Earlier this year, OnePlus looked like it was going to steal the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3’s thunder with a foldable of its own… only for it to be an elaborate prank promoting a 50% discount.
While that experience may make those hankering over a OnePlus branded foldable a bit more skeptical in future, it does appear that the Chinese company is testing the waters in that space.
LetsGoDigital (opens in new tab) has uncovered a patent for a OnePlus foldable that would be quite distinct from the current options on the market, with a double-hinged, tri-fold design that can be propped up as a triangle, or unfolded in full to be a long, tall tablet.
At a glance, this design may look a bit like the ‘Z’ fold-shaped triple fold design Samsung is rumored to be working on. But it’s actually more of a ‘G’ with two thirds of the foldable display staying on the outside, and one acting as the cover when it’s in its phone shape. The phone will apparently use a magnetic slider system to lock itself in place and prevent it from folding back on itself when in use.
According to the site, that means that the phone will be a bit thicker than current smartphones, but still thinner than a ‘Z’ shaped device. The two hinges the device uses are different sizes though, which — along with the thicker main display part — could cause the device to wobble when laid flat in its unfolded state.
Are two folds better than one? We’d need to play with a prototype to really know for sure, but the use cases described by LetsGoDigital feel a little flimsy at this point. Yes, being able to switch between a double and triple-size screen may be useful in some circumstances. But the patent also describes how the phone could be used by two people at once, with one side showing YouTube and another with a messaging application. To us, that sounds like a use case that few people, if anyone at all, has ever wished for.
Is that worth adding an extra mechanical hinge for, considering it was the reliability of the hinge system that gave Samsung so much trouble with the original Galaxy Fold? We’ll have to wait and see.
But it’s worth remembering that plenty of patents never find their way from theoretical idea to commercially available product, and there’s a good chance that will apply to this as well. Even if OnePlus does treat us to a foldable in time, it may well end up looking very different to this.