Samsung is now exploring a new multifold smartphone design that would give users and developers a lot more flexibility. That's based on a recently reported patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office showing smartphones folding in two directions. The design also allows folds at multiple places along its hinge for even more varied usability.
Specifically, that hinge and screen design centers around a hinge comprised of trapezoids that can fold into and away from one another. So the screen can be folded open and closed with the display on either the outside or inside. That's opposed to having it set to only allow the panel on the inside or outside.
Additionally, where the hinge folds is semi-selectable by the user. So it doesn't have to only fold open or closed in the middle of the display.
How might this design be used?
The most obvious use cases for the new design from Samsung are highlighted by the company itself. In the associated images, the biggest use will be as a way to protect the display for placement in a pocket or bag. If it's going to be in a pocket or bag, the user can simply choose to fold the screen inward so that the back of the phone is exposed instead.
Folding it the other way, meanwhile, halves the display area on the front or back for a more compact experience. As with Samsung's Galaxy Fold, that likely has uses involving multi-app splitting between the 'two' displays too.
The final of the uses shown for the multifold Samsung design comes down to the fact that the display can be folded so that one of the sides is larger. In that configuration, the company showcases the rear camera being exposed above the smaller portion. That would be useful for taking selfies with either a better sensor or the only sensor, depending on the configuration.
Music controls in that scenario are relegated to the rear panel, although that screen could as easily just be deactivated.
In a reverse configuration, the front panel could be folded so that the rear-firing speaker is exposed instead. That would, in effect, redirect sound from a presumably larger or higher-quality speaker directly toward the user's face.
Can a Samsung multifold design really work?
There's no guarantee Samsung will ever pursue building a smartphone based on the design shown in any of its patents but there may be even more significant challenges with this one. That's because there's another high-profile folding Android device that Samsung is preparing to put in users hands. Dubbed the Samsung Galaxy Fold, that gadget has faced numerous widely-reported issues.
Summarily, the Fold's hinge had issues with spacing, design, and the display which caused serious usability issues for real-world reviewers and testers on YouTube and elsewhere. Those ranged from dead pixels to destroyed display panels. Samsung took months to narrow the problem down following the initial unveiling before it was ready to showcase the phone again.
Since this latest design patent would be required to bend the flexible panel in two different directions, there are more places and ways something can go wrong. Users can essentially choose where the hinge folds as well, possibly compounding the problem. So this multifold Samsung smartphone design is likely a long way out if it does ever come to market. It will almost certainly undergo dozens of changes in the interim.