Apple’s folding iPhone could automatically shut to protect itself from fumble fingers

    WORLD  21 March 2023 - 09:00

    Development on the foldable iPhone apparently continues as a recently discovered patent application suggests Apple is looking for a way to better protect its device from falls.

    Available on the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (opens in new tab), the application is called Self-Retracting Display Device And Techniques For Protecting Screen Using Drop Detection, TechRadar reports.

    Quite a mouthful, but it does succinctly describe how Apple may aim to minimize damage to the screen. As it’s described, the device will have some kind of sensor inside like an accelerometer. If it detects the iPhone is falling, the sensor will signal an “electronically adjustable latching mechanism” to quickly snap the phone shut.

    The application does hint the mechanism may not close all the way if the iPhone is too close to the ground leaving it partially open. But that’s fine as according to the patent, “even folding the display to an angle less [than] 180 degrees can [still] afford some protection”. At the very least, the impact will be on the sides instead of directly on the screen.

    Exploring new tech

    Another angle Apple is looking at in the application is the hinge. The foldable iPhone may consist of two separate screens that connect to each other when the device is unfolded instead of having a normal hinge in the middle. So when the phone is closed, the top screen detaches itself from the bottom which is supposed to aid in protection. It’s hard to say for sure because the document doesn’t describe how things will exactly work. Rather, the application explains how things may work on the phone.

    Large portions of the patent document talk about the capabilities of the foldable iPhone. For example, the sensor behind the fall protection may consist of “accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses, and/or other components'' to detect motion. However, Apple doesn’t directly point to any specific technology. What’s most important to the company is that the internal mechanisms are able to detect when the fall speed “exceeds a predetermined threshold” in order to automatically snap shut. Whether or not the device is actually able to register a fall fast enough to close completely remains to be seen. 

    Availability

    Rumors of a foldable iPhone have been circulating on the internet for about three years now. Throughout that time, other patents have leaked and we’ve gotten to see the device concept change in real time. One design “had two hinges for a hypothetical three displays” allowing the phone to fold in a Z-shaped formation. While another prototype experimented with an Electronic Paper Display. However, don’t hold your breath on the “iPhone Fold” coming out anytime soon. The latest leaks point to a 2025 release so you have plenty of time to save up for what’s probably going to be a very expensive smartphone. 

    If you want something now, check out TechRadar’s list of the best foldable phones for 2023

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