Samsung has designed another fascinating piece of technology consisting of a ‘multi-face’ or continuous display screen that folds over two sides of a smartphone. Whereas the unlucky Samsung Galaxy Fold features a screen that physically flexes as the device is opened and closed, the patent for this design describes a fixed screen that wraps around the exterior of a phone.
You may wonder why on earth you would need a phone with two or more screens. First of all, the handset would enable communication between two people of different nationalities by running speech translation apps and displaying text to each other at the same time. It would allow each user to speak while the other sees the translation simultaneously, without having to flick between windows or pass the phone to and fro.
The design is very much in keeping with the company’s philosophy of being a frontrunner in producing innovative ground-breaking advances in technology.The ‘multi face’ display not only avoids the problems bedevilling the Galaxy Fold, but also offers a number of unique applications.
The design could revolutionise the way in which you take photographs. Currently the person who poses for a picture cannot see what the image will look like. But because the OLED panel wraps around the outside of the phone, both the photographer and the subject would be able to see the display at the same time. Which means that the subject could alter their pose as they’re being snapped. The phone effectively becomes a giant wraparound selfie screen that can be viewed on both sides of the device.
This being the case, there would be no practical need for a front-facing camera. Rather than wasting space and resources on an inferior selfie cam, a phone using this technology could instead feature one single powerful rear camera that could be used for all imaging. Indeed, the sketches included in the patent illustrate a Samsung phone that possesses only one high-resolution rear-facing camera.
Additionally, the dual screens would enable the user to interact with different applications on each side, such as having the call screen open on one side while reading and writing messages on the other.
The device features a sensor to determine which screen you’re looking at by detecting your hand as it comes into contact with one of the screens.
The patent is entitled ‘Electronic Device Having Plurality and Method for Controlling the Same’, and the sketches show three surfaces pointing in different directions. While two of those are the front and rear screens, the third is the top edge, or spine, on which the display flexes and it looks as though it could be used as a mini-display to show the most important notifications such as incoming messages for at-a-glance reading in a bag or pocket or anywhere the front and rear screens are obscured.
The edge bezels surrounding the panel are almost completely absent thanks to a snap-together frame design that is situated on top of a bracket rather than in the traditional smartphone chassis construction. The rear screen occupies a smaller portion of the phone’s rear panel but could be extended to fill the entire space. Several camera configurations are included in the patent, ranging from punch-hole sensors to traditional sensors that cover a set portion of the display near the top.
Superficially, the new design and underlying technology are relatively straightforward, but Samsung must be thinking far beyond the obvious here based on the sketches provided.
It’s worth noting that the concept of wraparound screen is not new. Samsung is believed to have applied for the patent back in 2016, but it was only approved and published by the World Intellectual property Office (WIPO) in April of this year.
In China, you can already buy a phone with two screens – the Vivo NEX Dual Display. But this technology may be an indicator of where the smartphone market is heading. The difference here is the wraparound display. No model on sale yet features a screen on the top edge.
It’s possible that the technology in this patent may never make it to market － especially in the wake of the Galaxy Fold debacle － as a patent is not a guarantee that a device will go into production. All the same, the design offers a tantalising glimpse of what the the future of camera phones may hold.