But Apple is reportedly working on another different form factor. Yesterday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, known as the USPTO (via BGR) published a patent application by Apple called “Electronic Devices Having Sliding Expandable Displays.” Such expandable displays seem to be the next frontier for smartphone manufacturers as companies like Samsung and Xiaomi have received patents for phones with rollable or pullout displays.
Rollable and pullout displays are the next frontiers for smartphone manufacturers
In 2019, Samsung received a patent for a phone using a motorized “rolling mechanism” to expand the display from smartphone size to tablet size. Two weeks later, Samsung was issued a patent for a phone that allows the user to expand the size of the display by 50%. A 6-inch smartphone screen turns into a 9-inch tablet when the user pulls on the right side of the display to make it bigger.
Unlike a foldable phone, a rollable or pullout handset does not need a hinge
Apple’s new patent application includes a cross-section of a rollable iPhone. Inside the phone, the screen bends around a roller place inside the device. Apple notes in the patent application that “A portion of a flexible display may be stored in an interior region of the housing when the housing is in the unexpanded state. In the unexpanded state, the flexible display may have one or more bends and may double back on itself one or more times.”
The patent was originally filed last June by Apple. The advantage of using a rollable display compared to a foldable one like the two Samsung models is that with a rollable display there is no visible crease in the middle of the screen where the hinge is. Besides forming the crease on the screen, users of a foldable have to worry about wear on the hinge depending on how often the user opens the device to access the larger tablet-sized display.
With a rollable or pullout screen, the lack of a hinge obviously means that there is no concern about such a part wearing out. However, such devices will have their own components for users to worry about including the roller and the mechanism that feeds out the additional display to make the size of it grow.
Just because Apple has filed a patent for an iPhone with a rollable or pullout screen doesn’t mean that the device is definitely going to appear. Right now, a foldable iPhone seems a more likely bet. Last month we told you about a patent application filed by Apple pertaining to a foldable battery that would be used, of course, with its foldable phone. This battery would be placed near the foldable screen’s hinge.
Apple prefers using one foldable battery as opposed to using two separate rigid batteries for a foldable iPhone because it will be able to pack a larger capacity battery into the device. Additionally, the use of a foldable battery provides what Apple calls “mechanical flexibility” to the device. Reportedly, Apple has been considering two different form factors for its foldable iPhone. One resembles the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and turns an external smartphone-sized display into an iPad when opened. The other possibility is a clamshell form factor that is similar to the Galaxy Z Flip 3. When closed, this device fits easily into a pocket and opens up to reveal a 6.7-inch smartphone with a tall and thin screen sporting a 21:9 or 22:9 aspect ratio.