Samsung was granted a design patent for a multi-fold tablet back in September 2016 and last Tuesday they were granted at least their second utility patent for a multi-fold tablet. Samsung will probably have to deliver a next-gen foldable tablet to market if they're ever expected to have a chance of leap frogging Apple's iPad. Samsung's 2016 design patent illustrated a physical keyboard on the backside of one of the folding panels. In Samsung's latest granted patent they've continued that theme into their utility patent.
Samsung once got the leap on Apple with the phablet and they'd need something original for their tablets to score a meaningful market win. The tablet sector continues to struggle to find the next-great thing to put this category back on a trajectory for growth.
To date Samsung has been reluctant to deliver on their creative foldable smartphones and tablet inventions. Perhaps one of these days Samsung will provide a few prototypes of their next-gen foldable devices for trade shows like CES so that consumers could kick the tires to see if such designs are practical and bring a new level of value to tablets.
Samsung's granted patent covers a multifold tablet as presented in patent FIGS. 1A and 1B above. When the sides of the tablet display are folded in, they protect the tablet's main display. This is illustrated in patent figure 6 below.
As noted in patent FIG. 4 above, the system behind the folding capability includes a 'sensing unit' which could include at least one of a pressure sensor, an illumination sensor, a proximity sensor, an acceleration sensor, an angular velocity sensor, a gyro sensor, a strain gauge sensor, and a gravity sensor.
Samsung's patent FIG. 5B below illustrates a front view of the flexible display including a sub display unit and a key input unit; FIG. 6 illustrates front view of the flexible display including a transparent cover, allowing messages, time, date to be seen through the cover.
Samsung further noted that "When a user intends to use a medium-sized display screen, the configuration of the flexible display panel #10 can be deformed to the second configuration. For example, when the user intends to write a text message, the flexible display panel can be deformed to the second configuration.
When folded, Samsung refers to the transparent cover as "a quick-view display" for rapid functions to provide simple information to the user such a received text message, received call, an alarm and so forth.
Samsung further notes that the tablet could provide the user with telephony. Samsung doesn't dive into the telephony aspect of the tablet other than to state that "a user can make a call by using the flexible display in a third configuration."
Samsung's granted patent was published by USPTO last week. It was originally filed in April 2015 and was publicized as a patent application in June 2016.
Samsung's most creative folding tablet to date was published by the U.S. Patent Office in July 2016. Patent figures from that patent-pending concept are presented below.
Samsung already tries to compete with Apple's iPad Pro with their Galaxy Book and they may join the Windows-Qualcomm platform later this spring which would provide their users with next-gen 2-in-1 devices with a Snapdragon processor so that it becomes an "always on" device like their Galaxy smartphones.