Although Apple is sitting on the sidelines regarding a new iPhone form factor, a new patent filing Reveals their continuing work in this area
While foldable smartphones are the fastest growing next-gen form factor, expandable designs are also being considered by many OEMs such Samsung, as Xiaomi and Oppo. Below is an Engadget video presentation of the Oppo X 2021 prototype.
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to an iPhone concept that involves a "Sliding Expandable Display." The patent graphics don't represent what it could actually look like, as this isn't a design patent. This utility patent only covers the mechanics of an iPhone with a sliding expandable display.
Apple's patent covers an electronic device may have a display mounted in a housing. The housing may have portions that slide relative to each other. When it is desired to place the device in a compact unexpanded state, the housing portions may be slid towards each other. When it is desired to expand the viewable size of the display, the housing portions may be slid away from each other.
The display in the device may be a flexible display such as an organic light-emitting diode display. The display may be doubled back on itself once or twice when it is desired to store a portion of the display. A tensioner may be used to provide the display with tension and thereby maintain the display in a desired shape such as a desired planar shape.
The housing portions that slide relative to each other may have interdigitated fingers or other slidably engaged housing structures. The display may be supported on a surface of the housing such as on a front face of the housing. The housing and display may be adjusted by a user. For example, the housing portions may slide between an unexpanded state in which the display has an unexpanded viewable area on the front face and an expanded state in which the display has an expanded viewable area on the front face that is greater than the unexpanded viewable area.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates a perspective view of an iPhone that is capable of expanding its display; FIGS. 15 and 16 are perspective views of the illustrative electronic device in unexpanded and expanded configurations; and FIG. 17 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device with a sliding display.
In Apple's second patent on this specific invention they've added 20 new patent claims that clarify and protect their invention. The new patent claims could be reviewed at the bottom of patent application 20230156939.
At present, Android OEMs have chosen to put their weight behind foldable smartphones in an effort to challenge Apple's premium phone space. Whether Apple will chose to introduce a new iPhone form factor in the future is still unknown, though they continue to patent alternative iPhone form factors as proven once again today.
Apple's sliding expandable display patent relates to both iPhone and iPad.
Which new form factor would interest you most from Apple: foldable or slidable? And would you prefer it on the iPhone or iPad? Send in your comments below and/or on our Twitter feed.