The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is as innovative as it is expensive, thanks to its flexible design. But a newly found patent shows not only the next step in the evolution of foldables, but a hint at how the Z Fold 3 might better use the hardware it already has.
The application was found by LetsGoDigital who also illustrated Samsung's idea for a multi-use camera system in the images you can see below.
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The design, titled "Foldable electronic device including a plurality of camera modules" is similar to that of Huawei's Mate X and Mate Xs, in that it uses a single array of cameras that act as rear or front-facing sensors depending on how the device is folded. However unlike the Mate X, these cameras only take up a small cut-out in the top right corner of the phone, rather than appearing on the side.
Two out of three suggested set-ups for this also places the display on the outside of the folding frame, again like the Mate X, rather than the interior display of the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Placing the main display on this side has some benefits to productivity, and means an additional front cover display is unnecessary. However it does mean the screen is at greater risk of damage, a very pertinent fear for the more fragile flexible displays on these devices.
One version of the patent also suggests only some of the rear cameras could be usable in both unfolded and folded orientations, the other being covered up by the phone's frame. This would make sense for special camera types that are less useful for selfie shots, such as a telephoto lens, while a high-resolution main sensor can still be used.
Samsung has recently got into the habit of making 'Lite' editions of its flagship phones. It started with the Galaxy S10 Lite and Galaxy Note 10 Lite in January of this year, but has really become prominent with the recent launch of the Galaxy S20 FE. Although foldables are still a new form factor, it wouldn't be surprising to see Samsung make a cheaper version of its Galaxy Z phones sooner or later.
A patent never guarantees a product based on it, so don't get your hopes up that this will be Samsung's next big release. However given how similar this idea is to existing products, it would be too cynical to assume this is only a speculative design on Samsung's part.
We'd expect Samsung's next foldable to come at the start of 2021. It was that time last year that the Galaxy Z Flip debuted alongside the Galaxy S20 series, so we'd expect a new foldable to join the upcoming Galaxy S21.