Roll with it.

Phone Roll-Ups

Amidst rumors of a foldable iPhone on the horizon, Apple is staying ahead of the curve with a patent for something even more gimmicky: a flexible display that would let you roll up your phone's handset like a stack of dollars bills.

Per Patently Apple, the patent, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office last Thursday and filed in November, lists the iPhone and the iPad as possible candidates for the tech, along with several other unbranded devices like a TV screen and a vehicle dashboard.

Apple imagines that an iPhone screen — or what-have-you — may "be moved between an unrolled state in which the display is planar and a rolled state in which a rollable portion of the display is rolled up for storage," the patent says. In other words, the screen could seemingly be flat while a portion of it is rolled up.

For protection, the rollable portion may be covered in a layer of glass that's "locally thinned" to "facilitate rolling." Added compressive strength to the glass layer while rolled, the patent claims, may help it withstand scratches and other damage to the surface.

Dubious Future

A good idea of what Apple's patent may look like in action is Motorola's rollable smartphone concept, shown off at the Mobile World Congress this spring. Motorola's concept works sort of like a tiny conveyor belt, with the extra screen space rolling out from the back of the phone and extending the screen vertically.

Other competitors like Oppo, LG, and Samsung have experimented with rollable designs in handheld devices, but none have hit the market, probably due to durability and practicality issues that have yet to be ironed out. Though folding smartphones are gaining steam, having these devices ape a slap-on wristband may be a bridge too far, at least for the near future.

Patents like these are often filed for strategic reasons, usually to get a leg up on competitors in the market who may also be tossing around similar ideas of their own. Needless to say, it's pretty doubtful whether Apple actually plans to make a rollable iPhone anytime soon.

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