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Foldable iPhones: how they’ll change the game for smartphones

We’ve seen the future. And it folds.

For some time now, it’s felt like iPhone design has been treading water. From year to year not much really changes. And unless you’ve got a really trained eye, you could easily mistake 2014’s iPhone 6 for last year’s iPhone 8.

Even the iPhone X, which was touted as a radical departure for Apple, adhered closely to the monolithic, plain, black-slab design of its predecessors. The so-called big change was simply that Apple did away with a physical home button.

But things might be about to change, with the advent of foldable iPhones. Tipped to arrive in 2020, they’re iPhones, Jim. But not as we know them.

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Nothing less than marvels of the late manufacturing age and made from a blend of plastic and glass, foldable iPhones will allow you to bend your handset into fresh, new shapes.

At the same time they'll allow Apple to fit their smartphones with larger screens without supersizing the device’s footprint. And foldable iPhones are set to be more robust and shatterproof, too.

That’s just the start, though. The really exciting thing about foldable iPhones is their potential to change what we can use our smartphones for. And how we’ll interact with them too.

And to bring the next-generation foldable iPhones to life, we’ve created a series of images based on a patent filed by Apple.

Here’s what the future looks like. And how Apple’s mooted move into foldable phones could reinvent the iPhone.

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Bend me, shape me. Anyway you want me

A patent filed by Apple for foldable iPhones suggests they'll be as flexible as Stretch Armstrong. And capable of shifting into more shapes than Mystique from the X-Men.

As you can see, depending on your mood or how you want to use your handset (more of which in a bit), the bendable, poseable iPhone has a hollow centre and could be folded into a prism-shape, or with secondary screen parts folded underneath. In which position, it looks almost like a conventional smartphone.

It can even be bent into a cylindrical shape. But right now, we’re not entirely sure what practical applications this might have.

Apple iPhone foldable patent

The patent filed by Apple that was approved in early 2018.

Certainly, a concomitant boost to sound quality could enable a flexible iPhone to double as a Siri-powered home speaker. Much like the current Apple HomePod, then, but with an all-screen front and a very busy second life as a smartphone.

However, we think it's more likely that the cylinder shape is included in the patent just to illustrate just how bendy and flexible the foldable iPhone could be.

Two displays are better than one

Foldable iPhone concept dual screen

Dual monitors are pretty common in the workplace. Largely because they make it easier to multi-task. For instance, you can tune into a webinar on one screen, while you’re writing a report on your secondary display.

Dual-screen iPhones, which will be separated by a hinge, could work in much the same way. So you would have your email app on one screen and have one eye on the World Cup, as it plays out on the other display.

Alternatively, as you’ll see in the image above, you could be playing the classic board game Battleships, while watching a movie in lush 4K.

Better for watching video

Foldable iPhone business insider

Image credit: Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider.

The big challenge for smartphone manufacturers in recent years has been satisfying our demands for larger screens, while ensuring their new phones retain the compact dimensions we’ve come to expect.

One way the likes of Apple and Samsung have managed that is to continually shrink the edges that surround their smartphones’ screens. But naturally there’s a limit to how far they can go. And this approach is, of course, subject to ever-diminishing returns.

With foldable phones, though, we can expect a massive display upgrade. After all, having two screens means you’ve got twice the amount of display for watching movies.

Which may mean that smartphone screens finally do justice to those lavish blockbusters and their GDP-sized budgets.

They could spell the end for tablets

ipad mini

Tablets really only exist because they offer a larger screen than smartphones, which is more practical for some tasks.

So they’re handy for doing the weekly shop, for instance. Or for propping up in bed when you’re in the mood for some late-night viewing.

But with foldable iPhones that are equipped with dual screens of comparable dimensions to smaller tablets, there’s going to be very little reason for the likes of the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab range to exist.

Why shell out hundreds of pounds for a tablet when you’ve got an iPhone that does the same things just as well?

They’ll usher in an age of two-player gaming on a single device

iPhone foldable battleships game

In the mood for a game of Battleships to kill time on a long journey? Or maybe you prefer to get your teeth into some low-level detective work with Guess Who? Or perhaps you’d like to swell your bank balance at your friend’s expense with a few hands of poker?

With a foldable iPhone you can do that. Just configure the screen so that when you’re sitting opposite one another, you can see each see a separate screen.

Provided you’ve got Bluetooth joypads with you, this set-up could also clear the way for playing two-player arcade games on a single device. Something like Mario Kart would work brilliantly. As would a tennis simulator.

Better front-facing cameras

three iphones x selfie camera face id

Right now, phones have to be equipped with a front-facing and a rear-facing camera. And as you’ll know by now, the rear-facing camera, AKA the main camera, is always much, much better quality than the snapper at the front.

The good news is that this is another area where foldable phones could ride to the rescue. That’s because with phones that fold outwards, manufacturers won’t have to bother with a front-facing camera, at all.

Category: Features
Tagged: apple, ios, iphone
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