Personal mobile devices began to shine and gained more traction in the market with the advent of the foldable phone. Gone were the days of huge “portable” phones the size of a shoe box — instead, users were delighted with phones that could collapse to half their size and fit into a pocket.
However, standard mobile phones were surpassed by smartphones. Smartphones came with Internet access, Bluetooth, apps, and touchscreens for a better user experience. Once these appeared on the mobile market, though, phones started to grow in size once again as users demanded more memory, better cameras, and larger screens. This created form factors so big that many users referred to them at “phablets” — the clever combination of phone and tablet.
To meet this desire for more screen space, but to keep the form factor a reasonable size, multiple companies have toyed with the idea of bringing back the foldable form factor — just this time, with a smartphone and foldable display.
Mobile giant Samsung has teased their users with flexible and foldable displays for quite some time. There was even a scroll-like display concept being considered when the company filed for a patent back in June 2017. But it wasn’t until recently that we were able to see an early version of Samsung’s foldable device after leaked images of a prototype appeared on Twitter this week.
This pictured prototype is rumored to be Samsung’s ‘Project Valley’ or ‘Project V’, estimated to be created between the years 2015 and 2016. Posted by Twitter user @MMDDJ_, the device in question is a foldable smartphone with dual displays hinged in the center to create a book-like design. It features only one camera, an extra large SIM card tray, and a surprisingly boring look. It also looks similar to ZTE’s Axon M, as pointed out by other blogs and commenters.
After the photos surfaced, many users commented how the handset doesn’t adhere to other flexible screen designs or patents that Samsung has created and showcased at events like CES. This claim solidifies the idea that this phone was never meant to hit market, and was only an idea that Samsung was considering.
But that’s not to say that Samsung’s foldable phone dreams are done: rumors are still surfacing that the illusive Samsung Galaxy X may feature the flexible, foldable screens the company has been exploring. Many tech experts say that we will even see smartphones with flexible, foldable screens by the end of 2018 from other leading names like Android, Huawei, and ZTE — even if they aren’t market-ready.
Apple is no stranger to the concept of foldable devices: they filed for a patent detailing a foldable design (complete with hinge made from a three-bar linkage arrangement) back in November 2016. Many users who saw the ‘Project V’ prototype commented on how it looks strangely similar to Apple’s patent.
Apple commonly files for patents to secure future products and designs. Their patents have included everything from gesture-based commands on Macs, to the laser processing method for a smart keyboard for the iPad Pro. But despite not knowing Apple’s true intent, it’s still exciting to see what could be in store down the road for Apple in terms of their interest in a foldable iPhone.