Studying Samsung’s patent activity is always a good way to get a sense of where its future smartphone technology and innovations might be headed, as the company rushes to put its stamp on all manner of new designs and advancements before its rivals do. The documentation never points to guaranteed releases, but they do suggest potential avenues that Samsung’s product roadmap might take as they reflect new form factors and features that could possibly end up making it into future handset releases.
Divining the next direction Samsung will take is a bit of an art and a science. We reported earlier today about speculation that an upcoming Samsung phone (the Fold 2, but maybe not) would have a design breakthrough we’ve been waiting for — an under-the-display selfie camera. Meanwhile, a patent for which Samsung applied to the World Intellectual Property Office has just been published, revealing some unusual new smartphone features, like a sliding display and a rotating camera housed under the display.
The patent was published on Thursday (h/t/ LetsGoDigital). This is probably a good time to add the reminder that patents don’t guarantee the designs herein will ever see the light of day or be acted upon. In terms of what this one shows, meanwhile, you can see in the sketch below that the front display consists entirely of screen surface. There’s a narrow metal frame visible at the bottom, and if you slide that down the total screen area becomes larger.
Note the third sketch, on the far right. That should give you an idea that the way this works is you slide down the display in such a way that part of it “rolls” underneath.
This kind of design shouldn’t seem like it comes completely out of left field, since we’ve written extensively on how smartphone makers are increasingly looking for ways to provide more screen real estate to the end user — including by putting the selfie camera underneath the front display somehow.
Here, Samsung envisions integrating the front camera underneath the lower half of the display. You can get an idea of how it works below:
As we noted in a separate piece today, this patent can be read as one more indication — separate from elements like the sliding display — that Samsung is working aggressively to perfect under-the-display camera technology. This is one of several recent signs, in fact, along those lines. While a Samsung Display executive said earlier this year that under-display cameras aren’t going to be possible within a year or two, a senior official recently contradicted that statement by saying that Samsung is still considering the possibility of releasing a phone with such technology in 2020.
Reports out in recent days suggest that Samsung might bring this technology first to the Fold 2 in April, and not the Galaxy S11. One way or another, Samsung is trying to get there, with this patent a reminder of that fact. Because other companies are too, from Apple to a number of Chinese brands.