A new Microsoft patent, awarded in April but published this month, tips a foldable display as part of a handset.
Based on patent images, a flexible hinge—not unlike Redmond's Surface Book (pictured)—turns the 2-in-1 device from smartphone to tablet, and back again.
Microsoft's versatile product is designed to balance portability with viewability, allowing users to determine their screen size in a matter of a few folds.
"The size of a display device has been found to be a major consideration by consumers regarding a choice of which mobile computing device to buy, whether to purchase multiple mobile computing devices, and so on," according to the patent.
The document describes a "variety of different usage scenarios," including the tablet configuration (all slabs are laid flat for ultimate viewing) and phone configuration (one layer is stacked behind another for one-handed operation). The "closed" configuration, meanwhile, allows the display to be folded internally for protection when not in use.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.
Patented features, of course, don't always end up in consumer products. In this case, the main challenge is arranging the battery, memory, processor, and camera. When Lenovo showed off its foldable design in June, engineers explained that positioning components away from the hinges while still maintaining the overall integrity of the phone has, so far, proven elusive.
Samsung is also trying its hand at flexible phones: The Korean tech company unveiled a patent in November depicting a slab-like gadget with a bendy connector dividing it in half. Like Redmond's invention, a touch screen covers the entire surface, which can be folded automatically.
Various mobile manufacturers have been showing off their foldable display technology, though most designs are still in the early prototype phase, far from commercial production.