Forget the Galaxy Z Fold 5 — new patent reveals wild tri-foldable Samsung phone

Samsung Flex In & Out
(Image credit: Samsung Display)

We’ve been hearing rumors about a tri-fold Samsung foldable for a couple of years now, fueled by the sight of a some concept devices from subsidiary Samsung Display. But a newly uncovered patent spotted by Patently Apple shows us how a tri-fold Samsung smartphone might actually work.

Samsung's patent shows a phone with a single large OLED display split into three sections. Those sections are separated by two hinges, giving the phone a zig-zag shape in the middle of the fold. In fact, it's a shape that would be perfectly suited to the name “Z Fold” if Samsung hadn’t already used it on the current Z Fold series in which phones open up like a book. 

samsung tri fold foldable patent imagery

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Like most of the best foldable phones, the general idea for Samsung's tri-fold phone is that you can have a large-screen device inside a smartphone form factor. That gives you the best of both, but with more potential screen space than Samsung’s current foldable lineup can offer.

Plus, like Samsung's Z Fold and Z Flip devices, the patent reveals this phone will be able to sense what state the screen is in, thanks to sensors in the hinges. That means content will only appear on screens that are in active use, while features like Flex Mode could take advantage of that additional display.

Unfortunately the patent doesn’t detail other design features, such as where the cameras might be located. Some Samsung Display concepts featured a vertical array on the far left hand side of the phone, next to what would be the main display when the device is in its folded state.

samsung tri fold foldable patent imagery

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

As convenient as that may be for merging the front and back camera functionality into a single place, there’s no telling what a final production model might involve. Concepts are, after all, just a way of showing that something could be done — not that it definitely will. 

The same could be said for patents, too. There’s also no guarantee that this patent will result in an actual phone. Samsung has dabbled with a bunch of new foldable form factors, as we saw at CES 2022, and there’s no telling what its plans are for future foldables.

Of course we can speculate on when we might see a next-generation foldable like this go on sale. Twitter leaker @Tech_Reve claims that a “Galaxy Z Tab” will go on sale this year, alongside the Galaxy Tab S9 — marking the first time Samsung has released a foldable tablet.

Similarly we’ve heard rumors that next year's Galaxy Z Fold 6 may see the traditional Galaxy Z Fold form factor go through some changes. However it was never elaborated what those changes might be, and adding an extra display to an existing product lineup might be taking things a little bit too far. We're expecting the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 5 to resemble its predecessors, though one rumor suggests Samsung is introducing a new hinge that could eliminate the visible crease in the phone's interior dispaly.

Beyond the Galaxy Z Fold 5, expected in the second half of this year, we will just have to wait and see whether this patent signals a new kind of foldable. The thought of a new design is exciting, though I shudder to think what the price might be, considering the Galaxy Z Fold 4 starts at $1,799 and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 will likely cost the same.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.