A foldable iPhone could close itself to hide the screen, patent shows

Tim Cook visits an Apple store in New York City.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

  • A patent application showed that a foldable iPhone could close itself to protect the screen if dropped.
  • A sensor will trigger a mechanism that aims to prevent damage to the screen.
  • Apple has not confirmed any plans to start producing a foldable iPhone.

Apple may still be working on a foldable version of the iPhone, which was first reported way back in 2016.

A new patent application reviewed by Insider, dated March 16, shows that the tech giant is looking into ways to prevent serious damage to the screen if the device is dropped.

The application, “Self-retracting display device and techniques for protecting the screen using drop detection,” suggests that a device would include a drop detector or “accelerometer.” That would trigger a trigger mechanism to “automatically retract the foldable screen.”

However, it may not have time to fully shut down if the device is too close to a surface or the ground.

The patent application states that “even folding the screen to an angle less (than) 180 degrees may provide some protection because the mobile device may hit the edges of the mobile device instead of the screen itself.”

An image from Apple’s March 16 patent filing.
US Patent and Trademark Office

What do we know about Apple’s foldable iPhone?

Speculation about a foldable iPhone has been circulating online for several years without any confirmation from Apple.

It has filed various patent applications showing what a device could look like. One design had a protrusion near the top of the phone so the user could access components like the camera without unfolding it.

Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC last October that a foldable iPhone would likely sell for around $2,500. That’s almost $1,000 more than the most expensive iPhone, the 14 Pro Max, which costs up to $1,599.

Patent filings don’t mean Apple has any plans to start making a foldable iPhone, but indicate the company is still considering the idea.

Flip phones remain a small fraction of the global smartphone market, with just over 14 million sold last year, according to figures from Canalys. About 12 million were Samsung Galaxy models.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider made outside normal business hours.

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