apple iphone 7 patent
The patent granted to Apple describes how a device could be folded in two areasUSPTO

Apple could be planning a flexible and foldable iPhone in the future, according to a patent granted today (6 January) by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The Flexible Electronic Devices patent details methods of flexing or folding a smartphone or other portable device without damaging the internal components.

iphone 7 patent
Could the iPhone 7 be flexible?USPTO

"Flexible displays", "flexible touch-sensitive layers", "flexible housing", "flexible batteries", and "flexible printed circuits" are all described by the patent, which lists six California-based Apple employees as the inventors.

The components would enable force-based gesture controls and would help the device to better withstand impacts or heavy pressure.

"Rigid electronic devices may be vulnerable to damage in the event of an impact such as a drop of the device on a hard surface. It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices," the patent reads.

The patent also describes how different forms of folding could be incorporated into the device to make it more compact.

While it is unlikely that any iPhone in the near future will feature a bendable display, the possibility of a flexible phone is not entirely out of the question.

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), LG unveiled the second generation of its LG G Flex smartphone which features a curved screen that the firm claims is capable of withstanding impacts better than traditional "flat" phones.