Apple Patents, unlike rumors, cover possible future products that could take years to come to market or die on the vine. There is no such thing as "the iPhone patent" or the "iPad patent" in singular form. An Apple project, like a future foldable device, could take years with various teams working on different aspects of the product that takes many different engineering disciplines to bring a finished product to market. And, along the way, Apple's engineers and legal teams update patents.
Earlier this week Apple's Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak were interviewed by Joanna Stern at the Wall Street Journal's Tech Event 2022. Below is a segment of the interview where the two Apple executives discuss the length of time it takes to develop a project and bring to market.
One major project at Apple that has been in-the-works for years relates to foldable and/or scrollable/rollable display-based devices. Including the two patents that we'll be covering today, Patently Apple will have covered 80 patents (applications, granted, continuation) going back to 2014.
In today's patent, Apple notes that an electronic device may have a flexible display. The display may be mounted in a foldable housing that can bend about a bend axis. In a first configuration, the display may be supported by the housing and may be held in a planar state. In a second configuration, portions of the housing may be rotated about the bend axis with respect to each other, so the housing and display are bent.
A hinge mechanism may be used to ensure adequate separation between first and second portions of the housing when the housing is bent. This ensures that the flexible display can maintain a desired minimum bend radius in the vicinity of the bend axis. The hinge mechanism may be based on a rack-and-gear arrangement or other arrangement that maintains the first and second housing portions at a desired distance from each other.
With another arrangement, the housing may have movable flaps that extend parallel to the bend axis. The movable flaps may be placed in a planar configuration to support the display when the housing is in its unbent state. The movable flaps may be retracted when the housing is placed in its bent state. This creates room for a bent portion of the display along the bend axis.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device having a flexible display that could fold; FIGS. 3 and 4 are cross-sectional side views of electronic devices with flexible displays. In FIG. 3, the display is shown to be on the outside of the device while FIG. 4 illustrates the display is on the inside when folded.
An assembled version of device #10 in which gear housing has been removed so as not to obscure gears 80L and 80R is shown in FIG. 20 above; FIG. 21 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device having a hinge structure of the type shown in FIG. 20.
For more details, review Apple's patent application titled "Electronic Devices with Flexible Displays and Hinges" under number US 20220342458 A1 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office.
Adam Howell: Sr. Motion Engineer
Vinay Majjigi: Sr. Engineering Manager; System Engineering and Algorithm Design
Oliver Ruepp: Engineering Manager at Apple - Computer Vision and Machine Learning
Daniel Ulbricht: Sr. Machine Learning R&D Manager
Oleg Naroditsky: Technical Manager
Lipski; Christian: Engineering Manager. Came to Apple via Apple's acquisition of Metaio GmbH in 2015.
Hyojoon (Joon) Bae: Senior Research Scientist
Godha; Saurabh: Sr. Location Estimation Scientist
Coleman; Patrick J.: Engineering Manager