A new patent spotted at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) seems to suggest that Samsung is ready to use a flexible battery in its foldable smartphones. Reported by Dutch site LetsGoDigital, the patent reveals a battery with a flexible segment. Unlike current designs though, the slimmer portion isn't just comprised of connectors between two cells. It's actually part of secondary cells themselves. That means that Samsung is able to save space by putting part of the battery capacity under the hinge itself.
The benefit of that would be devices that have larger capacity without wasting space where the hinge is. Instead, that portion of the design can be used for the battery too. Leaving room for other components that can't be bent in more rigid parts of the design. For example, the motherboard and associated chips as well as cameras can be placed in space that used to be occupied by the battery.
Samsung's flexible battery designs aren't limited to current folding designs for smartphones
Another interesting aspect of the patent, as laid out by the source, is that this doesn't appear to be limited to current folding smartphone designs either. As shown in the images below, Samsung doesn't intend the flexible battery designs to simply accommodate horizontal- or vertical-folding smartphones. Or, at the very least, not solely for devices that have a single fold.
Those designs are, of course, shown as well. But breaking the battery cells into more large and small components allows for more. Perhaps most intriguing is one such concept showing a phone that folds multiple times — as many as three hinges with four segments. That segmentation would allow for smartphones that are aimed more at portability than even the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip.
For instance, Samsung might be able to build a smartphone that folds up into a smaller overall space. That would fit more easily in pockets or a small bag. Or, conversely, it might allow for smartphones that fold in multiple directions. That could accommodate a device that folds open for a smartphone mode and then further again for a tablet mode.
Taken to the extreme, the design could ultimately pave the way even further still. Samsung is no stranger to novel smartphone design patents. And among those are several that don't fold but roll up like a scroll. Using materials that allow for thinner, flexible batteries could feasibly allow those types of rolling gadgets to eventually be manufactured. That's only a speculation, of course, but maybe possible if the limits of the technology as described by the patent can be pushed that far.
Smartphones designed on this aren't arriving this year
Now, although there's now a patent for this technology that doesn't mean it will be used in the real world anytime soon. That's the case with all patents and not just this one from Samsung. Patents typically act as a starting point for design ideas rather than an end-point for smartphone design.
If Samsung does have plans to utilize this patent in real-world devices, those won't necessarily be launching soon. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 2, for instance, may not launch until February of next year. That would be in keeping with the current pattern of launches from the company. And, if rumors about that gadget or the expected Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 — expected in August — bear any truth, those devices are already effectively set in stone. So they won't likely use this new technology.