Apple Considers Auto-Folding Phone

John Lister's picture

Apple has patented a folding smartphone that would automatically close up when dropped in an attempt to protect the screen.

Several manufacturers of high-end smartphones already offer folding display screens. The idea is to allow a much larger screen size without being too bulky for a pocket.

Analysts note one of the reasons Apple has yet to make a folding iPhone is fears that folding screens are more vulnerable to cracking, particularly when dropped. It's possible it may have intentionally waited for other manufacturers to lead the way so that it can then see such problems with a new technology and "fix" them when it launches its own models. (Source:

Details Thin On Ground

The patent was filed last year and then approved and published by the US Patent Office last month. It's fair to say the patent is a little hazy on the detail and seems to be more of a broad outline of how the feature could work. (Source:

It is, of course, possible that Apple has refined the process while waiting for the patent's approval. That said, patents are often a defensive legal measure and not necessarily a sign to expect the product any time soon.

Detect And Deploy

The patent notes two key elements. The first is detecting a phone is falling, which Apple says would be handled by the phone's accelerometer. It notes this would require software to tell the difference between the phone falling and simply moving at speed in a plane or car.

That may sound an obvious point, but Apple recently had received publicity after a crash detection feature meant some phones sent emergency alerts about a potential vehicle collision when in fact the user was on a rollercoaster.

The other element is the quick-fold mechanism. Apple says this could be a simple spring-loaded hinge or a more sophisticated motorized hinge, perhaps involving magnets.

Apple concedes this wouldn't always work quickly enough to completely fold the phone before it hit the ground. However, it argues that even a partial fold would mean the phone was more likely to land on an edge rather than the screen directly striking the ground.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you bought or considered a folding phone? Would the potential of a bigger risk of screen damage put you off? Do you think Apple's idea is practical?

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Chief's picture

I have owned a Samsung Z3 Flip since last July. Recently there was a loud pop! as a small (3mm) piece delaminated just below the fold in the middle of the screen.

Getting that fixed for free tomorrow by a local ubreakifix shop that does Samsung warranty work and guarantees their work.

Other than that, I love my foldable screen as the last thing I wanted was an ever-increasing size of hersheybar phone in my pocket.

Now, if they came out with a foldable-screen watch...

matt_2058's picture

I can see this working fine until it works too well. As soon as someone hits I-10 in Louisiana, the phone will snap shut on their ear due to the high Gs from the rough roads.