Japanese consumer electronics giant Sharp is seemingly considering joining the emerging foldable smartphone market as a new patent application for a device fitting this description emerged recently from the USPTO database.
Discovered by LetsGoDigital, the patent loosely details a very wide smartphone with a single folding point right in the middle. The application refers to the unit as a "handheld electronic device" and suggests that half of the screen real estate – specifically near the left and right edges in portrait mode – can double as input areas for mobile gaming.
The dotted lines on the flexible screen in the sketches showcase where the virtual inputs would be located but these input zones would only be determined by software and not the actual hardware design. In other words, if this is a gaming smartphone then it doesn't have hardware buttons but instead, it aims to employ a wide enough display to offer dedicated on-screen controls without robbing players of their gaming display area.
Combining two emerging concepts into one
As usual, there is no guarantee that the patented design at hand will ever be pushed into production but it's interesting seeing Sharp considering a combination of two emerging segments into a single device. Specifically, the market already saw a handful of foldable smartphones and gaming-oriented mobile devices so far, but both of these segments are relatively new and untested.
On the foldable side of things, Samsung is launching the Galaxy Fold this month as its first-ever smartphone to adopt a foldable form factor powered by flexible display technology, and other OEMs are expected to follow in Samsung's footsteps with their own products, but only time will tell if this new form factor will prove to be a success especially given the relatively high entry-level price.
On the other hand, several OEMs have also launched new smartphone models dedicated to mobile gaming but once again, this segment has yet to prove itself. Earlier this year there were rumors that the Razer Phone 3 has been canceled and the product's future remains uncertain to this day.
Some industry watchers (and even AT&T) believe that the 5G era will breathe life into mobile gaming as streaming services ramp up, and some OEMs may want to capitalize on this market shift early-on by launching dedicated gaming smartphones and establishing themselves as solution providers for mobile gaming needs.
Sharp, on the other hand, might want to tackle both the emerging foldable and gaming smartphone segments by releasing a single product characterized by both of these traits. It might work, but then again it might represent twice the risk.
This isn't the first patent application describing a foldable Sharp smartphone as an earlier find suggested that the OEM is also entertaining the idea of creating a more conventional foldable phone, at least as far as the image format is concerned. Having said that, Sharp may have not yet made a decision as to how it should join the foldable smartphone scene and only time will tell if it will become the first Japanese OEM to have a foldable phone ready for consumers.