Samsung applied for patent No. 30-0757696 in November 2013, and today the Korea Intellectual Property Office published it (via Dutch website GalaxyClub). This is a design registration patent, meaning it covers the actual appearance of a hypothetical device, or at least certain elements of it.
The patent shows a foldable tablet (or a large smartphone), with two seams and a flexible screen that allow it to fold into three segments, the way you would fold a map or a flyer.
Here’s a look at the entire design in its open form.
And here’s how Samsung envisions the device in its folded state.
While this illustration shows the device’s profile.
It looks like the tablet will feature a sort of spine, that would give it some rigidity when folded, analogous to the spine of a book.
The patent shows an avenue that Samsung could take when it comes to designing and building convertible devices. A smartphone could unfold into a tablet in just a few seconds; a tablet could become a widescreen monitor just as easily.
It’s important to keep ourselves grounded in reality, at least for now. As with all patents, there’s a fairly good chance that Samsung is just protecting a concept, without a clear intention – or for the matter, the potential – to turn it into reality.
There are many difficult technical problems that Samsung needs to crack in order to create a viable foldable product. But if anyone can do it, it’s the Korean giant, with its massive display-manufacturing arm, huge R&D budget, and desire to differentiate itself from a wave of cheaper competitors.
This is the latest in a series of patents for foldable technologies issued to Samsung over the past years. Just this week, another patent revealed a simpler one-seam folding device, a design that could come to life through the rumored Project Valley.
If you’re still skeptical, consider that Samsung is already firmly into almost-sci-fi territory with devices like transparent and mirror displays.
Would you see yourself using a folding device such as the one in this patent?