Apple working on how to make an iPhone that rolls up

Detail from the patent showing on form of rolled-up display

An “iPhone Fold” may already be in Apple’s rear-view mirror, as the company is diligently pursuing the idea of an iPhone screen that can be rolled up when not in use.

In May 2023, AppleInsider described Apple as being like a dog with a bone for how it kept pressing on with rollable screen ideas. Two months later, it’s back again.

A newly-revealed patent application called just “Electronic Devices With Rollable Displays,” is less detailed than some of the previous filings. More than even patent applications that were primarily about folding screens and only mentioned rollable as an alternative, this one reads like a primer for the notion.

“An electronic device may have a rollable display,” it says. “The display 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 display may have a display panel with a pixel array that produces images and a transparent protective layer that overlaps the pixel array,” it continues.

That transparent protective layer is interesting because Apple goes on to say that it may itself contain a layer of glass. And the “glass layer may be locally thinned in the rollable portion to facilitate rolling of the display.”

Just as with foldable phones, the issue is how to make a screen work, and keep working, when it is bent about some axis. This patent application describes in broad terms what’s required, and how it might be achieved.

“For example, a flexible (bendable) display… may be partly or completely rolled up so that [it] may be placed in a compact shape for storage and may be rolled out when it is desired to view images on the display,” continues Apple. “The display may be configured to apply compressive stress to the outwardly facing surface of the glass layer when the display is rolled up.”

“Compressive stress in the outwardly facing glass surface may help prevent damage to the display when the display is bent during rolling operations,” says…