkable new hinge mechanism which allows the middle of the display to bow outwards before folding over. This creates a much softer bend inside the hinge to maintain structural integrity while stopping the crease from forming and opening the door for Apple to use less flexible glass panels. The softer bend should also result in less pressure being applied at the point of the curve, a crucial improvement given how (infamously) fragile folding smartphone displays have been so far.
But perhaps the most exciting element of this patent is its context. Apple has filed multiple patents for a folding iPhone design over the last year, including flexible control circuitry, a flexible chassis and – yep – advanced techniques to bend glass displays. And this makes sense. While Apple is famed for its secrecy, it knows that rivals are stepping up folding smartphone releases this year and, by leaving a clear breadcrumb trail, fans and investors are reassured that Apple is on the case.
When will this folding iPhone arrive? Certainly not this year, but 2021 will bring a third generation of folding Android phones and I’d expect Apple not to want to be much further behind than that, even if it is famed for entering new markets fashionably late.
In the meantime, Apple’s game-plan of focusing its 2020 smartphone efforts on the iPhone 12’s internals seems like a shrewd one. Booming sales of the iPhone 11 show fans are still happy with the look of the phones and when you combine this with 2020 upgrades that include new screen sizes, 120Hz OLED ProMotion displays, a long-range 3D camera, 5G connectivity across the range and an Apple A14 chip tipped to be as fast as a MacBook Pro, it’s no surprise that analysts are again tipping new sales records despite further price increases.
So what will happen when Apple releases its first folding iPhone? Time will tell, but it’s probably a wise move to be a shareholder.