It's no secret that Samsung has explored a number of unusual smartphone form factors over the past several years, if the numerous patent applications that emerged so far are anything to go by, and judging by a recent application it looks like Samsung also considered creating a non-flexible triple-screen form factor until recently. The documents found in WIPO's database for a Samsung device "comprising multiple displays" include sketches for a triple-screen smartphone that opens up like a book and featuring what seems to be a 360-degree hinge. It looks similar to the ZTE Axon M, except that particular model which launched last year was equipped with only two screens.
Unsurprising for a three-screen device with a hinge, one of the smartphone's halves is equipped with two screens, while the other half features only a single panel. Interestingly, when the device is folded in a way that one of the displays becomes the smartphone's rear panel, this particular screen seems to turn into an area dedicated to reading gesture-based inputs. A "tap" would select an item or run a command, while a double-tap would return a zoomed image to normal view. There's also a "hold" command for opening a context menu, as well as flick and drag-and-drop commands among others.
Likewise, the sketches show an example of how swiping down from the top of the rear screen using the index finger will result in the notification panel from the primary screen to be dragged down. Another sketch shows how an emailing application would display content on two screens side-by-side, with one panel showcasing the list of conversations and the other detailing specific emails.
In a way, the patent application at hand seems to show a three-screen device that is similar in functionality to the OEM's foldable smartphone equipped with a standard panel and a large flexible display. In this particular scenario, the flexible screen is replaced by two standard displays, neither of which covers the hinge.
It should be noted that the patent application at hand was first submitted with the World Intellectual Property Organization in early 2017, and was only published last week. Many other patent applications for multi-screen Samsung devices have emerged throughout this time period and previously, Samsung also patented a dual-screen smartphone comprising two identical halves which can be connected together through a magnet-powered hinge.
The OEM seems to be exploring the idea of multi-screen foldable smartphones from all possible angles, but if some of the more reoccurring rumors turn out to be correct then all of these efforts should lead to the creation of a foldable device equipped with at least one flexible display. A prototype model based on this concept was already shown at SDC last year, and some rumors claim that the OEM's first device based on flexible display technology will be unveiled at its Unpacked event later this month. As for the recent patent application, it might not reflect a final product planned for release, but at the very least it gives another glimpse at one of Samsung's various concepts surrounding new form factors for its mobile devices.