While some patents do eventually make it into a final product in one for or another, most never see the light of day. They usually just become legal safeguards, “just in case”. In the case of this particular Samsung patent, however, both might be true. The Korean manufacturer has been known to throw oodles of patents regarding foldable and flexible smartphones, but its patents for specific “fold-out” designs have been scant, if not non-existent. Until now, that is. The US Patent and Trademark Office just granted Samsung the patent for a design of such a fold-out smartphone which would curiously put Lenovo in a rather dangerous position.
When talking about foldable smartphones and tablets, most people would think about devices that open and close like a book, with the screen folded inside, hence the term “fold-in”. Engineering-wise, however, such a device is more difficult to make because of the way the display has to bend greatly, almost flat. It is easier and safer to have the screen curl at a certain angle, which would leave some gap in between the two sides of the folded display.
That is why the “fold-out” type seems to be gaining more favor among manufacturers. Here, the screen is outward facing and therefore the radius of the curve is bigger compared to fold-in. That is pretty much the type of foldable smartphone that Lenovo flaunted back in June, giving hopes that we might actually be close to such a reality.
Lenovo, however, might be roadblocked on that one, now that Samsung has been given the patent for exactly such a type of fold-out smartphone. To be fair, Samsung has been researching and playing around with all kinds of flexible, foldable devices, so it might have had a head start in this matter.
Now whether it actually turns into a product soon remains an open question. Popular opinion seems to put a late 2017 date on Samsung’s “Galaxy X”, its first foldable smartphone. If so, it could happen in time with the Galaxy Note 8 launch, which will still happen despite the Galaxy Note 7 tragedy.
VIA: Patently Mobile