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Samsung might fix one of the worst things about its foldable phones

Published May 26th, 2020 6:50AM EDT
Galaxy Fold 2
Image: Lee Jin-man/AP/Shutterstock

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  • The next-gen Galaxy Fold design might offer a feature no other Samsung foldable phone has, water and dust resistance.
  • A new Samsung patent shows a design consistent with the original Fold, but the handset features a few notable changes that could apply to the Galaxy Fold Lite or Fold 2 phones that are expected to launch this year.
  • The main focus of the patent is describing waterproofing technology for smartphones with foldable screens.

The first foldable phone that Samsung decided to launch turned out to be a nightmare for the company. The phone featured a few design choices that proved to be fatal for the display, forcing Samsung to essentially redesign certain aspects of the hinge and screen. Real-life usage showed that debris can get inside the handset with ease and that the screen protector can be forcefully removed. Both of these actions would destroy the fragile foldable screen. The fixed Galaxy Fold was launched in late September last year, some five months after the intended launch date. Even then, people who have used the handset discovered that debris would still end up inside the phone, despite the fixes. The screen was still prone to scratches, as it wasn’t made of glass.

The Galaxy Z Flip that launched in mid-February was a massive success, compared to the Fold. It was cheaper, better-looking, and featured a foldable display made of ultra-thin glass, a first for the industry. But teardowns found that dust could still get into the phone. Upcoming foldable phones from Samsung might fix all that, and the foldable phones could finally get the water and dust-resistance we’ve come to expect from traditional handsets.

Samsung made a big deal of the fixes it developed for the Z Flip, but dust can still get into the phone. And if dust can get in there, then water ingress is just one accident away. Given that foldable phones are still priced well over traditional flagships, durability improvements are more than welcome for this class of products.

Galaxy Fold design concept based on Samsung patent illustrations. Image source: LetsGoDigital

Dutch blog LetsGoDigital found a brand new Samsung patent titled Electronic Device including waterproof structure. As you’ll see in the following illustrations, the phone in question looks a lot like the original Galaxy Fold.

The foldable design Samsung used to highlight its innovations features almost the same design as the original Fold. We have a large internal display with a notch on the right side where a dual-lens camera is place.

Illustration from new Samsung patent shows design for a foldable smartphone with a waterproof structure. Image source: Samsung

One other design change concerns the way the phone folds. The two sides would fold perfectly, without leaving a little gap between them, as it’s the case for the original Fold. This could be an indication the handset would sport a glass display rather than plastic, just like the Z Flip.

Things change on the exterior of the phone, where Samsung has placed a tiny display strip rather than an exterior screen similar to the Fold. The display would show notifications and could let the user answer calls. But you’d have to open the handset for any other type of activity. The multi-lens camera on the back features three cameras, one of which could be a periscope camera.

Illustration from new Samsung patent shows design for a foldable smartphone with a waterproof structure. Image source: Samsung

This could easily be the Galaxy Fold Lite model that’s rumored to launch this summer for $1,099. The phone will reuse last year’s Fold’s design combined with 2020 hardware, according to rumors. That way, Samsung hopes to get rid of the Fold parts stock it still has on hand. It’s unclear at this time whether the Fold Lite would have a waterproof design, however. Maybe the feature will be reserved for the Fold 2 that’s launching alongside the Galaxy Note 2, or a different handset down the road.

The handset in these illustrations can’t be the Fold 2, however. That phone is supposed to feature a much better screen design, as Samsung is replacing that ugly side-notch with a hole-punch display. Then again, the device in these images might never be made, as Samsung could use whatever illustrations to showcase the technology it wants to patent.

What really matters is that future foldable devices from Samsung will have better protection against dust and water ingress, preventing unwanted accidents like the ones that ruined the original’s Fold’s launch. And if Samsung is developing waterproofing tech for foldables, then everyone else is either doing the same thing, or they’ll follow suit.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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