Microsoft has revolutionized laptop designs with the Surface and Surface Book, so why not smartphones? A new report adds more weight to the rumor that the Windows maker is looking into bendable, portable handheld displays that could power the long-anticipated Surface Phone.

The Lumia 950 would look ancient compared to a foldable Surface Phone. Credit: Mike Prospero/Tom's Guide
(Image credit: The Lumia 950 would look ancient compared to a foldable Surface Phone. Credit: Mike Prospero/Tom's Guide)

A 2015 patent (published Mar. 23) doesn't explicitly name the device as a smartphone, instead showing a technology that could take the form of a "hinged display device" (think futuristic flip-phone). In one illustration, it appears in the size of an opened book; in the second, it's folded at an angle, almost like a laptop.

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The device would use a "support structure" to contain the displays, and the patent often mentions it as a hinge. In one instance, it notes that the "hinge may allow for the display panels to be moved (e.g., rotated, angled, folded and/or otherwise displaced) relative to one another," meaning the phone could work similarly to Microsoft's Surface tablet/laptop hybrids.

If the panels are folded flat against each other "with an angle of approximately 0 degrees between" them, it could provide a double-sided display.

Image: FreePatentsOnline
Image: FreePatentsOnline

This is the second published Microsoft patent for a mobile device with a flexible hinge, as the company applied for another patent in October 2014.

Of course, we must note that patents are not always a sign that a product is in development. They can often be applied for as a measure of defense, when a company is looking to lock competitors out from an idea.

Additionally, this isn't the first sign of a foldable smartphone we've seen. Lenovo showed off its own concept model in the summer of 2016, and Samsung is rumored to release one this year.

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