Samsung files for a mind-bending flexible phone patent

August 19, 2014

Somewhere in South Korea, Samsung employees are hard at work creating the smartphones of tomorrow, weird and wonderful devices designed to bend, flex, and roll without taking any damage.

One newly discovered patent application gives us a glimpse of such a device that could be coming in the not so far future. The document reveals a bending smartphone that users could fold both sides, like a wallet or bend into a V shape and use as a desk clock or calendar.

As reported by Patently Mobile, Samsung applied for the patent in February 2014, but there’s no guarantee that the diagrams inside it refer to a real product that will eventually be brought to market. However, Samsung made no secret of its ambitions regarding flexible displays, and, now that market conditions have put a damper on its phone sales, it has a strong incentive to experiment with new and potentially disruptive form factors like folding devices.

samsung flexible display patent 3

The patent application contains a lot of technical tedium about how Samsung’s engineers plan to make the device bend and retain shape. The diagrams, however, are more interesting, as they contain clues about some use cases that Samsung dreamed up for the technology. Folding the device for carrying around is one such case, but there’s also the ability to bend it so it can be used as a sort of tiny laptop, or a desktop flip calendar, or an alarm clock that sits on a nightstand.

Again, this patent application is not, by itself, conclusive proof that Samsung is going to ever put out such a wild folding device. But it’s a good indicator that, behind the scenes, the company is working towards this goal.

The real technical breakthrough that could make folding phones a reality is creating a flexible display that can be bent repeatedly without affecting image quality. Samsung already demoed flexible, plastic-based displays on several occasions, but the challenge remains to make the flexible display resistant to wear and tear.

Another difficult task  is to find a way to protect the flexible screen from the elements – Gorilla Glass is obviously not suitable, but Corning Glass and other companies are developing thin, flexible glass (see Corning’s Willow Glass) that could be up to the job.

Comments

  • MY

    Samsung going the extra mile always when Enovation comes ;-) Great to see how this will unfold to the mass market everyday users ;-) Way to go #samsung

    • Mike Bastable

      Samsung and innovation?!?!? Really? We tend to see loads of prototype and or concept leaks but I can’t remember the last time they really innovated.
      Ask TIZEN developers how happy they are with Samsung?, will they ever launch a handset.
      I think Samsung has awesome engineers but scared and failing management.

      • MasterMuffin

        It may not show in their phones, but they do innovate a lot. They put a lot of money to R&D

      • flamencoguy

        They have the second highest number of patents last year. Apple way down the list. And most of those are probably low quality. Like slide to unlock or scroll bounce

        • Mike Bastable

          As I said your reply underlines my points….the engineers are great and innovative but their awesome innovation does not get to market because of poor management. Samsung R&D CAN INNOVATE ALL THEY WANT BUT THEIR STUFF STATS IN THE LAB. Unfortunately.

  • Mayoo

    Technology speaking, this is cool. But is it useful? When did you ever said “Hey, I would really need to bend my phone right now”?

    • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

      If the phone can bend, it will practically be indestructible. You should think out of the box :D

      • Lilith_Black

        It may also be more fragile to drops etc and buying a case to protect it from drops and protection will become more expensive if such a case can even exist

  • Rippin Ricky

    in this the new samsung phone wallet?

  • Lilith_Black

    Don’t see the need or usefulness of flexible phones (=.= Why do I need to bend my phone for?)

    • MasterMuffin

      You obviously haven’t seen the wallet/phone/tablet ad!

      • Lilith_Black

        Do you use your phone as a wallet? I don’t, most pple don’t (There is not enough support for this to be useful in a lot of countries yet)

        • MasterMuffin

          I do. I have a case with all my cards in it.

          • Lilith_Black

            1. “a case with all my cards in it” = You have at most 3-4 cards? Some pple have 10-20 cards (membership, credit cards…) in case you haven’t noticed.
            2. It’s really cumbersome to be holding cards etc along with your phone (Such cases either add a lot of bulk at the back or are flip cases)
            3. You still have to bring abt a wallet with your cash etc. What’s the point of using the phone as a wallet then? (There is no e-payment methods at stores etc that is widely used enough yet unlike cash/Visa)

            Ads will always try to sell you stuff, persuading you it is useful. However, whether it’s useful to you or not is another totally different matter.

          • MasterMuffin

            Remember, that’s your opinion. For me it’s useful, so shut up :)

          • Lilith_Black

            I won’t be replying you if it’s not under my opinion ;)

  • Anonymousfella

    Technical innovation at its best but do I really need a phone which bends?

  • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

    Everyone asking why would a person need their phone to bend; If a phone is flexible, it will be practically indestructible. So no more worries if you drop your phone.

  • Roberto Tomás

    “but the challenge remains to make the flexible display resistant to wear and tear.” the last video series I found of their foldable displays shows them in a “folding machine” that shows how it might fold in a real phone (two different variations on this I think). They have something like over a million simulated use-hours of folding and re-folding the display. I think it’s safe to say that it is resistant to wear and tear at this point.
    Are you thinking of Sony? their foldable igzo didnt fare so well in durability.

  • crutchcorn

    I’d love to see this in a phone. Hope this overtakes the screen on sides thing

  • sammyl

    Not sure about a bendable phone, Samsung should apply this technology to their watches first!

  • Karly Johnston

    We know they have flexible screens and batteries, but there is no such thing as a flexible SoC.

  • Abd

    Foldable phones. Foldable tablets Excellent, innovative, very useful and handy technology. Imagine a 7″ phone folded in your pocket!!