Apple Patent Teases Foldable iPhone with Wraparound Display

A new patent awarded to Apple on Tuesday appears to hint at the possibility of a foldable device from the iPhone maker — reports CNBC.

The patent depicts a foldable phone or tablet with a wraparound screen. It describes a technology that would allow users to interact with the device by touching parts of it other than the screen. One of the applications the patent puts forward for this kind of technology is a “virtual shutter button,” which would let users control the camera by touching the side of the device.

As another example, users could control the volume by sliding a finger up or down the side of the device. The latter application would likely serve as an alternative to hardware volume buttons. While Apple is rumoured to be switching from mechanical to solid-state power and volume buttons with next year’s iPhone 15 Pro, this technology would take things even further and eliminate the buttons entirely.

While Samsung and several Chinese smartphone makers have all jumped on the foldable device bandwagon (even Google is reportedly working on its first foldable Pixel phone), Apple is yet to make its first move. However, analysts believe it won’t be long before Apple launches its first foldable.

In a note published on Tuesday, analysts at UBS said that the newly awarded patent “could indicate a foldable device is a possibility but not this year.” They added that going the foldable route “could be an incremental opportunity for future generation iPhone models.”

Add to that recent reports of Apple planning to add a higher-end iPhone model above the currently-top-of-the-line “Pro Max,” and we could soon see a foldable join the ranks as well. “We believe that a foldable iPhone model could lead to an uptick in consumer purchasing and upgrade rate within the smartphone segment,” the UBS analysts said in its note.

That said, foldable smartphones still only account for 1.1% of the overall market, and Apple is notorious for waiting until a new technology or form factor matures before adopting it. Furthermore, patents relating to a potential foldable iPhone have been spotted going as far back as 2017, with such a device yet to see the light of day.

Instead of committing to the foldable form factor with an iPad, Apple could decide to simply test the waters with a foldable iPad instead.

According to a recent report from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will debut its first foldable iPad with a carbon fibre kickstand sometime in 2024. The tech giant is reportedly also working on a 20-inch foldable display for a future MacBook Pro.

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