Digging for patents is a bit like using a metal detector on a large patch of grass: Sometimes you just get lucky. Today is such a day.

A new Microsoft patent that has been uncovered details a dual-screen smartphone design. We doubt that the company is rushing to bring the device to market, but that does not mean that the idea itself is not interesting. Take a look at the following image from the patent:

1 520x240 New Microsoft patent details dual screen smartphoneWhat is interesting about this design is that the phone is built to be broken off into two pieces, so that one can be talked on, while the other is held:

2 520x400 New Microsoft patent details dual screen smartphone

If Microsoft ever did release such a phone it would certainly stir the waters. The dual-screen design has echoes of the now-dead Courier project, something that caused quite a commotion when elements of its design leaked. There was a rather public mourning over the death of Courier, so it could be that Microsoft is looking to reclaim a small piece of that magic.

Now Windows Phone 7 is a lovely phone operating system, but as we have noted time and time again here at TNW, it runs on boring hardware. Microsoft desperately needs to come out with something ‘shiny’ enough to bring in the fashion conscious to the phone line. This patent certainly is not that, but it does show that the company is at least working on mobile hardware and what it could look like in the future.

From the person who found the patent: “While I’m not optimistic that we will be seeing this particular hardware anytime soon, especially from Microsoft, it shows how a translucent dual screen phone with one side being able to change buttons dynamically can take us into the future.”

Sound off in the comments, what do you think is the prettiest of the WP7 handsets?