A newly approved Samsung patent spotted at the US Patent & Trademark Office may highlight the company taking another step toward screens that roll instead of folds. The concept centers around an idea that the company has been floating for some time. Namely, it points to an extendable smartphone that has a portion of its screen hidden away. When users need the extra real estate, that can be pulled out.
Unlike previous patents though, Samsung is looking toward a more traditional smartphone. Instead of scrolling out into a tablet, the new design takes a smaller step forward by unfurling in a vertical direction. Only around a fifth of the screen is tucked away too, lessening the impact that has on overall screen size. In effect, the screen just gets slightly taller or wider when the user unrolls it.
Sensors track when that happens to expand and widen the viewing area and content shown on the screen.
This isn't just about Samsung screens that roll
Aside from a rolling screen, the newest Samsung patent also seems to highlight a sliding rear panel. The camera for selfies has been placed on that panel. So it appears the phone would need to be opened up to snap photos. Other sensors are highlighted there as well but not the fingerprint sensor. That's been reportedly placed along the side edge.
It's possible here that the rolling screen would leave a portion exposed on the rear panel for selfies too. Samsung shows no front-facing camera in the design. That would allow for a seamless design and a secondary purpose to all the mechanisms that allow for the screen to roll and unroll as well as the hidden portion of the screen itself.
The design would also fall in line with Samsung's two-display design language introduced with the Samsung Galaxy Fold. And perhaps more closely to the purported design that's leaked for the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2. So it could easily be a progression on that two-screened foldable design.
The primary difference between that latter design would be that it doesn't fold, at least not in this design. There also wouldn't need to be two screens, with the possibility of the rolling screen pulling double-duty.
Will Samsung actually use this patent?
Samsung isn't the only company taking a less traditional approach to flexible screens via patents. LG Electronics has, for example, considered devices that roll up or out like a scroll. That might allow the device to be partially unrolled for a phone-like experience or fully unwrapped for a tablet.
Samsung's take on the design is more pragmatic. It doesn't rely on the entire screen rolling and unrolling but just the bottom portion. That also reduces the complexity of the design by quite a bit since only that portion will need to be focused on when designing it to be stable. That, in turn, should help the company avoid the pitfalls it experienced with the Samsung Galaxy Fold at launch.
None of that means that Samsung will, for certain, utilize the patent at all. It may choose to utilize key portions of it in an upcoming device. But, as with all such designs, the intention is chiefly to test the concept and earmark it as a possibility safely protected from use by a competitor. So it may not ever be used at all and nobody should expect Samsung to release a device that mirrors the design shown in the patent.