Apple patent suggests rollable iPhones on the way

Tech consumers might be able to roll the next iPhone into a cylinder for enhanced ease of storage, if a recently released patent filed by the pioneering tech giant is anything to go by.

The patent was filed with the US government under Apple’s name and those of inventors Que Anh Nguyen and Christopher Jones, as “Electronic Devices With Rollable Displays,” on October 11th, but was not made public until July 13th.

In support of featured sketched illustrations that suggest the future device will be rollable from end to end, the patent summary says it “may have a rollable display [that] may be moved between an unrolled [and] a rolled state [...] for storage.”

Design sketch showing rollable function of proposed new device
Design sketch showing rollable function of proposed new device Credit: Apple/Que Anh Nguyen/Christopher Jones

The patent further suggests that this hyper-malleability will be achieved through using specially thinned glass for the phone’s “transparent protective layer that overlaps the pixel array” used for displaying images.

It added: “The display may be configured to apply compressive stress to the outwardly facing surface of the glass layer when the display is rolled up.”

This feature, it says, may help prevent damage such as cracking or scratching to the display when it is bent during rolling.

Furthermore, the patent description suggests that Apple may not necessarily limit this ergonomically convenient function to iPhones.

Diagram showing rough outline of patent device function
Another sketch from Apple. Note that the top layer, marked as Electronic Device, is referred to in the text of the patent as potentially being "any suitable electronic device with a display" Credit: Apple/Que Anh Nguyen/Christopher Jones

Commenting on another diagram that appears to show a rough outline of the device’s internal workings, it said that the device “may, in general, be any suitable electronic device with a display,” suggesting that any gadget with a screen could, in theory, have the rollable function applied to it.

Examples listed by Apple include cellphones, tablets, laptops, standalone computer displays or other monitors, and even a wristwatch or other wearable device — although why anyone would want to fold the latter into a cylindrical shape is unclear.

Apple is not the only tech giant working on rollable phones — Samsung and Motorola have also thrown their hats into the ring, although neither has yet brought such a device to market.

Indeed, it is unclear precisely when any of the major tech players will succeed in making rollable phones or other devices a reality.

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