The Apple patent adds to the hype surrounding the iPhone maker’s foldable device

Apple received a patent Tuesday that describes technology that allows users to touch multiple parts of a device, not just the screen, to perform functions. One of the images included in the patent is a drawing of a foldable phone or tablet that has a wraparound screen. A string of analyst predictions and now this patent are fueling expectations that the US tech giant could release a foldable device in the not-too-distant future.

Apple maintained its position as the world’s largest smartphone maker by fourth-quarter 2022 shipments, according to IDC. However, iPhone shipments fell 14.9% year-on-year.

Stanislav Kogiku | SOPA images | Light Rocket | Getty Images

Apple’s latest patent fuels expectations that the iPhone maker could be close to launching a foldable device.

The patent, which was awarded to Apple on Tuesday, describes technology that would allow users to touch multiple parts of a device, not just the screen, to perform functions.

For example, according to the patent, a user could touch the side of a device to control the camera. Apple describes this as a “virtual trigger”. A user could also slide their finger up and down the side of the device to control the volume.

One of the images included in the patent is a drawing of a foldable phone or tablet with a wraparound screen.

Unlike competitors like Samsung, Apple has yet to introduce a foldable iPhone or other device. Foldable smartphones allow the user to bend the device to close it and then open it to reveal a larger screen.

But a string of analyst predictions and now this patent are fueling expectations that the US tech giant could release a foldable device in the not-too-distant future.

READ :  The backlash to the 'Destiny 2: Lightfall' backlash has begun

Analysts at UBS said in a note released on Tuesday that the patent “might point to a foldable device, but not this year.” The analysts said that a foldable smartphone “could be an additional opportunity for future-generation iPhone models.”

“We believe that a foldable iPhone model could lead to an increase in consumer purchases and the rate of upgrades in the smartphone segment,” UBS said in its statement.

Analysts at the investment bank said that if a foldable device “compresses the iPhone upgrade rate” or pushes users to switch from Android phones, iPhone unit growth will surpass estimates of 238 million devices in Apple’s fiscal year, which runs from October 2023 to September, could surpass 2024.

Still, foldable phones make up only a small portion of the overall market, accounting for just 1.1% of total smartphone shipments in 2022, according to IDC.

Apple doesn’t usually rush into the market with a new trend and often waits to see how it develops. Companies from Samsung to Chinese electronics maker Oppo have launched foldable smartphones, but they’re still in their infancy.

Analysts have been predicting for the past few months that Apple could have some sort of foldable device in the works, and it probably won’t be an iPhone.

Market research firm CCS Insight predicted last year that Apple will launch an iPad with a foldable screen in 2024.

“Right now, it doesn’t make sense for Apple to make a foldable iPhone. We think they’re shying away from this trend and will likely dip a toe in the water with a foldable iPad,” Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight, told CNBC in an October interview.

READ :  Next Civilization game officially announced by Firaxis

In addition, prominent Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this year that he also expects the company to release a foldable iPad in 2024.