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Foldable phone designs are already bizarre, but this one from Google is the weirdest yet

Foldable phone

By now, it should be clear that foldable phone design is something close to a Wild West of the handset space. None of the major manufacturers, from Samsung to Huawei, who’ve either trotted out or had their foldable designs leaked so far really know what will stick, if anything, so everyone is basically just throwing whatever they can think of against the wall to see what sticks. Phones that open like books, phones with bendy screens, phones that wrap around your wrist, phones with screens that elongate — and now here comes Google with a new design patent that amps up the weirdness.

At its I/O Developer Conference this year, Google revealed that it’s been working on a number of different foldable phone prototype designs. Google filed a patent for one of those designs at the end of last year with the World Intellectual Property Office, and the patent that was just published on Thursday describes a foldable smartphone that opens and closes like a book.

That’s a design description you’ve no doubt heard before, as other manufacturers like Samsung have likewise prototyped foldable designs built around the idea of a phone that’s manipulated the same way you use a book. Except with this Google patent, we really mean it — the patent covers a “foldable display device with multiples pages.”

Image source: LetsGoDigital

As noted by Dutch tech news blog LetsGoDigital, the multiple “pages” of this book-like device are all foldable display panels. They’re on the inside of the design that’s patented here, but the description leaves things open-ended enough that the screen could be out on the outside, as well.

The OLED display panels that double as “pages” are the key feature and what makes the device so completely and utterly bizarre. The panels are held together by a book-like “spine,” LetsGoDigital notes, and the back of the device houses things like the battery, processor, and camera.

Surely, Google won’t actually be producing a device that looks this strange anytime soon. The fact that brands as high-profile as Google are spending time and attention on ideas this far-out at all, though, is one more indication that while this smartphone design niche has yet to go mainstream, companies still regard it as the source of abundant promise and potential.

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Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.