Apple Patents a Foldable iPhone With ‘Self-Healing’ Screen

Apple Patents a Foldable iPhone With ‘Self-Healing’ Screen

Imagine if you dropped your phone, and instead of bemoaning its new dented existence, you watched as the screen fixed itself before your eyes, as if watching the X-Men’s Wolverine repair himself after a battle that would kill a mortal man. A new Apple patent offers something slightly less spectacular, describing a foldable iPhone with a “self-healing” layer on the screen that will automatically fill in dents or other bruises.

The patent for Electronic Devices with Flexible Display Cover Layers shows us what Apple may be trying to do to really help any potential foldable iPhone stand out. Like other foldables, this device would have a hinge and a flexible display cover layer. These displays on phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Flip and Fold 5, the Pixel Fold, or the OnePlus Open are thinner than what you’ll usually find on a flagship phone, allowing them to flex. This also causes them to be far more fragile to bumps or scratches. Apple, for its part, shares a few details about how the phone could have a “self-healing material” coating on top of the screen that “may fill the dent even without external intervention.”

Image: USPTO

Or, in some other designs, the phone would provide heat, light, or some electrical current to the surface to stimulate that healing process. This could include “transparent conductors” that could heat the display cover layer when the device is charging or when users activate it. This foldable design might not be just a phone but any laptop or tablet, according to the patent. Apple has previously filed patents detailing self-healing iPhones, though that wasn’t in the context of a folding display.

The patent was first spotted by the hawks at Patently Apple, who spotted it out of just under two dozen newly granted patents for the Cupertino, California company. As usual with patent applications, none of this means we’ll see it in a product in either the near or far future, but it does seem to indicate Apple is thinking rather hard about a foldable product. Last year, we picked up on a design for a foldable iPhone with a waterfall display. Not to mention, there have been a few other reports that Apple is designing a clamshell foldable as well as a foldable iPad.

The patent doesn’t describe what Apple would use for its self-healing layer other than “a polymer or any other desired material having self-healing properties.” However, that coating may “extend across the entire exterior surface of the display cover.”

LG previously showed off the possibilities for a self-healing back plate on its curved G Flex phone. There’s been some talk of self-healing displays recently, with analyst firm CCS Insight noting the technology for “nanocoatings” that fill in gaps when the underlying layer is exposed to air could be on their way in the next few years. The general concept behind self-healing isn’t that massive knife scars will stitch back together before your eyes, but it would reduce the harm from minor scratches on sensitive screens like those seen in Foldable. That won’t stop me from imagining my iPhone 14 Pro literally popping bullets out of its casing like it were the latest gag in the upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine.

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