In case you didn't know, the rumour mill is in full force claiming that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone – and new reports from supply chain sources in Asia suggest that two prototype designs have just passed durability testing. The models that have been through the necessary tests do seem to echo previous video renders from EverythingApplePro (opens in new tab) (main image) too.
According to Taiwanese website United Daily News (opens in new tab), the designs are currently just phone shells (so without the innards of a functioning smartphone) and the hinges and form factors have been through standard resilience trials in China, at a factory run by Foxconn – Apple's regular supplier.
One prototype is apparently a clamshell design – think Samsung Galaxy Z Flip or the Motorola Razr – so that when opened up, the phone has one single, unbroken display. When folded, the top half essentially doubles down over the bottom half.
The second prototype reportedly uses a dual-screen design, similar in concept to the Microsoft Surface Duo in that it opens up like a book, with a hinge running down the 'spine' of its two separate displays. At present, it's unclear whether Apple is prioritising one idea over the other, or if the Cupertino giant might be intending to release both designs.
But wait, there's even more! A new patent filing (opens in new tab) has been published, showing a unique 360-degree hinge mechanism – a hinge which Apple might be using on one of its foldable iPhone designs. It would actually enable the phone to fold flat both ways, ie. inwards (like the Galaxy Z Fold 2) and outwards (like the Huawei Mate Xs). If you're not familiar with these models, or at least not enough to imagine them combined, think spiral notepad. Yes, it's a concept that could radically alter the foldable phone discussion.
Entitled "Folding Electronic Devices With Geared Hinges", the patent, which was published on 31st December (the USPTO never rests), explains that the device may be operated in unexpanded and expanded configurations, and that in the unexpanded configuration, portability of the device is enhanced. In the expanded configuration, viewable display area is increased, making it easier to provide touch input and to view images on the display.
Of course, there's no guarantee that Apple will end up manufacturing this particular hinge, or that the Californian tech giant will produce a foldable iPhone at all. However, with so many fresh leaks springing up, it seems clear Apple is at least dipping its toes into the foldable phone pool.
The reports suggest we shouldn't expect to see a foldable iPhone any time before 2022, so the iPhone Flip (as it may or may not be called) almost certainly won't appear alongside the iPhone 13. Samsung, Huawei and Motorola will probably want to keep an ear to the ground, though...
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