This Patent Shows Google Might Be Working On A Foldable Phone, Too


Not to be outdone by Samsung and Huawei, Google is apparently developing its own foldable smartphone, as well, if this newly uncovered patent is anything to go by.

Recently filed, the application sees a foldable display technology that's similar to the panels seen on the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X.

The filing was first spotted by Patently Mobile, and it describes a method for constructing an OLED panel that can be bent repeatedly and used in a "modern computing device."

Google Doesn't Make Its Phones

While this certainly looks exciting, The Verge notes that Google itself doesn't actually manufacture smartphones. Similar to Apple, Google outsources manufacturing of the Pixel 3 to Foxconn, and both HTC and LG handled manufacturing duties on 2017's Pixel 2 handsets.

Does that mean this is one of those patents that exist just for the sake of legally preempting similar technologies that come after? In other words, did Google file this patent without the intention of releasing a foldable phone anytime soon? Well, it's tricky. Google could very well release its answer to the Galaxy Fold — but it would likely outsource its manufacturing to a third-party rather than producing it itself.

Z-Fold Display

In any case, the patent does show a promising take on foldability: the screen is referred to as a "Z-fold display," which imagines a display that could bend in two different places without breaking.

It's not clear why Google would ever release a phone like the one described in the patent. The Galaxy Fold and Mate X are two completely different approaches to foldability; the former folds inward, while the latter stretches outward. These devices are still in the process of being accepted by the broader tech landscape, so needless to say the jury is still out on which kind of foldable display is best. The Z-fold presents an intriguing new orientation, and it'll be surprising if Google ever releases such a product.

The endurance of foldable phones is still a question on everyone's mind. After all, these things costs a fortune, so one would expect them to last after repeated folds. Samsung's Galaxy Fold is rated to survive "hundreds of thousands" of folds, but at the end of the day, it's still a plastic screen. Gorilla is apparently making a foldable glass display, which it hopes could be durable than plastic ones.

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