A folding iPhone patent application published today describes an interesting potential approach to displaying notifications and interacting with the phone while it is folded.

Instead of the fold being in the centre of the screen, it’s offset so that a strip of screen is exposed in the folded position, as seen above…

This could, says the patent application, be used to display notifications, along with status information like battery level.

Protruding display portion (sometimes referred to as an uncovered display region, protruding display region, uncoverable display region, exposed display edge, uncovered persistently exposed display area, etc.) may be used to display any suitable content. As an example, notifications of incoming messages (emails, text messages, etc.), calendar content (e.g., meeting reminders), alerts (e.g., alarms, location-based alerts, etc.), battery status, wireless signal strength, airplane mode status, and other status information may be displayed on protruding display portion by control circuitry. The uncovered persistently exposed display area may also be used by control circuitry to display icons (e.g., icons associated with default applications and/or a set of frequently used and/or user-defined applications) and/or other content.

This strip could retain its touchscreen functionality while folded.

The content that is displayed may be interactive (e.g., the content may include selectable on-screen items such as selectable icons, selectable buttons, selectable menu options, and/or other selectable content). Selectable content may be selected by supplying user input to select a displayed item (e.g., with an overlapping touch sensor and/or force sensor and/or with nearby touch sensors, force sensors, buttons, etc.).

An alternative form of interaction could be on a very small secondary display on the rear of the device.

If desired, touch sensors (e.g., a two-dimensional touch sensor), buttons, or other input-output devices may be formed in a region such as region on rear surface R of housing (e.g., so that a user may supply input to one of these regions in response to adjacent content being displayed on protruding portion

In other words, something very much like the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro.

While a folding iPhone seems inevitable at some point, and we’ve seen a number of patent applications associated with this, Apple’s philosophy is very much wait-and-see when it comes to most new technological developments. In Apple’s words, it wants to be best, not first. Folding smartphones by other brands haven’t exactly had the best of track records so far, so it’s unlikely we’ll see a folding iPhone anytime soon.

We’ve seen a number of concept images for what form a folding iPhone might take — though UBS last year suggested that a folding iPad might precede it, perhaps arriving in 2021.

Via Patently Apple

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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