With tech giants around the world dipping their toes in the foldable display game, a flexible, rollable, and foldable smartphone was inevitable. And it looks like Samsung has the upper hand at this point, having recently filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a slick new design.
Dubbed Project Valley, the product features a foldable display that could roll and fold in a number of different ways, according to the patent application. But Samsung will likely take advantage of the fact that a foldable screen gives you many different surfaces on which to display things, so we could see screens on the outside, inside, and flanks of the new device.
While the patent was filed earlier this year, the US Patent and Trademark Office only just published it this week, so we can finally get a look at the details. Samsung filed a similar patent application in South Korea in 2014, so it could be that the product will be released there first before it’s rolled out to other markets around the world (excuse the pun).
"For a device that will be considered quite experimental, that’s a pretty long list of countries," they report. "The US is notably absent from the list, but it’s possible Samsung will bring Project Valley to more regions later on."
Experts are predicting that the most likely configuration for the smartphone when it hits the market is a horizontal clamshell with a single fold in the middle, so you can open and close it like a book. You can see this design in action in the (truly awful) 2014 concept advertisement below.
Another option would be that it folds in the opposite direction and has both screens facing outwards at all times, like a book turned inside-out. At the Samsung Keynote of CES 2013, they also revealed how a curved screen could display text on its edges so you could view messages while the rest of your phone is closed up.
"According to the patent’s illustrations, Samsung has developed a new 'hinge system' for implementing a foldable display," Abhijeet M. writes for Sam Mobile. "It’s a rather basic approach that would see a display placed on a mesh-like material with the hinge then allowing the user to fold the display, making a 'valley' in the process of closing or opening it. Provided this patent is related to the Project Valley device, it seems like it would simply feature a single foldable display instead of one that is divided into two sections."
We'll have to wait and see if this product becomes a reality, but it's looking pretty promising. If you're starting to feel like iPhones are getting way too big for their own good, a foldable display could be the solution that gives us ample screen space that we can still fit in our pockets.
And again, apologies for making you watch this. I hope you don't have too many nightmares about all the blatant sexism.