Samsung recently patented a method for controlling multiple batteries inside a single electronic device, specifically for the purpose of powering dual-screen and foldable smartphones. The WIPO patent application discovered by LetsGoDigital unsurprisingly doesn't outright mention a foldable or dual-screen device being in the works, but the enclosed sketches depict these form factors very clearly, confirming that the multi-battery management system has been designed for these particular types of products. Judging by the patent application, the OEM's upcoming foldable phone currently referred to as the Samsung Galaxy Fold will likely be powered by two batteries, each residing in its own "half" of the device. The power management system is designed to switch between the two batteries on a case-by-case scenario, whether when utilizing the mobile device or recharging it. During recharge, the system detects which battery holds less energy and focuses on directing electrical current to the said unit, and likewise, the system will drain the battery with the highest charge during usage and switch between the two units accordingly. The concept is rather strange in the context of the smartphone industry but that's largely because bendable handsets remain a largely unexplored area.
Background: It's no secret that Samsung is developing a foldable smartphone, but creating flexible display solutions for foldable devices is only part of the problem OEMs have to solve before commercializing these types of products. Another hurdle was the idea that a foldable phone could require a flexible battery, and last year there was a rumor that the Korean OEM's first foldable smartphone could be powered by flexible batteries developed by the Samsung SDI division. But according to the latest patent application published by the World Intellectual Property Office last week, Samsung seems to have overcome the battery issues by developing a dual-battery system for foldable and dual-screen smartphones. These are conventional batteries linked together and controlled by a clever power management system designed to prioritize one battery over the other depending on how much charge they hold at any given time. Since there's nothing too unconventional surrounding these multiple units, the system could also be adopted by non-flexible smartphones equipped with multiple displays, and especially by one of the OEM's newest concepts based on two smartphone modules that can be used independently or snapped together to create a dual-screen device. Samsung acquired a patent for such a device on the same date as the battery management system at hand, i.e., January 3, 2019, and this doesn't seem to be coincidental especially since the applications for both the dual-screen concept and dual-battery management system were filed on the same date of June 28, 2018.
Impact: While it turns out foldable or dual-screen mobile devices might not require flexible batteries, that's not to say that there won't be any use for flexible batteries in the future or for other market segments including wearables. Only time will tell how foldable devices will evolve in the coming years, assuming they will enjoy relative commercial success. The so-called Samsung Galaxy Fold is rumored to hit the market in the first half of the year, but timeframes are subject to change given that the OEM has yet to set any launch dates in stone. Samsung unveiled a prototype model last November during SDC 2018 but has yet to showcase a foldable product that would be fit for the consumer market.