Folding smartphones are considered the next big milestone in smartphone technology, but achieving it is a big ask too. Making the display durable while being foldable is the most challenging part of developing such a smartphone. Many large and small companies are working tirelessly to achieve it. South Korean giant Samsung is probably leading the pack, as we've seen countless patents on this subject from the company. And it's not over yet. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Samsung a few more patents related to foldable smartphones last week.
The most interesting among a stack of new Samsung patents is the one for a trifold smartphone. We're looking for a simple in-folding or out-folding smartphone, and Samsung has it's eyes set on an even more futuristic one. It's definitely not a phone for an immediate future, considering how technologically challenging it would be.
The patent document shows the tri-folding smartphone bending horizontally across the display. There will be a sensor - grip sensor - for enabling the bend of the hinge. When the user place their finger on the sensor, it'll bend to what may be preset configurations. There also will be a sensor and a controller to detect if the phone is bent, and translate the changes on the display.
Samsung has also patented similar sensor-controlled hinge for a simple in-folding smartphone. The document also talks about a 'deformation sensor' which will perform a series of important functions at the time of the bending of the display, to protect it from deformation.
Another Samsung patent shows a design of a smartphone with a transparent display. We’ve previously seen this technology on a Samsung TV introduced in 2015, but nothing more than that yet. A smartphone, with transparent display would potentially double-up as an Augmented Reality display, enabling the user to see the real world behind the display with digital content overlaid onto it.
With all this said, it is worth noting here that patents are more complex and focused than what the images suggest. A patent for a small hinge on a foldable phone may still show a diagram of the whole phone. So it is advisable not to take patent diagrams at face value, unless you read the whole patent document.
The full patent can be viewed here.