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Foldable iPhone suggested in new Apple patent

It's just in time for Samsung's Galaxy X folding phone reveal next week.

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An updated patent by Apple shows various ways it could use a flexible or folding display.

Apple/USPTO

Everyday it seems like there are rumors and leaks about another company working on a foldable phone. Xiaomi, Huawei, LG, Lenovo, Motorola all are rumored to have a bendable or foldable phone in the works. On Thursday, Apple updated a patent with drawings of a foldable clamshell phone. This is a continuation of a patent originally filed in 2011 and updated in 2016 with a drawing of what might be an iPhone with a flexible display.

What makes this new update particularly interesting is the timing. On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Samsung is expected to show off more of its folding Galaxy X phone when it announces its new Galaxy S10.

The new drawings show a phone that folds up in half. It's a similar approach Motorola has in a patent for an updated Razr phone to make the phone more pocketable when not in use. Samsung and Xiaomi's approaches seem more about transforming a phone into a mini-tablet.

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Two drawings showing a clamshell form factor with a display folding inward and another with it folding outward.

Apple/USPTO

Of particular interest are the various ways Apple shows incorporating hinges and housing around a flexible OLED display to make it bend. There are drawings of a clamshell design and another illustration is of a trifold design. The drawings show flexible screens folding up inward and outward which could indicate a use in something beyond a phone like a MacBook or iPad.

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The patent shows off how hinges and housing can bend a flexible display

Apple/USPTO
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Here's another drawing showing a trifold design.

Apple/USPTO

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

These new additions to Apple's patent for a flexible display are no guarantee that the company will release a foldable iPhone is 2019, but it's still exciting to think about.

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