Microsoft, the company which lost out on mobile, believes the time is right for foldable phones to hit the market. ZTE has already launched the Axon M with foldable design, and Samsung is believed to follow suit sometime next year. Microsoft’s own patents indicate that its Surface team might introduce a foldable device next year, and it has now shared details on why the market is ripe for the launch of a device with foldable display.
In a patent application spotted by WinCentral, Microsoft notes that our mobile phone displays have increased in size but are yet easy to carry around and pocketable. In order to increase the display size any further, device manufacturers will need to increase the size of the phone as well. This would affect the user experience since it would become cumbersome for users to carry them comfortably.
The easiest way to increase the display size without affecting the user experience is to introduce a dual-display device. “With a dual-display device, the mobile phone or tablet can include an open, expanded position where both displays are flush so that the user feels like there is a single integrated display,” the patent application reads.
Microsoft is known for envisioning wild hardware ideas, but it is often not the first to bring them to market. The Redmond-based company played with the idea of a device combining two screens to fold over like a book in 2008. The device dubbed Microsoft Courier never made it to market, but the time might be right for the company to relaunch the product under its Surface brand.
The description for the foldable device also explains that both the display will be face-to-face in a closed position while the the dual-displays will sit back-to-back when fully open. The patent application further illustrates that the dual-display devices will rely on a hinge mechanism which can be problematic to design on such a small device.
Microsoft says hinges need to be adapted to accommodate the thinner display without protruding from the back of the device. It notes that the protrusion could also make the display looks loosely connected to the device. The company further explains how it hopes to get rid of these basic problems with a 360-degree hinge supporting free-stop feature for such dual-display device.
Microsoft explains, “The flexible connection members stay within the channels of the hinge lugs and do not extend (or extend minimally) beyond the surface of the dual-display device as it is being rotated through 360 degrees. Moreover, the flexible connection members can be easily tightened, such as by turning a screw that is exposed externally with the dual-display device in a closed position.”
Microsoft is basically designing a hinge that can achieve 360-degrees of rotation between the first and second display. The hinge mechanism can also be extended for a device with three or more displays, which could lead to development of a smartphone that converges into a tablet. Microsoft is not publicly speaking about the proposed dual-display device, but a device with Courier-like hardware is expected to launch early next year.