Apple Granted a Second Patent for a Folding iPhone focused on a new Flexible Hinge and something very interesting
Apple was granted a patent covering a folding iPhone back in November 2016. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark published Apple's second granted patent for Apple's folding iPhone. As smartphones continue to introduce larger and larger phablet sizes, there will come a point where introducing a folding smartphone will make sense, especially with mobile TV on 5G networks on the way.
Below is a collection of key patent figures. In patent FIG. 10 shown below we're able to see a side view of a device with a flexible display having a hinge that is based on a four-bar linkage configuration; in the second we see FIG. 11 illustrating a side view of a device where the housing has been manipulated to place the display in a back-to-back configuration; in the third we see FIG. 22 which is another back-to-back configuration with a notable distinction. Instead of using a hinge mechanism, Apple notes that the engagement could use magnetic structures, hook-and-loop fasteners, hook and notch structures and/or other mating structures; in the fourth figure we see FIG. 24 that is a device in a tri-fold configuration with a two hinge construction.
Apple's second patent win covers a new round of patent claims that define the additions to the original invention. The main focus is on a flexible hinge. The secondary point touches on the use of fabric for the housing. Below are the two key additions:
Patent Claim #1: An electronic device, comprising: a housing having first and second housing portions; a flexible hinge coupled between the first and second housing portions, wherein the flexible hinge flexes to allow the first housing portion to rotate relative to the second housing portion; a flexible display mounted to the housing, wherein the flexible display has a first display portion mounted to the first housing portion and a second display portion mounted to the second housing portion, wherein the flexible display is movable between a planar position in which the first and second display portions are coplanar and a folded position in which the first display portion is parallel to the second display portion, and wherein when the flexible display is in the folded position, the first and second display portions face away from each other in opposite directions; and a support structure interposed between the flexible display and the housing, wherein the support structure comprises a material selected from the group consisting of: metal, polymer, and shape memory alloy.
Patent Claim #12: An electronic device comprising: a foldable housing having a flexible portion, wherein the flexible portion flexes to allow the foldable housing to move between open and closed positions; and a foldable display mounted to the foldable housing, wherein the foldable display has first and second display portions separated by a third display portion, wherein the third display portion overlaps the flexible portion of the housing, wherein the first and second display portions face toward each other when the foldable housing is in the closed position, wherein the first and second display portions face away from each other when the foldable housing is in the open position, and wherein the flexible portion of the housing comprises fabric.
When the foldable iPhone is closed, it would appear that Apple is contemplating having the topside cover acting as a third display. This is a very interesting addition. The third display could also support patent figure 24 noted in the graphic above.
Apple's granted patent 10,104,787 was filed in Q3 2016 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. We covered Apple's first granted patent for this invention in 2016 here where you could find more patent figures.
Lastly, when viewing utility patents you can't get hung up on the design being presented as the figures are only to support an idea. Today's granted patent is not a design patent so the end product could materially change. See Apple's other form factors and ideas related to a future folding iPhone here.
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