The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 85 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover two granted patents. The first relates to possible future foldable iDevices, while the second patent relates to the iPad's Smart Keyboard Folio. The latter patent still has other ideas that are buried that could one day to come to light.
iDevices with a Foldable Display and Cover
In August 2018 Patently Apple posted a patent application report titled "Apple invents both Single and Multi-Fold Device Form Factors for Future iDevices." Today Apple was granted a patent for this invention. You could review our 2018 IP report here for more details or review Apple's newly granted patent 10,303,218.
Foldable smartphones were the buzz out of Spain's Mobile World Congress event this year with Huawei and Samsung leading the way. Samsung rushed their Galaxy Fold to reviewers before launching it so as to drum up interest for the product and suddenly, it all it all blew up in their face. As far as Huawei's Mate X goes, the trouble with being on the U.S. tech blacklist puts their foldable smartphone into doubt.
Apple's granted patent relates to electronic devices having a flexible or bendable region. More specifically, the embodiments are directed to an electronic device having a display layer and a cover layer that are configured to fold or bend along a flexible or bendable region.
The flexible cover layer may be formed from a ceramic material (e.g., glass, strengthened glass, sapphire, zirconia) to provide some measure of protection for the flexible display from impact or other potential damaging contact. The flexible cover layer may also provide structural support for the display along both the folded and non-folded regions of the device. As used herein, a cover layer may also be referred to as a cover sheet or simply as a cover.
In general, a foldable electronic device can be folded to accommodate a variety of form factors. For example, a foldable electronic device may be used in an unfolded configuration to allow use of an entire display area.
Apple's patent FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrated below respectively illustrate a device in open and closed configurations.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4A above we're able to see device #400 in a fully folded or closed configuration. In the fully folded or closed configuration, roughly two thirds of the display layer #420 is viewable along the first region #481 and second region #482 of the device.
To make this kind of product viable, Apple engineers with experience with materials were put on the project as follows:
Christopher Bartlow: Product Design Engineer who came to Apple via Ferrotec where he was a materials scientist.
Dale Memering: Product Design Material Engineer
Christopher Jones: Chemist who is working with the panel process and optics team to design and develop cutting edge display technologies to support Apple’s product line. This includes total optimization & integration of display material, optics, and process to deliver superior optical, mechanical, and reliability performances.
Smart Keyboard Folio
Back in 2012 Patently Apple covered, what I call, a master patent application. This kind of patent application lays out the foundation of a product or product line in the widest possible vision of where Apple could take the technology over time.
For instance, in our original 2012 patent report we covered such things as the 'smart connector' and the fabric cover-keyboard combination years before they came to market. It's where the idea of the Smart Keyboard was born. You could review our original report here for more details and patent figures.
Apple was first granted a patent for this invention (or at least one portion of the master patent) back in May 2016. Today's second granted patent focuses on the modern Smart Keyboard Folio that we have today. You can read the patent claims of today's granted patent 10,303,215 to confirm it here.
The patent covers variable form factors beyond what we have today. Below are just a few of the forward looking concepts that may or may not be viable in the future. One idea shown below adds a a trackpad to the folio while another provides a space above the keyboard so as to allow Apple Pencil users an input space. Still other ideas are buried in this granted patent.
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