Foldable Samsung tablet/smartphone hybrid aka “smartlet” appears in patent filing

By , Jul 4, 2016


Last month, Bloomberg ran a high-profile story about Samsung’s alleged initiative, code-named Project Valley, that would bring a pair of fully bendable Galaxy phones to market in early-2017.

Subsequent supply chain reports have since backed the story partially as it became public knowledge that Samsung has allocated north of $7 billion into boosting production of flexible OLED panels.

As Patently Apple noted today, a new patent application sheds more light on the South Korean conglomerate’s interest in creating a technology that would allow a smartphone or tablet to fold in half when not in use.

Samsung originally filed this patent application back in November 2015. A revised patent application was filed for in Korea two weeks ago and published on Thursday. Both filings outline a fully foldable smartphone or tablet that has a camera on the back, a bendable display and a sturdier frame with a built-in hinge.

A user would unlock and unfold the device by simultaneously touching a user icon on one edge of the display area and an icon for inputting a password, which may be displayed on the other edge of the foldable display.

“If the foldable device determines that the user icon and the number icon which are selected by a touch input correspond to each other, the foldable device releases a locked state of the foldable device and displays a wallpaper on the flexible display,” reads the patent abstract.

The user interface would automatically rearrange itself based on the direction in which the foldable device is being viewed.

Samsung patent foldable smartphone Patently Apple 001

It’s unclear if the rumored device will become part of Samsung’s Galaxy range, but Korean news site ETNews reported in April 2016 that it’s known internally as a “smartlet” and sports a 7-inch screen when unfolded.

A few years back, Samsung publicly showed off its flexible OLED screens though its interest in the technology dates as far back as 2011.

At the recent SID 2016 event in San Francisco, Samsung demonstrated a 5.7-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080 pixels) AMOLED flexible screen, pictured top of post. Because it uses extremely thin plastics, instead of glass, the display could be bent and rolled up without shattering: it’s just 0.3mm thin and has 10R rolling radius.

Samsung patent foldable smartphone Patently Apple 002

Industry sources suspected at the time that Apple would be one of the handset makers asking Samsung to provide them flexible screens. Here’s a conceptual video created in 2014 in which Samsung lays out its vision for flexible smartphones and tablets.

The Apple Watch is currently the sole Apple device that has a flexible OLED screen.

According to Bloomberg last month, flexible Samsung phones could be bent and folded in half “like a cosmetic compact,” without damage. One of the devices is reportedly a five-inch model that could be opened to an eight-inch tablet size.

Curiously enough, Samsung has reportedly removed on of the biggest obstacles which has prevented full-scale commercialization of 100 percent bendable mobile devices—making transparent plastics and making them durable.

The news gathering organization added that Samsung could launch its first fully bendable smartphone ahead of Mobile World Congress, which runs from February 27 through March 2, 2017.

Source: Patently Apple

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  • John Smith

    But imagine all the wrinkles…

    • Luckily Samsung parent company makes ironing machines too.

      • Iskren Donev

        I love it! Samsung should definitely go for that – buy two Galaxy phones and get a Galaxy Iron for free 😀

  • Rowan09

    Trying to see the purpose in this but can’t figure one out yet. I understand if you have a monitor that’s say 24″+ and you want to fold it away for storage, but for a tablet or phone, I don’t get it. I guess time will tell.

    • Iskren Donev

      To me it kind of makes sense the way they portray it in the video – carry a 4″ phone that can fit in your pocket and if you need to, unfold it and get a 10″ tablet.

      The only thing I am not sure about is not having glass on top of the display. I still have my old Palm Pre which has a plastic display and let me tell you – it ain’t the same.

      • Rowan09

        Still don’t see how that fixes a issue because now it will affect tablet sales. It’s the same issue I have with the edge display on my S7, I don’t use it at all and it takes away from the screen size. It’s hard to believe those that something like that is fully bendable without creasing at some point, but I’ll wait and see for myself.

    • Think of the potential for businesses. I don’t see the potential as a consumer device but imagine going to a restaurant where the menu is presented as an electronic showcase on a smartlet.

      • Rowan09

        Too expensive with no benefit over paper or even regular tablets right now. If they are trying to replace workforce or streamline order I guess, but it wouldn’t need to be foldable.

      • That’s why I said “potential”. Like all new technology it will be expensive at first. As for there being no benefit over paper and regular tablets that’s simply not true. An application can be updated over the Internet (or a local network), paper can’t. As for the benefits over regular tablets, it’s smaller which means it could easily be folded away. I’m sure there’s also lots of other benefits and interesting use cases of flexible technology and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops over the coming years.

      • Rowan09

        I get its new but what does it offer over the current tech? It’s also not smaller because they make 8 to 7 inch tablets which stay on the table. It would just be a gimmick because you would be able to do everything on a current tablet besides folding it. In the airport they have iPads everywhere, one of the restaurants (OTG) and where you order your meal, etc. The iPad’s work in this scenario because people are siting waiting on the plane, etc and it made profit for OTG skyrocket. In a restaurant you wait to be seated and then you get a waiter, so it’s a little different. Olive Garden I went to however did have a tablet to order food and pay your bill after the waiter/waitress seats you, but still don’t see why a foldable tablet would do anything different. Time will tell but besides durability, I don’t see this being the new trend at all.