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Microsoft gets patent for folding mobile device with flexible hinge structure

Back in mid-2016, Microsoft’s patents for the Surface Studio, Surface Dial, and Surface Bluetooth Keyboard all leaked ahead of the official release of the products. As a technology company, Microsoft, nonetheless, applies for hundreds of patents, some which eventually end up becoming products, and others which are just pure conceptual ideas. In line with this, an October 2014 listing at the patent office revealed that Microsoft has received a patent for a mobile device with a flexible hinge structure, leading many to believe this may or may not be a future design for the so-called Surface Phone (via The Verge.)

Microsoft Foldable Phone patent

Microsoft Foldable Phone patent

As seen here via Google Patents, the inventor of this patent is Kabir Siddiqui, who is responsible for patents on previous Microsoft projects such as the Surface kickstand and Surface camera. While the patent could just be a way of protecting a future Microsoft idea (as is standard procedure here in the United States,) it still does offer a look at to what the Redmond giant could be releasing in the future. The company describes the patent in the abstract of the legal application:

Techniques involving a mobile computing device having a flexible hinge structure are described. In one or more implementations, a mobile computing device includes a plurality of housings, a display device that is flexible, and a flexible hinge structure. The flexible hinge structure secures the plurality of housings to each other, permits the plurality of housings to rotate about an axis in relation to each other, and supports a continuous viewing area of the display device that extends across the plurality of housings and the flexible hinge structure.

Microsoft Foldable Phone patent

Microsoft Foldable Phone patent

In simpler terms, this just means that the could-be device might be able to transform into a tablet factor, or into a tent mode, very similar to the Lenovo Yoga tablet. This also means that the could be device might have a dual or triple hinge, or even slide out portions which support different type of housings (perhaps similar to a Nintendo Switch?) It is explained in the patent:

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.

Given the use of the word “mobile” in this patent, and the fact that Microsoft is known for re-thinking the way devices are designed and function (ie Surface Pro, and Surface Studio,) one can’t help to assume that this patent might be one for a future phone or mobile device. What do you think of this patent? Do you believe it may eventually become a Surface Phone? Let us know what you think by dropping us a comment below!

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