Samsung double-foldable phone could offer two hinges in 2021

Samsung is reportedly working on a double-folding smartphone, with not one but two hinges, with the addition to the flagship Galaxy Z range potentially being unveiled later this year. The phone-maker has been aggressive in pushing out foldables, with the original Galaxy Fold followed by the Galaxy Z Flip clamshell, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 which refined the original in late 2020.

The focus for 2021 was believed to be extending the range into more affordable territory, however, addressing the lingering complaint that though clever, foldable screen devices are still too expensive for most users. Samsung has previously been reported to be working on a number of 2021 Galaxy Z products, across form-factors.

Now, though, there's talk of something even more dramatic in the pipeline. A new, double-folding phone would add a second hinge, sources tell the Nikkei, building on patents filed for such a form-factor. While it would be complex mechanically, the hardware could make software development a lot more straightforward.

That's because, with two folds, Samsung's goal is to make the unfolded aspect ratio of the primary screen be something like 16:9 or 18:9. The current Galaxy Z Fold 2, in contrast, opens out to offer a more squared-off 25:9 aspect.

While Google has made efforts to make recent Android versions more foldable-friendly, with the ability to switch between different layouts on-the-fly – as well as transition seamlessly between external and internal displays – it's a fact that most software is designed with a fairly standard aspect ratio in mind. If Samsung can provide that with its double-foldable, "more video games and other apps could run more smoothly with better resolutions on the device," one of the sources says.

Final details for the foldable have not been settled, it's said, and the expectation is that it won't be revealed until late 2021 if it actually makes it onto Samsung's roadmap for this year. Back in late 2018, Samsung patents for a double-foldable were revealed, though at the time it was expected to be a tablet rather than a smartphone. Since then, we've seen other companies, such as TCL, flirt with double-foldable designs, though none have reached the market yet.

What remains to be seen, therefore, is just how such a design might collapse down. One possibility is that Samsung could fold its phone into a Z-profile – fitting, perhaps, given the name of the range – which would leave two-thirds of the flexible OLED closed, but a third revealed. That could then act as the external display. Currently, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 has a second, separate touchscreen on its outside for that.

Part of the challenge won't only be developing a design for a double-folding phone that can hold up to the rigors of daily use, and one which is affordable enough for even those on the bleeding-edge to deem acceptable, but finding enough chips to build it. Samsung has conceded that production challenges continue to limit its manufacturing of foldables in general, but the company also faces the same sort of problems in the overall chip supply chain that the rest of the tech industry – and others – are currently struggling with.