Microsoft patent hints at foldable tablet design for Surface Phone

Newly uncovered patent filings from Microsoft give us a glimpse of a foldable design that could find its way onto the mysterious Surface Phone.

While the company is yet to confirm the name of its upcoming mobile device, we know it’s hard at work on such a product, and the new patent, uncovered by MSPowerUser, reveals a possible design.

The patent, first filed in October 2014 and only recently made public, details a 2-in-1 foldable device with a flexible hinge which can act both as a smartphone and a tablet.

Related: MWC 2017

Microsoft Patent

Of course, patents are by no means a guarantee that the tech will ever be introduced in a consumer product, but Microsoft will be looking to stand out in an increasingly saturated mobile market so it makes sense for the firm to be considering such a novel approach.

During an interview with the Australia Financial Review last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “We will continue to be in the phone market, not as defined by today’s market leaders, but by what it is that we can uniquely do in what is the most ultimate mobile device.”

The device in the filings can be configured into various shapes, either folded out like tablets, or folded back inwards to create a smaller phone-like handset.

Microsoft Patent

There’s also the opportunity to place it in a tent-mode much like Lenovo’s range of Yoga hybrids which can be propped up to make it easier to watch media.

Microsoft has taken a universal approach to Windows 10, in that the OS is designed to work across multiple devices, so a Surface Phone that could transform into another mobile product would make a lot of sense in terms of demonstrating Windows 10s capabilities.

The inventor of the product in the patent is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, the man behind Microsoft’s successful patent for the Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle – which bodes well for this latest design in the long run.

Microsoft Patent

Unfortunately, there’s every chance we’ll never see this technology in a retail-ready product from Microsoft, though some version of the foldable device could well arrive.

Last week Samsung was reported as working on a similar smartphone design to the one detailed in Microsoft’s patent, which was said to come with panels that fold out to form a 7-inch tablet.

The report is by no means confirmed, but Samsung has long been rumoured to be working on a foldable phone, having filed numerous patents for such a product, so it’s another sign that companies are starting to seriously consider foldable mobile devices.

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Let us know what you think of the patent in the comments.

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