Samsung has been hard at work on flexible technology lately, even going as far as replacing a good number of their LCD manufacturing plants with outfits capable of manufacturing flexible OLED displays. All of these efforts seem to point to the creation of a foldable, bendable phone in the near future. A recent pair of patents seems to point to a foldable smartphone that not only can be folded as a user sees fit or according to Samsung's design, but can hold their place when folded a certain way, somewhat like a sturdy laptop hinge. This is thanks to a series of plates and electrodes making up an artificial musculature.
Called a "panel support member", one of the patents shows a flexible skin made of electromagnetic panels with bits of hard wire running between them. These bits of muscle would be able to take and hold just about any shape, so long as it wasn't a tight enough squeeze to snap one of the membranes. Seemingly meant to support a flexible OLED panel and provide a backbone of sorts, this could allow things like flip phones that turn into candybar phones or tablets, or regular phones that can fold out into a tablet, and even fold in half from there to form a letterbox-ratio laptop.
The accompanying patent describes a flexible display panel that has a hard division at the halfway point, making a sort of crease that makes it easier for the panel to assume shapes like a flip phone or laptop and tablet hybrid. Presumably, this hinged design would make use of the artificial muscle in the previous patent. The membranes on show in that patent and Samsung's own flexible OLED displays are very thin, allowing for nearly the same degree of design freedom as current solutions, while adding in the benefits of being able to fold the device up as a user pleases or along a set line. What Samsung may do with these patents is unclear at this point, as is when or even if they will make it into a commercial product. With Samsung betting big on flexible tech, however, it would make sense to see these crop up quite soon.