Apple's foldable phone could be the first without a crease

New patent reveals that Apple could have a plan to eliminate creases from a folding iPhone

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
Quick summary

Apple has filed a patent for a new display technology that could significantly reduce the crease on a foldable iPhone.

This could potentially make Apple's foldable phone the first one on the market without a visible crease. However, there is no confirmation of when Apple will launch a foldable device.

Speculation around potential folding devices from Apple has reached fever pitch with the discovery of a patent that Apple holds that could lead to a much-reduced crease in the display.

Creases have never been more examined than when folding phones hit the mainstream. Manufacturers have tried various approaches to reducing any sign of a visible crease, including supporting mechanisms behind the surface and such. But ultimately, if a device is to have a folding display, it's only reasonable to accept that there will be some sort of difference through the folding portion of the screen.

The patent (via Patently Apple) suggests that Apple will use a thinner portion of the display through the folding area, with a chemical treatment designed to protect the glass surface. The speculation is that this process might lead to a better-performing display which could make its way into a folding iPhone.

Cracking hasn't been a huge problem for folding displays thus far, instead there are two big issues. The first is the perception of a crease in the display. This sounds worse than it is because any crease is only really visible when the display is off. As soon as the display illuminates, you can't see the fold. That's certainly true of devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 - one of the best folding phones on the market - and once you've used the phone, the notion of the crease causing a problem evaporates.

The bigger problem is really one of delamination. Through repeated folding, it is possible for the layers of the display to separate, initially at the edges but then spreading towards the centre of the screen. This not only looks bad, but it can also stop registering touch too, potentially rendering that portion of the display useless. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip models seem prone to this - and being one of the more popular devices, it's something that a number of customers will have experienced.

When will Apple launch a folding device?

Patents aren’t confirmation of launch plans, so the question remains as to when Apple might launch a folding device. We've recently seen analyst Ming-Chi Kuo say that Apple's most likely device will be a folding Mac with a 20.3-inch display.

The slated date for that launch is thought to be 2027, with a number of commentators suggesting that Apple has tested a number of panels for folding devices - iPhone and iPad - and not been happy with the results. That might be one of the motivators for the patent, and might give Apple the advantage over other brands with folding devices.

Regardless of the patents, folding displays manufactured by companies like Samsung and LG are constantly evolving, improving performance and reducing the visible deformity that comes from the folding area.

While striving for perfection across the entire display is admirable, Apple and its customers may have to ultimately accept that folding phones will have some difference in some portion of the display.

Chris Hall

Chris has been writing about consumer tech for over 15 years. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Pocket-lint, he's covered just about every product launched, witnessed the birth of Android, the evolution of 5G, and the drive towards electric cars. You name it and Chris has written about it, driven it or reviewed it. Now working as a freelance technology expert, Chris' experience sees him covering all aspects of smartphones, smart homes and anything else connected. Chris has been published in titles as diverse as Computer Active and Autocar, and regularly appears on BBC News, BBC Radio, Sky, Monocle and Times Radio. He was once even on The Apprentice... but we don't talk about that.