Apple and Samsung apply for patents for foldable smartphones

Recent IP registrations by smartphone giants provide hints of future tech trends.

Apple and Samsung have recently lodged patents in their respective home countries (the USA and South Korea) for new smartphones with foldable screens, it was revealed last month. The two electronic technology developers have been working on the designs for some time, with Apple working on a foldable display for a smartphone as far back as 2014.

The patents describe a flexible OLED screen installed onto a folding metal structure, with the screen being able to fold fully in half, closing in on itself like a 1990s/early-noughties flip phone. However, unlike the retro flip phones, a touch screen would cover the entire surface of the device, and the Samsung version can reportedly fold automatically.

Several mobile device manufacturers have been showing off their foldable display technology recently, though most designs are still in the early prototype phase and far from commercial production. Apple hasn’t actually specified whether the foldable screen will appear on a future iPhone, iPad, or an entirely new device, but the registration hints that they are at least hedging their bets.

Of course, it is commonplace for technology companies to experiment with different design ideas and patented features don’t always end up in products. Foldable smartphone technology has also hit several problems already, particularly when Lenovo displayed its foldable design in June and its engineers explained that figuring out how to position the components away from the hinges while still maintaining the overall integrity of the phone has so far proven elusive.

However, by registering these patents, Apple and Samsung will certainly generate plenty of interest. The new features of the potential products of the future will spark consumer interest, and general fascination which will have a favourable impact on the market value of the companies.