Picked up by specialist site Patently Apple, Apple has filed trademarks with the US Patent & Trademark Office showing a clamshell/flip iPhone. Yes, this is real and no, it isn’t an acquired patent. The listed inventors include Apple’s Product Design Engineer Kevin Robinson and Senior Product Design Engineer, Houtan Farahani.
So are we going to get a low-cost budget iPhone for emerging markets? No. This is where you need to look closely.
What Apple filed is not a design patent, it’s a patent covering flexible, lightweight structural materials (for example, bonding titanium and magnesium layers with olyethylene terephthalate, polyvinylchorlide and polyisocyanurate foams) which Apple is hiding behind the illustration of a basic flip phone.
Why a flip phone? Consider what is today’s cutting-edge equivalent: phones with folding displays like the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold. A form factor Apple has shown great interest in, right down to details like self-heating flexible glass when rivals are currently limited to plastic displays.
And while Apple is rarely interested in first-mover advantage, the fact rival devices are about to hit the market does mean Apple wants to be prepared. With sales stagnating, Apple also needs a clear differentiator to reinvigorate the iPhone range, especially with bezel-less designs making all premium smartphones look alike.
As with any patent, the timing of a commercial product is impossible to place but the evidence is mounting research into a so-called ‘iPhone Fold’ is well underway. And with Apple’s upcoming iPhones falling out the ugly tree (for a catch-up feature no less), the time is ticking for a new iPhone with Wow factor to blow us away.