Thought that flexible displays were a long way off before they could start showing up on smartphones? Think again. Samsung is leading the way towards producing the very first such displays that could be part of its next  smartphones generations. This has been a big year for Samsung and its work on flexible displays is another step in the right direction.

The company has already submitted a number of patent applications that detail the intriguing folding display designs for its smartphones. All along, since back at CES 2009, Samsung had presented a prototype of the unit and promised to deliver on it. The new flexible displays are expected to replace the traditional LCD displays by 2015-2016, at least according to a recent Samsung announcement. But in the mean time, it looks like Samsung has filed a new flexible display patent, this time describing a tri-fold panel.

The patent includes a number of representations that clearly show how a tri-fold display unit would work in a smartphone:

If delivered successfully, the tri-fold display could be revolutionary and would likely be the display of choice that allows a smartphone to be expanded into a mini tablet that would let users enjoy surfing the web, watching movies or playing games. It could also allow Samsung to produce the gadget of choice for cool Internet devices and unseat competing Apple products in the products. This would also help clean up Samsung’s image, which has already been marred by the copycat designer accusations and reveal it to be the true innovator in the mobile device space.

Currently, Samsung’s handsets shipments give it a 2-to-1 ratio lead over Apple’s iPhone shipments in Q4. Clearly, the mobile device war is only going to accelerate, especially if the Samsung tri-fold flexible display kicks off.

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