Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands on screen in hand

If you thought Samsung‘s foldable phone ambitions were wacky, you may want to think again. The company filed a few patents last year that hint at the potential for a transparent phone. While the phone may be far off in the future and it may never actually see the market, we’re here to keep you informed. Here’s what you need to know about Samsung’s transparent phone.

What do we know about Samsung’s patents? What does the phone look like?

Samsung initially filed its pair of patents back in January 2020, though they managed to stay under wraps until August. The two patents were initially spotted by Dutch tech blog LetsGoDigital, and they detail the complicated steps required to build a transparent phone.

Each pixel on the phone’s display would allow light to pass through it, effectively rendering the screen transparent. In Samsung’s patent drawings, that transparent screen resembles a window through which the holder’s hand can be seen. Only the bezels seem to be opaque.

The same Dutch tech blog published a mockup from Snoreyn based on the initial patents, and you can see it for yourself below:

What issues could arise?

The company would need to find a way of housing the battery and other components so as to not interfere with the transparent display, or somehow, make those elements transparent too. It’s a problem that was demonstrated by Taiwanese firm Polytron Technologies‘ transparent phone in 2013. The SD card and ribbon cables were still visible, despite the phone’s largely transparent body.

Is there a history of transparent phones?

lg transparent oled display restaurant
LG Display

Actually, yes. LG had a crack in 2009 with the GD900, but it only featured a transparent keypad. Sony Ericsson followed up with the Xperia Pureness which, to its credit, did feature a transparent display. It wasn’t very good though.

See also: LG wants to use transparent OLED displays for ‘invisible’ bedroom TVs

Even Samsung has dabbled in transparent OLED displays in the past, but these were mainly used for signage. In a smartphone, where space for hardware is limited, the tech gets a little more complicated.

Should we actually expect Samsung’s transparent phone?

These patents rarely develop into mainstream devices, so don’t expect Samsung to launch a transparent Galaxy S or Note series shortly. But the search for the next big smartphone innovation is taking companies to extreme, if not impractical lengths. Samsung is also expected to launch its first rollable phone in the coming years, so it’s unknown how that would impact a potential transparent phone launch.