Samsung privately demoed smartphones with truly bendable displays at CES earlier this year. In late December 2013 we had reported that Kwon Oh-hyeon, vice-chairman and CEO, Samsung Electronics, had told analysts at a meeting that they "would lead innovation by introducing the 'foldable' display in 2015." Flash forwarding to November 17 of this year we heard Samsung announce its mid-to-long term strategies for smartphones at the Samsung Investor Forum 2014 in New York where 200 analysts were invited. Samsung announced that they would be introducing a foldable smartphone by 2016. Today Samsung was granted multiple design patents covering one and two-fold smartphones.
On November 17, Lee Chang-hoon, vice president of the business strategic team at Samsung Display stated during the event they would "… be able to supply products with foldable displays to customer companies by the end of next year." That means going into 2016, a year later than previous targeted.
Specifically this time around, Samsung revealed two types of flexible displays at the event – a 10-inch flexible display for tablet PCs and a 5.5 inch display for smartphones. According to Samsung, the 10-inch full-HD flexible display will be able to fold twice and has a 1080p resolution. The 5.5 inch wide QXGA (1600x2560 pixel) display can be folded once.
A note About Design Patents: Unlike "patent applications," design patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office don't reveal pertinent information about a particular design. We can look at the design and appreciate it for what it projects, but we'll never discover which materials may be used to construct the design. We'll never know what unique internal components may be hidden within the device or learn about any unique features that we could look forward to. All we get is the simple surface visual of what could be coming down the pipeline. Today Samsung was granted three design patents covering foldable smartphones as noted in the patent figures below.
Samsung Two-Fold Smartphone Design
Samsung Single-Fold Smartphone Design
Alternate Single-Fold Smartphone Design
It should be noted that the multiple fold smartphone actually has a full patent application associated with the design. That was revealed back in 2012 in this report. When Samsung introduced the phablet it gave them a lead over Apple who was stuck at 4" displays. Now that Apple has the iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung needs to find the next advantage that they could bring to market. Samsung, by the admission of their own management, make it clear that they believe the single and double folded smartphone could be the next big thing in smartphone designs. Will they get it right? Only time will tell.
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