The patent application (spotted by Patently Apple (opens in new tab)) was filed with the US Patent Office (opens in new tab) and details an "electronic device with flexible display." Going by the accompanying images, the patent looks a lot like a foldable phone design not too distant from that of the Huawei Mate X (opens in new tab).
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The patent drawings show how the device (which we'll call the Pixel Fold for the time being) is built around a hinge that allows it to be opened up from a ‘closed’ position. That's a change from the Mate X, in which the screen wraps around the device’s front and back to an ‘open’ position showing a large tablet-like display.
The patent notes that "the electronic device can be considered a smartphone and/or a tablet device," meaning Google could apply this design to a foldable phone.
Most intriguing is a small rectangular display that seems to sit in the body of one display and can be slid out to expand the footprint of the open display's position. Going by the drawings it would look like this third small display will be used to cover up any screen gap the hinge might cause.
Such a technique could be one way to avoid creases in the middle of a foldable display, which blighted the Galaxy Fold (opens in new tab). And that could make for a foldable display that’s able to last longer as well as appear more seamless when folded out into its full size.
Foldable phones haven’t exactly taken the smartphone world by storm yet. The Galaxy Fold was far from perfect, and other foldable phones have been pretty flawed as well as prohibitively expensive. But the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 (opens in new tab) looks to improve upon its successor, though it will stick with roughly the same design as the original Galaxy Fold.
As such, with its interesting third-screen design, the Google Pixel Fold could put the Galaxy Fold 2 on notice, providing Google does indeed act upon the patent. Google has the software as well as engineering skills to potentially make a foldable phone that works well with Android and doesn’t come with a bevvy of compromises.
A Google Pixel Fold could then be the device that sets the standard for foldable phones and gives others a blueprint to follow. Unless Apple gets there first.