Apple could be preparing to outdo its rivals by making its own folding phone.
A patent submitted by the company shows a double folding screen that can either be bent back on itself or folded inward from either end.
The design means the device could also be used as a tablet when unfurled.
iPhone submitted a prototype last year which folds in the middle and since then Huawei, Samsung and Lenovo have all launched foldable devices.
In a US patent spotted by Apple Patently, the company filed to protect both single and multifold devices.
The document includes 37 drawings covering different technical features and folding configurations.
The diagrams detail how the folding mechanism will work and states it is a hinge which rotates to allow the screen to fold together.
It will be able to go from a 180 degree angle to 90 degree angle, it claims.
Another diagram shows that the screen can be folded backwards so that it wraps around the ‘back’ of the device.
In this form, the screen forms a triangle, and two people seated on either side of the folded display could view the same content when it is balanced on two edges.
On its website, Patently Apple described what these multi-folding phones could look like: ‘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.’
The new designs from Apple are unlikely to be restricted to just an iPhone and could also be applied to an iPad, MacBook or even an Apple Watch.
Beyond the sketches, the patent provides few details around how the device would actually work.
The designs have been made into real looking images such as that by Dutch industrial designer Roy Gilsing, a product developer who has worked for clients such as Rabobank, Colgate-Palmolive and Fresh ‘n Rebel, according to the site foldable.news.
‘At our request, he designed the imaginary ‘iPhone X Fold’, a sleek handset with two displays. The outer display features a 1:3 aspect ratio and the inner, foldable display has a 2:3 aspect ratio’, the website wrote.
A previous patent by Apple titled ‘Flexible Display Devices’ was filed on October 12th, 2018.
As with any patent, it’s unclear whether Apple actually plans to develop these devices.
It emerged as just about every major device maker has detailed plans to manufacture a folding phone of some kind.
Samsung released its own folding phone, called the Galaxy Fold, tomorrow.
The Korean tech giant first teased the device last year, showing off a secretive phone that folds open to become a tablet and, when folded closed, is compact.
Chinese tech firms TCL, ZTE and Xiaomi have either debuted or have detailed plans to release a folding phone.