Apple has just received a patent for "flexible electronic devices" that can bend, twist and deform without damaging the device, suggesting that Cupertino is interested in making a new iPhone that can fold pretty much like a wallet.
Patent No. 8,929,085, which was first discovered by Apple Insider, in no way suggests that Apple has already created a prototype for a bending iPhone, but it does indicate that the iPhone maker has actually considered making such a device. Apple already owns several patents related to individual bendable components but has not, until now, been able to integrate the various parts into a model for the entire device.
The patent suggests that Apple is thinking of developing flexible housing, display and internal components for its bendable device. Instead of the milled aluminum that is currently used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple will go for softer, more pliable materials such as soft plastics, thin glass, fiber composites, thin metal and even fabric and silicone, which can flex repeatedly without being damaged.
"Flexible electronic devices may be more resistant to damage during impact events such as drops because the flexible device may bend or deform while absorbing the impact," stated Apple in its patent. "Deformation of this type may increase the duration of an impact thereby reducing the impulse received by other components of the flexible device."
Apple is also mulling over developing a flexible battery, which may use lithium-ion or lithium polymer technologies, a flexible circuit board and stable internal components that can resist damage done by flexing, allowing the user to transform the device into another form aside from the usual candybar shape we see in most smartphones today.
If Apple actually thinks of working on such a device, since Apple is known to have filed thousands of patents but works on very few of them, the patent could allow Apple to create larger devices that can be folded for storage and can use force-based input to trigger certain actions. For instance, actions such as squeezing the phone could cause a certain app to open.
"User interface components may be configured to detect deformations of all or part of the electronic device," Apple said. "Deformations detected by user interface components may be interpreted by processing software associated with the device as user inputs to the device."
Apple is not the first smartphone maker to think of creating a bendable device. Samsung has the Galaxy Round and LG has the G Flex.
At the ongoing International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, LG has introduced the second-generation G Flex 2, which can bend at the push of a single button. However, no truly flexible phones, such as the device modeled in Apple's patent, have yet been made.