A couple of weeks ago an Apple patent for 'Spatial Composites' surfaced (do you see what we did there?) which has the potential to change the, er, surfaces (how about now?) of Apple devices, perhaps to the point they don't even need a phone case.
US Patent 11678445, filed by Apple's senior director for materials engineering and product design, Chris Prest, describes the patent as covering the housing of an electronic device, with 'at least one sidewall extending from the substrate' and, more unusually, 'abrasion-resistant members at least partially embedded in the substrate and extending beyond the surface.'
There is a degree of vagueness – there is an incentive in all patent applications to make the claim vague as it offers the possibility to try and enforce widely. For example, the patent isn't specific about what material the abrasion-resistant members would be made of, only that they would be harder than the material they are molded into, and they would stick out of it, like a kind of metallic or ceramic fur.
It is interesting that the design hints at a return to the plastic shell of the iPhone 3G era, rather than the more modern designs which have an outer edge element. The substrate in the patent, after all, includes the sidewall – a component that has been separate from the back since the iPhone 5.
Of course patents are not the same thing as real devices. Sometimes they're even used strategically to deflect the attention of industry analysts. Equally they could represent experiments that just never made it. Apple has plenty of patents related to folding phones, and plenty have been rumored (we've even covered folding iPhones here) but we've yet to see one.
What we can say is that it's unlikely we'll see anything from this patent in the next iteration of the iPhone, but if you're interested in keeping up with the iPhone 15 rumors we're pulling them together in our iPhone 15 What We Know So Far page, alternatively why not check out the best camera phones available now?