Samsung is considering protective smartphone case designs that depend on the use of film layers and 'beads', based on a recent patent spotted by AndroidHeadlines at the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). Details about what exactly that might entail are remarkably slim and no images are included alongside the now-published filing. Without additional information determining exactly what Samsung is trying to build is all but impossible. The included abstract may give some indication as to how the goal of protecting a foldable or flexible smartphone can be accomplished, though. The invention is collectively referred to as a "cover window" and described as being comprised of at least three parts. The use of the term window could implicate any number of attributes from transparency to whether it covers the display too. Conversely, it could simply be defining a protective film only meant for the display panel of the smartphone and not the entire device it could simply refer to the fact that it's intended to allow users to continue accessing the touchscreen with the case installed.
The patent description seems to state that a film layer forms the basis for the entire design and that a second layer is included atop that in order to add structural support. On top of that, the outermost portion of the cover is made up of 'beads' that are bound together by an undefined means. Speculatively, that description may hint at a stretchy, reinforced layer supporting the 'beads', which are the real source of protection for the handset. When the device folds or unfolds, the spacing between the beads could be increased, allowing the shape of the device or display to be followed by the protective apparatus while the beads remain intact to cushion against drops.
Background: Samsung has been teasing folding and flexible displays and handsets for a long time now and is one of several manufacturers set or expected to unveil a folding smartphone over the coming months. It also remains one of the only companies to have already provided substantive details about the direction it is taking with that handset. Shown off at this year's SDC 2018 event, the first smartphone to arrive with an 'Infinity Flex' panel is expected to be sized at 7.3 inches when unfolded. An external display measuring just 4.58-inches diagonally will be included to ensure features can be accessed without opening it up. Tentatively set to be marketed as the "Galaxy Fold" and combined with flagship internal specifications, that's additionally expected to cost buyers around $2,000 when it hits the market early next year. So a phone case or some form of protection that can adapt to the changing shape of a handset will almost certainly be required once it releases.
Impact: The likely cost of folding smartphones and the nature of display panels themselves raise at least one important issue that has yet to be addressed by manufacturers. Smartphone screens, for all of the positive attributes, aren't the most durable part of a given device. That has presented OEMs with challenges over the past several years already, resulting in Gorilla Glass advancements and glass screen protectors. But flexible panels make matters worse. One of many examples to why that is the case is that traditional hardening methods are effectively useless if the display is expected to keep its flexibility. Although not heavy on the details, Samsung's latest patent shows that issue is not something the company is choosing to ignore or depending on either third-party manufacturers or partners to solve.