A future foldable iPhone could have a screen that repairs itself if you scratch it

A scratched screen is disheartening, but Apple has a plan for a 'self-healing' display that could recover from small chips and scratch marks.

2 minutes & 17 seconds read time

A scratched smartphone screen is a bit of a downer, because as such marks accumulate, your device loses that fresh out of the box look, and it can be annoying to constantly notice these blemishes.

While a future iPhone could have a self-repairing screen, this is planned for a foldable, not a standard model like the new iPhone 15 (Image Credit: Apple)

While a future iPhone could have a self-repairing screen, this is planned for a foldable, not a standard model like the new iPhone 15 (Image Credit: Apple)

The good news is that Apple has a plan to keep the scratches and screen chip marks at bay, or at least there's a patent out there that suggests a 'self-healing' iPhone of the foldable variety might arrive at some point in the future.

Patently Apple spotted the patent that just emerged via the US Patent & Trademark Office (hat tip to The Verge here, too).

The patent describes a foldable iPhone which uses a layer of elastomer to improve flexibility and make the folding screen more durable, and that it could benefit from a layer with self-healing properties.

The broad idea is for a protective layer over the screen which can deal with scratches or "dents" (presumably referring to small chips - actual denting being something that happens to the chassis, not screen, as far as we're concerned).

This is more of an important consideration for a foldable, given that when the device is closed, any stray debris that may be on the display could end up being pressed into the panel, or scraped across it a little way, maybe resulting in a scratch.

The patent states that the repairing process may occur in the layer of self-healing material automatically, whenever a scratch is made, or maybe on a preset schedule (or, say, when the phone is charging). It could also be initiated when the user requests a self-repair to take place.

The repair could be made faster by heat being applied, or electricity, or light (or indeed other types of "external stimulus" as Apple puts it).

The company delves further into the scenario where heat is used for the self-healing, observing that the protective cover of the display could include transparent conductors that form a heating layer. That would generate the necessary heat to facilitate the scratch-removing process (if Apple went this route).

Apple also says that the self-healing material may cover the entire display, or just the flexible region (where it folds). As ever with these patents, a whole lot of elements about the exact design are left up in the air, with a host of options and different ways to go.

This innovation could be applied to an iPhone, or an iPad potentially, or even a laptop. (A foldable MacBook which would make use of a virtual keyboard has been rumored in the past, as you'll likely recall).

As ever, it's worth noting that big tech firms file a ton of patents, and many of them never go anywhere and just fizzle away in prototypes (if they even get that far - some probably go straight from the drawing board to the bin).

In other Apple smartphone news, if you've been experiencing screen retention with your iPhone 15, then don't worry - there's a fix coming for this with iOS 17.1 which should debut imminently.

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Darren has written for numerous magazines and websites in the technology world for almost 30 years, including TechRadar, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Computeractive, and many more. He worked on his first magazine (PC Home) long before Google and most of the rest of the web existed. In his spare time, he can be found gaming, going to the gym, and writing books (his debut novel – ‘I Know What You Did Last Supper’ – was published by Hachette UK in 2013).

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