Samsung's flexible Galaxy Fold smartphone has still not become available to consumers but the company is already exploring a new direction beyond folding smartphones with its latest patent, first spotted by LetsGoDigital at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Centered on unique wrap-around display technology that Samsung calls a 'multi-plane display', the device brings together concepts of dual-screen devices and edge display gadgets.
While the Korean tech giant notes that other forms of the underlying invention could take shape, its example device is illuminating. That features a single smartphone display that covers the majority of the front of the device before wrapping over the top edge so that there's a smaller display on the back as well.
The edge bezels surrounding the panel are nearly removed completely thanks to a snap-together frame design that is placed atop a bracket rather than a traditional smartphone chassis.
Cameras are not shown at all on the forward-facing panel in Samsung's example gadget. Only a small chin is left at the bottom and the fingerprint scanner shown embedded in the lower segment of the display
The second portion of the display, in Samsung's example, takes up a smaller portion of the example smartphone's rear panel but could be extended to fill the entire space. Several camera configurations are covered in the patent — ranging from punch-hole sensors to traditional sensors that cover a set portion of the display near the top.
This could easily be the most innovative design yet
At the surface, the new design and the technology at the base of it are relatively straightforward but Samsung is obviously thinking far beyond the obvious here, based on its provided example use cases. For instance, a user could talk into the microphone or type using the forward-facing display and then swipe up or down over the top of the panel to show and obtain translations that can be seen on that other side.
It would also eliminate the problem of taking selfies with a smartphone and the issue camera sensors are presenting to OEMs that are trying to get rid of bezels and notches completely. A more novel camera use would be to allow users to let their subject get a better idea of how they look while having their picture taken via a mirror-like functionality that uses the second screen.
Two or more apps could be kept open at once too, with apps occupying both sides of the smartphone for easier quick access. Conversely, a single app could be used to show different information or functions on either side for an intuitive multi-tasking mode. The edge that's occupied by the display, the top edge in Samsung's example, can be used show notifications and other helpful information.
In any of those cases, simple swipe gestures or advanced hover-based touchless swipe gestures such as those that are also described in Samsung's new patent could be utilized to move the UI between screens and interact with applications.
Stepping back from the fold?
The patent in question isn't necessarily new and its recent surfacing doesn't necessarily point to Samsung stepping away from creating folding smartphones. Despite that the company has had some initial hiccups with those emerging handsets, the patent indicates that there's more than one way to utilize 'deformable' display panels and that each of those possible implementations could offer up new benefits. More importantly, each could be the next step forward in the evolution of mobile devices.