Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold eat your heart out! IBM has been awarded a new patent for an ambitious smartwatch that uses foldable display technology to squeeze a tablet-size screen into the wearable gadget. According to the official document, the wrist-sized single-panel smartwatch will be able to unfurl into a four-panel smartphone.
In turn, this can be doubled into an eight-panel tablet, which still has the smartwatch band attached to the rear of the panel. All eight folding panels measure 2 x 3 inches each. So, when you unfurl enough to make a smartphone form-factor then you’re looking at a 4 x 6-inch panel on your wrist, which isn't bad.
Dutch blog LetsGoDigital has mocked-up a series of high-resolution images of the mysterious folding device based on the line drawings filed with the IBM patent.
Now, if IBM manages to execute the design in this patent, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X and Royole Flexpai look comparatively pedestrian. However, that's a pretty massive if. After all, Samsung and Huawei have both delayed their first foray into foldable smartphones due to issues with the flexible OLED panels.
However, the ability to carry a tablet-esque screen on your wrist that you could unfold on-the-go to read articles, emails, and reply to text messages with a more substantial on-screen keyboard would be massively useful.
As it stands, smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch Active, Huawei Watch GT, and Apple Watch are able to display text messages, news alerts, important emails, and more, but push users to their smartphone to read more detail, or reply using their voice, or use pre-canned responses.
IBM does have some history when it comes to smartwatches. The US company unveiled a prototype wrist-worn computer powered by LinuxOS back in 2000.
If the IBM smartwatch ever does make it to shelves worldwide, it's likely going to be a very pricey gadget – not least because it could take the place of your smartphone, smartwatch and tablet. Based on what we've seen so far, foldables aren't bargains.
Samsung Galaxy Fold costs £1,800 in the UK, and $1,980 in the United States. While the Huawei Mate X is even pricier, starting from €2,299, which converts to around $2,600, or £2,000. Both the Galaxy Fold and Mate X are confirmed to ship win 5G-enabled variants in the future, which are likely to be more expensive.
Of course, multi-national companies like IBM patent dozens of new technologies every day. Many of these never make it into a finished product, so take the above with the requisite pinch of salt.