Apple Patent Hints at Future iPhone Design That Could Succeed the Notch

This could fuse the iPhone and iPad into one handset.

The notch at the top of all three 2018 iPhones will likely make another appearance come 2019. However, a flurry of rumors and patent hints suggests that Apple could ditch its signature bezel in the near future. A new patent application released Thursday reveals the Cupertino-based company might combine the iPhone and iPad to make a notch-less, dynamic handset.

The iPhones of years to come could look like futuristic flip phones. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an application detailing the tech Apple could use to build foldable smartphones. The company plans to coat their OLED screens in a special liquid polymer, allowing the display to bend without cracking. This could bring about iPhones that can turn into iPads by unfolding them. The patent was first reported by Patently Apple.

The documentation doesn’t specify what the coating is made of other than explaining that it is “formed from polymer with pigment flakes.” However, this material is said to keep displays intact when users fold them inward and outward. Apple initially filed this technique to the USPTO in March 2018 and it builds on the company’s prior foldable phone patents published earlier in the year.

apple foldable iphone concept
Side view of how a future foldable iPhone could be stretched out to become a tablet or folded outward to serve as a double-sided smartphone.

Multiple unearthed flexible screen blueprints bolster predictions that Apple could bring a foldable phone to market as early as 2020. A March report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Wamsi Mohan stated that the company is working with its Asian supply to begin producing a dual smartphone-tablet.

“Our checks also suggest that Apple is working with suppliers on a foldable phone (that potentially could double up as a tablet) for launch in 2020,” wrote Mohan.

The timing seems to check out, as Samsung is only a couple of months away from launching its first foldable smartphone, tentatively dubbed the Galaxy F. Samsung’s flexible handset will likely be launched early in 2019 and will reportedly be priced somewhere between $1,900 to $2,500. A potential name or price for a foldable iPhone has yet to be announced or leaked, but it’s clear that Apple sees potential in its competitor’s design.

samsung foldable phone concept
This 2016 Samsung foldable phone concept could be what Apple is going for.

The coating described in the patent could also serve to create other conceptualized Apple products. A series of patent filing earlier in December depicted a iPhone with a screen that wraps all the way around it, almost like a smartphone crepe. It’s possible that the company could use its flexible, polymer cover to make that design a reality as well.

Apple’s smartphone future seems to primality revolve around flexible displays, which is a big hint as to where phone trends are moving. The iPhone and iPad could be one and the same in a couple of years.