The World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) recently released a patent that details the possible design of ZTE's foldable smartphone. Unlike some of the recent foldable offerings from competing manufacturers which unfold to a wider display format similar to a small tablet, ZTE's foldable smartphone sports a clamshell design with a flexible bezel-less screen that extends to display with a taller, rather than broader, aspect ratio.
However, the middle portion of the panel contains notches at both sides to accommodate the hinges that the handset needs to fold the screen, making this part considerably narrower than both the bottom and the top portions of the display.
Aside from the different aspect ratio, another unique feature of ZTE's foldable smartphone design is that the lower portion of the screen is longer than the upper part. When the handset is in clamshell form, a segment of the lower portion of the display remains visible, and it may allow the smartphone to show notifications, incoming calls, and messages even if the smartphone is folded.
The bottom part of the handset is also considerably thicker than the shorter top portion, and it contains the handset's dual rear cameras, LED flash, power button, and volume buttons. The lower part of the handset also houses the slot for the SIM card and the microSD card. Images included with the patent shows that the handset lacks front-facing cameras. However, there is a small slit at the top bezel of the display, and this cutout likely houses the handset's earpiece.
Another interesting observation from the images that ZTE included with its patent application is the lack of cutouts or holes that will accommodate the fingerprint sensor. It is likely that ZTE's foldable handset may sport an under-display fingerprint reader, although it is also possible that the handset will incorporate the sensor with the power button.
ZTE already launched a folding smartphone in the past called the Axon M, although unlike recently unveiled smartphones, utilizes two separate displays, neither of which is flexible. Meanwhile, multiple smartphone manufacturers have expressed interest in developing foldable smartphones with flexible screens, and at this point, there have been various implementations of this design concept.
Samsung recently unveiled the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and it offers two panels. The handset has a smaller 4.6-inch front screen with a resolution of 1960 x 840 pixels, while a larger 7.3-inch display with a resolution of 2156 x 1536 pixels will appear once the user opens the device.
Interestingly, another patent application filed by ZTE shows a foldable handset with a similar design to the Galaxy Fold. On the other hand, Huawei also recently demonstrated another implementation of foldable smartphone design, and unlike Samsung's offering, the Huawei Mate X sports a single display that folds outwards. By incorporating a clamshell design and taller displays, ZTE's recent patent application adds to the list of possible implementations of foldable smartphones.
To further keep up with the industry trends, ZTE is also incorporating support for the latest networking technologies into its high-end devices. The Chinese tech firm recently launched the Axon 10 Pro 5G during the MWC 2019, and it will become available to consumers within the first half of 2019.
The presence of multiple implementations of foldable smartphones highlight how device manufacturers are still determining which handset design will appeal most to consumers. Once the products become available to users, customer response will likely determine which of these smartphone designs will persist in the long run. On ZTE's part, the new patent application also shows how the company is determined to compete in the premium segment of the handset market.