Samsung may be working on a brand new smartphone design that shifts things back in a decidedly 'feature phone' direction with three displays and an entirely unique design language, based on a recently spotted design patent published last month.
Summarily, the gadget would be shaped a lot like standard candy bar smartphones have been over the past several years on the top segment but the lower portion would be circular. A metal, swivel hinge would be buried through the 'chin' bezel of each of three separate screens. The mechanism allows the displays to be fanned out as needed by the user.
The lower portion would give the bottom segment a more ergonomic design whether folded up or opened but would step away from the bezel-free, folding direction smartphones have taken recently. It also doesn't shy away from the slimmed-down direction though, with the ratio of thickness to width and height seeming to be similar to flagships already on the market today.
How would this be used?
There's no immediate implication regarding exactly how big each of the individual displays would be on a device built around Samsung's latest design patent. The most obvious use case for a smartphone that swivels out into multiple displays would, conversely, be to increase the overall screen space in a relatively compact smartphone.
This could readily serve, for instance, as an alternative to folding display-enhanced Android devices or other multi-panel designs — although that could ultimately depend on developers' willingness to make apps that work with multiple simultaneous screen orientations.
It might also be well-suited for multitasking. Samsung has included split-screen and floating app features for quite a bit longer than the overwhelming majority of OEMs, allowing for multiple apps to be used simultaneously on one display. Among its most recent iterations, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is intended to build on that using the gadgets overall size to enable even more work and a more comfortable view.
The new patent could allow for something similar but with each app getting its own dedicated space and the secondary panels being used only when multitasking is needed or in a combination of both use case scenarios.
This is a neat concept but probably not much else
Samsung is just as likely to never implement the design at all, given its trouble in getting the above-mentioned Galaxy Fold to work properly. That device still hasn't launched yet either and utilizes at least some of the solutions that would almost certainly be required for the newly spotted patent.
The design itself could — if Samsung built it and consumers did buy into the idea — set the stage for a renewed period of innovation for Android. It could counteract the growing stagnation as well as a shrinking value gap between flagships and budget-friendly devices that are currently being seen with mobile devices. But there are going to be several obvious challenges to overcome with the design too.
To begin with, the design showcases extremely thin panels splayed out around a central swivel point at the bottom of the device. No camera is shown in the design. That could feasibly be tucked inside of the swivel mechanism itself if that isn't dedicated to locking the screen in position. Alternatively, it could be planned under one of the displays.
The biggest challenge would likely be squeezing all of the remaining components, battery, and the interconnecting cables into the space that's provided. The panels themselves shouldn't be too difficult but splitting the battery between one or two panels would be a feat of engineering. That's leaving alone the processor, speaker components, RAM, storage, radios, and other essentials.