Foldable Phones are Coming

A fictitious foldable phone prototype

It's not possible to say whether you'll ever use one or not, but foldable phones are apparently being developed simultaneously by Microsoft, Samsung, and LG.


Microsoft sent three patent applications to the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) last week that address bendable and foldable phones as well as phones with a movable housing.  

While bendable and foldable phones are quite self-explanatory, the movable housing concept is much less intuitive.  One way to visualize the concept is to imagine if a screen had a pivoting hinge to display a secondary screen or keypad instead of the flip-down action of appropriately named flip-phones.

Samsung has long been interested in foldable and bendable displays and it was thought that mobile devices with such screens may be released as early as this year.  However, it has since been speculated that Samsung will not release such a device until at least 2018 or 2019.  Instead, Samsung is choosing to continually develop their bezel-free screen technologies such as that found on the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus.

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Patent art for a Samsung foldable phone

LG also appears to be working on developing folding screens.  LG is reported to be working with both Google and Microsoft on this venture for eventual use in Google's Pixel line of smartphones.  Reports vary wildly, however, regarding whether LG's development on behalf of Google is designed to gain access to bendable displays, curved displays, or simply the best OLED technology.

There are many questions that remain.  Nobody truly knows if, or when, these foldable and bendable smartphones and tablets will come to market, and it is equally impossible to determine whether or not they will successfully capture the attention of consumers. The most important question, however, is whether foldable smartphones will cleverly (err, annoyingly) be dubbed pholdables or folnes.  Hopefully neither.

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