Microsoft has made it pretty clear that its upcoming Surface Phone will not be a traditional mobile experience, but it’s yet to provide any defining features. A new patent filed by the company could provide the answer: a foldable device that turns into a tablet.
A patent discovered by MSPoweruser shows Microsoft considering a device that when folded over acts as a phone, but can be unfolded and us the extra real estate to behave more like a tablet. There appear to be ‘tent’ and ‘laptop’ modes as well.
The patent makes it clear the flexible device is meant to handle multiple uses:
In this way, the housings of the mobile computing device may support a variety of different usage scenarios through arrangement of the housings in relation to each other, e.g., by folding. For example, a “tablet” configuration may be supported in which each of the housings are “laid flat” such that an entirety of the display device is viewable by a user. In a “phone” configuration, one of the housings may be stacked behind another one of the housings such that the mobile computing device may be easily grasped using a single hand yet still provide a portion of the display device that is viewable by a user. In a “closed” configuration, the display device may be positioned internally in the stacked configuration and thus may be used to protect the display device when not in use. A variety of other configurations are also described, such as a “mini-tablet” configuration, as well as biasing mechanisms that may be employed to bias the mobile computing device to remain in a desired configuration, further discussion of which may be found in relation to the following sections.
The folding ability would probably make for a thicker phone than we’re used to, but would come with the trade off of providing more real estate when we need it. You could keep it in phone shape for storage, texting, and browsing social media, but open it up for longer typing sessions or reading books.
A patent like this may have been considered an esoteric possibility a few years ago, but we’ve similar ideas from the likes of Samsung and LG. Besides, the Surface Studio was leaked through patents as well, even if the final device had some significant differences.
Moreover, Microsoft’s Surface line has always aimed to redefine product categories – from the tablet, to laptop, to desktop. Surface devices are at their core about creating new form factors (to varying success).
That a foldable phone from Microsoft wouldn’t surprise me is a testament to the work the Surface Team has been doing; here’s to hoping it’s actually good.