Smartphone manufacturers are steering the industry into an era of the folding phone. Sure, the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X are not available until later in the year, but they show a new direction for mobile technology. Not wanting to be left behind, Google seems to be developing its own Pixel smartphone with folding screen tech.
A WIPO Patent filed by Google and discovered by Patently Mobile shows the company is exploring bendy screens. Titled "Foldable display neutral axis management with thin, high modulus layers", the patent describes on device components that would allow a smartphone to bend.
Google's apparent entry into the foldable phone market is significant as it suggests bendy screens are here to stay. Samsung and Huawei are already on board, the two largest smartphones manufacturers on the planet. Now Google seems to also be on board, the owner of the Android ecosystem.
In fact, it really isn't any surprise to see Google move into the foldable phone market. After-all, the company has tweaked Android to provide the software underpinning for devices with bending screens.
Stopping to think about the potential, it is easy to see how folding smartphones will be revolutionary. Users can have a video chat in WhatsApp going on one side of the screen, while posting on Facebook on the other side. Or what about consuming media while also using an online service. For example, a user could be watching a ball game live on one side of the screen while making in-game bets with a New York sports betting website.
Google's plan for folding technology centers on Young's modulus to create layers that move independently of the neutral plane. If you are unfamiliar with Young's modulus, it is a number that measures the elastic abilities of a given material. Foldable displays are easier said than done because separate layers of the screen bend at different angles, creating a bump at the fold.
In its patent, Google has its own way of overcoming this issue. By using materials to make elasticity adjustments, the company's tech would theoretically remove the bump that is currently visible on folded smartphone screens.
The obvious question is what material will Google use? Well, the company is working with a material comprised of glass fibers and polymers for the transparent layer.
Another notable piece of information from Google's patent is that the company seems to be pursuing a clamshell design for its foldable phone. Samsung and Huawei have opted for a book style device, which would allow the handsets to be tablet sized when unfolded. Google's approach could mean a smaller device in the pocket, which unfolds to be the size of a modern smartphones.
As is always the case with patents, it is worth remembering that there are no guarantees the technology will ever be developed. Still, it does show that Google is working on folding screens and that could one day mean a folding Pixel smartphone.