Not long after Samsung showcased its futuristic new foldable smartphone, the Korean electronics giant also filed a patent for a foldable device the very next day. The patent filing echoes the same foldable design showcased at Samsung’s developer conference in San Francisco. Dubbed the Infinity Flex display, the technology allows the futuristic prototype to incorporate the typical wide aspect ratio of a regular smartphone, but it can also be folded out to transform into a much larger screen, suitable for video and gaming.
A majority of the patent filing is comprised of the proprietary hinge technology, flexible circuitry, and a specialised bendable panel that makes foldable devices bearing large displays possible. While we have gone through the patent filing and found that Samsung has made no note of exactly how it plans to combat the problem of display fatigue and the wear-and-tear brought upon by the numerous folding and unfolding cycles, but the fact remains that Samsung has committed to putting these foldable smartphones into production sometime in 2019.
Patent Primarily Deals with the Hinge and Flexible Circuitry
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 mishaps notwithstanding, it’s unlikely for a company of Samsung’s stature to introduce a product into the market without ensuring a minimum guarantee of durability. Samsung claims that its new Infinity Flex Display allows smartphones to be folded hundreds and thousands of times without damaging the display. Samsung’s showcase introduced a number of avenues for the display to roll, bend, and stretch to achieve various configurations such as, an infold to hide the display or out-fold to have the display on either side of the device.
Many in the industry took to criticising Samsung for showcasing a rather bulky foldable smartphone at the conference, but it goes without saying that this is most likely to be an early prototype than anywhere closer to the final version, which is most likely to be relatively slimmer and sleeker.
For starters, let us not forget this wasn’t a consumer event and geared more towards developers, who are more interested in the software aspect of foldable smartphones. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that Samsung would risk letting its competitors have a glimpse at the final design of its smartphone potentially a good year before it reaches mass production.
This theory has merit since the showcase was meant for developers, with one of the relevant factors being the UI changes required by such a radical design change. Samsung invited Glen Murphy, who is the Head of Android UX at Google, to this effect and reinforced the fact that Google has been working with Samsung to make foldable Android smartphone a reality. It is quite likely that the phone showcased at the conference was a crude prototype, with the company still keeping the final design well under wraps and beyond the reach of its competitors.
Patent Drawings Showcase Slimmer and Less Bulky Example
Furthermore, the Patently Mobile report included drawings that resembled the bulky prototype at the event, but when we checked Samsung’s patent filing for the foldable smartphone, we found the drawings to depict a much slimmer and sleeker design. Although, patent drawings don’t always necessarily reflect the final design, it is also quite unlikely for Samsung to retain the bulky design showcased at the developer conference in the final retail version.
If the demand for the phablet form factor is any indication, consumers seem to prefer smartphones with larger displays. This makes them ideal for web browsing, video playback, and gaming, which has seen a significant uptick this year, thanks to blockbuster titles such as PUBG and Fortnite. There’s a definite hard limit to the maximum screen size bezel-less smartphones can achieve without seriously hindering the ergonomics or the mobility of smartphones.
Foldable smartphones, therefore, seem to be the next logical step in this direction. Samsung may have hit the pay dirt by potentially being the first to release a practical foldable smartphone in the market next year; that is, unless someone else beats it to the punch.