It seems that Samsung is expected to release its foldable device in the third quarter of the year, with LG following suit in quarter four, and Nokia shortly after that. It appears that Microsoft has also had patent approval indicating possible plans to develop a flexible display smartphone. The company’s soon to be revealed Microsoft Surface Phone is now thought to feature this foldable display design innovation.
Microsoft’s patent application, which was filed in October 2016, was granted this month by US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Described as a “mobile computing device having a flexible hinge structure”, it is, in essence, a foldable phone-to-tablet mobile handset. The phone folds into a smartphone-sized screen, allowing the user to use the call feature, send texts and browse social media. The device then transitions to tablet mode to enable reading and other functions. The device can be placed tent mode for watching your favourite movies.
The patent goes into more detail about the device capabilities, explaining: “In this way, the housings of the mobile computing device may support a variety of different usage scenarios through arrangement of the housings in relation to each other, e.g., by folding. For example, a “tablet” configuration may be supported in which each of the housings is “laid flat” such that an entirety of the display device is viewable by a user. In a “phone” configuration, one of the housings may be stacked behind another one of the housings such that the mobile computing device may be easily grasped using a single hand yet still provide a portion of the display device that is viewable by a user.
In a “closed” configuration, the display device may be positioned internally in the stacked configuration and thus may be used to protect the display device when not in use.
A variety of other configurations are also described, such as a “mini-tablet” configuration, as well as biasing mechanisms that may be employed to bias the mobile computing device to remain in a desired configuration, further discussion of which may be found in relation to the following sections”.
The patent was first identified by MSPowerUser, beginning speculation that the new Surface Phone could exclusively showcase this technology. The Surface series is renowned for its 2-in-1 category products – the company would plan to replicate and scale this strategy to smartphones too.
The Surface Phone plans a three variant range derived from processor, storage, and other features. Last year, a Microsoft executive jokingly teased the Surface Phone, alluring to the device being a ‘category innovator’ that serves the needs of the enterprise market. As yet, more details of the device are not forthcoming, but the Surface Phone is expected in market this year.
Photo credit: USPTO