Samsung is largely expected to launch its foldable device in Q3 this year, LG in Q4, and even Nokia is now tipped to launch a flexible device soon. Iin tow, Microsoft has also been granted a patent that shows its possible plans to make a flexible display smartphone. The patent reveals Microsoft is envisioning a smartphone that opens up to form a tablet-like larger display. The company's upcoming Microsoft Surface Phone is now speculated to come with this foldable display innovation.
Microsoft's patent was applied for back in October 2016, and was granted in January this year by US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Described as a "mobile computing device having a flexible hinge structure", it is essentially a foldable phone-to-tablet mobile device. The device folds into a smartphone-sized screen enabling the user to use it to make calls, text, and browse social media. The user can then open the device to use it in tablet mode for reading and editing purposes. The device can also be kept in tent mode for movie watching.
Further describing its multiple uses, the patent explains, "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, first spotted by MSPowerUser, sparks speculation that the upcoming Surface Phone could be the one where this technology is introduced first. The Surface series is known for its 2-in-1 category products, and the company would look to trickle down that strategy into its smartphones as well.
The Surface Phone is expected to come in three variants based on processor, storage, and other features. A Microsoft executive last year teased the Surface Phone saying that it will be a high-end version catering to the enterprise market and will be 'category innovating'. Not much is known about the Surface Phone at this time, but Microsoft is expected to launch it sometime this year.