Is Apple Planning a Foldable iPhone 8?

apple iphone 8 foldable bendy screen
A patent for a foldable smartphone was awarded to Apple by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. USPTO

Next year marks the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, and Apple is widely thought to be planning something major for the double-digit birthday of its flagship product. And judging by a new patent awarded to Apple, the iPhone 8 may well confound even the most speculative of analysts.

Published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Monday, Apple's latest patent describes a foldable iPhone concept that uses carbon nanotubes to allow the smartphone to fold completely in half.

Apple has been exploring the concept of foldable and bendable smartphones since 2013, with patents including a Flexible Electronic Device from 2015 that made use of flexible printed circuits, flexible batteries and flexible displays.

It is not the only smartphone manufacturer to be looking into such concepts, with chief rival Samsung filing dozens of patents relating to such technology. Whether or not any of them find their way into actual products remains to be seen, but the continued interest suggests the companies are serious about at least attempting to make the concept a reality.

The relatively anti-climactic launch of the iPhone 7 appears to be proof that Apple is switching to a three-year iPhone cycle. The Cupertino company previously took two years between full-model changes, however the device unveiled in September was more of an incremental upgrade of its predecessor, the iPhone 6s.

Industry analysts have pointed to a slowing market and limited advancements in smartphone functions as reasons for Apple's switch.

Apple reported its first decline in iPhone sales earlier this year, with a 16 percent drop in it Q2 2016 results. CEO Tim Cook cited the pace of smartphone upgrades as a reason for the slump, saying the iPhone 6s was unable to match the "accelerated" upgrade cycle the company achieved when it launched the iPhone 6 in 2014.