Samsung has made no bones about the fact it plans to launch a foldable flagship smartphone early next year. Dubbed Galaxy X, the upcoming handset was very briefly revealed on-stage during Samsung's annual developer conference earlier this month. Mobile chief DJ Koh later confirmed the foldable handset is simply the first in a new range of models that will be characterised by the pliable OLED display.
Thanks to a recent patent, we now have a much clearer idea of what those upcoming slate of folding handsets could entail. The patented designs, unearthed and published by Let's Go Digital, reveal Samsung's ambitious plans to increase the number of screens on its folding devices, as well as the number of folds.
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In the patent, Samsung appears to have included an illustration of the Galaxy X that was showcased during its recent developer conference keynote, albeit hidden inside a disguise to protect the final design ahead of launch. Despite its best efforts to conceal the look, it was immediately obvious that the Galaxy X has some sizeable bezels around its front-facing 4.6-inch screen, which Samsung refers to as the "Cover Display". According to the patented illustrations of the handset, these screen edges look set to be used to house the speaker grill, ambient light and proximity sensors.
Another more advanced model shows the Cover Display stretching across the entirety of the front of the handset. Like the rumoured Galaxy S10, the front-firing speaker and sensors are all incorporated into the glass display – allowing the screen to be truly edge-to-edge. This means those who use the Cover Display at the front of the device – rather than the foldable OLED – would not have to deal with sizeable bezels hampering their viewing experience.
Hinting at the possibilities of future folding phones, Samsung has also patented a curved Cover Display that bleeds around the side of the handset and blends into the main, foldable 7.3-inch display on the inside of the device. The Cover Display on this device looks remarkably similar to the Galaxy Note Edge, which first launched in November 2014 and kickstarted the slew of curved displays on Samsung devices.
The patent description for all of these as-yet unannounced handsets also refers to the presence of a digital camera, however, it's unclear where the camera lens is placed in the handset. In one of the patented illustrations, Samsung shows one of the screens being used to display a QWERTY keyboard. It's unclear whether this is to use alongside an accessory like the DeX, which allows flagship Galaxy handsets to power a traditional desktop PC-like experience.
Finally, the most ambitious patented design of all shows a handset with three – yes, three – portions to the foldable display. Presumably, this would unfurl like a pamphlet, or a takeaway menu to expand the amount of screen real estate available to watch movies, play games and browse online.
In the illustration, Samsung shows the device being used to compose an email in the right hand-side panel, with a web search in the central display, and the left hand-side display displaying a lockscreen wallpaper. It's slightly baffling why Samsung wouldn't help justify the presence of its third panel by illustrating something slightly more useful than a lockscreen on the display. For example, what about a calendar app to check your availability, or a photo app to drag-and-drop images into the email?
Regardless, this latest patent proves that Samsung has got big plans when it comes to foldable display. What was once dismissed as a gimmicky one-off from the firm is seemingly going to be a whole new line of ambitious new handsets.
The first of these, Galaxy X, is widely-tipped to be unveiled during a keynote presentation at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. Stay tuned to T3 for the latest news and updates on the foldable handset as it happens.