Is This The Surface Phone?

Microsoft has revolutionized laptop designs with the Surface and Surface Book, so why not smartphones? A new report adds more weight to the rumor that the Windows maker is looking into bendable, portable handheld displays that could power the long-anticipated Surface Phone.

The Lumia 950 would look ancient compared to a foldable Surface Phone. Credit: Mike Prospero/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: The Lumia 950 would look ancient compared to a foldable Surface Phone. Credit: Mike Prospero/Tom's Guide)

A 2015 patent (published Mar. 23) doesn't explicitly name the device as a smartphone, instead showing a technology that could take the form of a "hinged display device" (think futuristic flip-phone). In one illustration, it appears in the size of an opened book; in the second, it's folded at an angle, almost like a laptop.

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The device would use a "support structure" to contain the displays, and the patent often mentions it as a hinge. In one instance, it notes that the "hinge may allow for the display panels to be moved (e.g., rotated, angled, folded and/or otherwise displaced) relative to one another," meaning the phone could work similarly to Microsoft's Surface tablet/laptop hybrids.

If the panels are folded flat against each other "with an angle of approximately 0 degrees between" them, it could provide a double-sided display.

Image: FreePatentsOnline

Image: FreePatentsOnline

This is the second published Microsoft patent for a mobile device with a flexible hinge, as the company applied for another patent in October 2014.

Of course, we must note that patents are not always a sign that a product is in development. They can often be applied for as a measure of defense, when a company is looking to lock competitors out from an idea.

Additionally, this isn't the first sign of a foldable smartphone we've seen. Lenovo showed off its own concept model in the summer of 2016, and Samsung is rumored to release one this year.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.