Apple investigating iOS, macOS devices with retractable displays

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,625,948) for “electronic devices with retractable displays” that hints at intriguing future iOS and macOS devices. If applied to Macs, the invention might bring more touchscreen features to the computer. Or it could be a new device altogether (an “electronic newspaper/magazine,” perhaps).

In the patent, the tech giant says that electronic devices have been substantially reduced in size, but sometimes the result is a display that’s not as large as users need for some purposes. Apple is looking into a flexible display with, among other things, a touch sensor, speakers, microphones, cameras, and other components.The housings and support slats may be held together using magnets when the display is retracted. Dust brushes may be provided to remove dust from the flexible display. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “An electronic device may have a pair of elongated housings. A flexible display may be placed in a first position in which the display is retracted within one of the housings and a second position in which the flexible display is deployed and extends between the housings in a planar shape for viewing by a user. 

“Support structures such as rigid slats that run parallel to the housings and bistable slats that run perpendicular to the rigid slats may be used to support the flexible display. Speakers, microphones, cameras, and other components can be mounted in the housings. The housings may be held together using magnets and may contain electrical components such as integrated circuits, batteries, and other devices. The components may be mounted on printed circuit boards that rotate within a rotating roller around which the display is wrapped when retracted.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.