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Although flip phones are a bygone trend, smartphones are embracing a similar capability — folding — and now there is evidence that Apple is pursuing this design. On February 14, 2019, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released a patent of a hinged smartphone. The iPhone screen, according to the blueprint, could bend in half or in thirds, opening up two potential directions for Apple to take the product.

Apple has hung behind this trend, while many others like Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola have welcomed the design at varying levels. Rumors are floating around about the plans of other manufacturers like LG, Xiaomi, and Sony, too. It remains unclear whether Apple is moving forward with the blueprint and engaging with these rising models.

Potential Folding Phones

Galaxy Fold Device

As the phone company furthest along in foldable innovation, Samsung has introduced the Samsung Galaxy Fold to the market. Announced on February 20, this cutting edge phone is set to hit stores on April 26. With the price starting at $1980 USD, Samsung is touting a high-end product complete with many appealing features like a 7.3-inch infinity flex display and six cameras.

Also, Huawei unveiled their Mate X, a 5G foldable smartphone, at the world’s largest mobile event, Mobile World Congress. When the plans leaked ahead of schedule, an inverted book-like format revealed a surprisingly different technique than Samsung. The dissimilarities between the layouts show how versatile and unique this trend is gearing up to be. If Apple joins the fad, their method will likely have an entirely separate emphasis.

An expanding phone is most attractive because it reduces the need for a tablet. The promise of a larger viewing area from a comparatively small device appeals to many. Even in the patent application, Apple cites the benefit for the foldable display as an improvement in flexibility.

The blueprint gives possibilities for other devices, too, like wearable technology and mechanized accessories. It also allows for a smartphone to fold around props to stand by itself. This can serve photo-taking needs or help in navigating in the car.

What’s Apple Waiting For?

Tim Cook Foldable Phone

Despite Apple’s lack of participation thus far, they’ve been entertaining the idea for some time, filing patents for a flexible screen design in 2011, 2014, 2016 and most recently 2018. Three inventors, Fletcher Rothkopf, Andrew Janis, and Teodor Dabov, were involved in these patents, and their continued progress could finally lead to a promising model.

In March 2018, Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch predicted a foldable iPhone launch for 2020 based on their checks. While this timeline is still possible, the seemingly unhurried stance of Apple could indicate a later announcement.

One possible delay for the foldable iPhone is current Apple CEO Tim Cook’s vision for the company. Under his guidance, only minor changes and small tweaks have characterized the iPhone path. His conservative steps make a decisive implementation of the foldable blueprint in 2020 less likely.

This blueprint offers little insight into Apple’s strategies for the future, but it shows the foldable design is on the rise and isn’t a passing fad.