This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
So far, Apple has filed several patents in the direction of "using a wider screen without changing the size of the iPhone", including a folding display. Now it's possible that the company is considering a new sliding iPhone, or “a display that could be rolled out of a device as needed”.
The company has previously filed a patent for a display that can be rolled up like a scroll, and one of its main suppliers, LG Electronics, has commercialized a "rollable TV," so it's not much of a technical surprise.
Apple's newly published patent application, "Electronic Devices Having Sliding Expandable Displays," shows how a flexible screen can be housed and the display area can be expanded by pulling it out of the device itself.
The main focus of the patent is that there is a limit to how large an electronic device can be made to have enough display area to display a sufficient amount of information. Apple's solution to this problem is to have the display in a housing, and then have that and the screen "slide relative to each other (grab the screen and pull it out)." It refers to specific ways to apply "a flexible display such as an organic light-emitting diode display" to this, and it also states that the screen "may be doubled back on itself once or twice."
While some of the drawings attached to the patent include a rigid (non-retractable) screen that slides in and out of a housing, most of the drawings depict a roller-type mechanism showing how a "double-back portion of a flexible display may be stored in an interior of the housing."
In addition, the patent document details the various possibilities around the circuitry in such a sliding display and what kind of sensors can be used. It's clear that the research within Apple is quite real.
Tech giants like Apple are filing or obtaining patents every week, and only a small percentage of them actually make it into products and implementations. Nevertheless, if Apple introduces some form of foldable (or rollable) iPhone, the broader foldable smartphone market is likely to expand rapidly.