New Folding iPhone Invention describes a Heating Method to Protect the Fold from Cracking & Magnetic Locking System
Both Samsung and Huawei introduced next generation foldable smartphones this month generating a lot of buzz across the media landscape. For those unaware, Apple has been working on such a device for years and filing patents to protect their work. As nice as the new foldable smartphones are, they're a long way from prime time, as their prices of $2,000-2,600 prove out.
Apple is still working out various issues and inventing specialized display coatings and new folding sensors that will support a foldable phone or computer. Today a new patent application from Apple published by the U.S. Patent Office shows that Apple is working on a method to keep the fold area warm as a cold display could cause problems when folding.
Specifically, Apple notes that a folding device may have a hinge that allows the device to be flexed about a bend axis. A display may span the bend axis. To facilitate bending about the bend axis without damage when the display is cold, a portion of the display that overlaps the bend axis may be selectively heated.
A temperature sensor in the device may make temperature measurements on the portion of the display overlapping the bend axis. The device may also have user input devices for gathering user input and a motion sensor for determining when the device has been picked up for use.
The portion of the display that overlaps the bend axis may be self-heated by illuminating pixels in the portion of the display that overlap the bend axis or may be heated using a heating element or other heating structure that provides heat to the portion of the display overlapping the bend axis. Heating may be initiated based on user input, temperature information, information from a motion sensor, or other factors.
Control circuitry may engage a latching mechanism that prevents folding of the electronic device and the display when the temperature of the portion of the display that overlaps the bend axis is below a predetermined temperature.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates a possible future foldable device or iPhone; FIG. 7 is display in which a screen saver is being presented to help heat a portion of the display overlapping a bend axis; FIG. 12 is a flow chart of illustrative operations involved in maintaining a bendable portion of a display above a predetermined temperature.
Apple notes for FIG. 10 above, that when the housing of the folding phone portions 12A and 12B are adjacent to each other, a latching mechanism can be engaged (e.g., to prevent damage to the display while portion the center portion #14B is cold). When it is desired to release portions 12A and 12B and thereby allow the folding phone to be opened for use, the latching mechanism can be disengaged.
In FIG. 10, components #70 and #72 may interact magnetically when it is desired to hold the device in a folded (closed) state. In one illustrative configuration, both components are electromagnets.
Apple's patent application 20190069451 was originally filed back in Q4 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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