Contributing Editor, MacworldJUL 19, 2023 6:46 am PDT
Image: www.foldable.news/Roy Gilsing
Analysts have long been calling on Apple to get on with launching its first foldable iPhone, but patent activity suggests the company has more ambitious plans.
As spotted by Patently Apple, Apple has applied for a patent (US-20230221766-A1) for a rollable display with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Inventors Que Anh S Nguyen and Christopher Jones describe a flexible display that can be rolled up from one or both sides in various scenarios.
The screen will be based on either OLED or micro-LED technology, with the LED printed on a flexible polymer base. In another variant, flexible glass is used for this purpose; the inventors envisage that the thickness of the glass coating on the inside will taper from the edge to the center, making the glass even more supple for rolling.
While pundits remain fascinated by the folding tech available for the iPhone, this invention will not be limited to smartphones. The inventors also discuss its use in tablets and portable electronic devices, including a MacBook.
The patent specification is relatively short, comprising just twelve pages, but it represents only one entry in an ongoing series of such applications. Only two days earlier, a patent called “Internal coating for glass structures in electronic devices” was approved, and one of the authors of this patent worked on that one.
Que Anh S Nguyen is the lead author of at least 12 patents at Apple, all within the same realm of flexible and foldable displays. The earliest patent was approved by the USPTO in March 2017 and is titled “Transparent transition layer to maintain bendability from coated glass.”
It’s worth noting that, while patent activity often provides a glimpse into Apple’s future, it does not guarantee that such a product will definitely launch. Apple habitually undertakes research and patent activity in various directions, even if there are no immediate plans for a corresponding product line.
This article originally appeared on Macwelt and was translated and edited by David Price.