Google folding display patent emerges, but don’t expect a foldable Pixel yet

A Google patent has emerged revealing a design concept for a folding display. The patent was unearthed by Patently Mobile (via The Verge), and it suggests the Android creator is mulling the launch of an innovative foldable device.

The patent shows off the display as part of a computing device in several use cases. It doesn’t strictly refer to it as a folding ‘smartphone,’ so this could be a tablet or laptop device. Given the current attention on folding phones in the Android world, and Google’s hardware focus being most geared towards phones, that seems most plausible. Check out what it looks like in the images below.

A Google folding device patent showing an upright, folding phone with a drawing of a face on the display.
A Google folding device patent showing a clamshell unit.
A Google folding device patent showing a product in a Z-fold shape.
A Google folding device patent showing the structure of the device fold

As well as a clamshell-style unit (Fig.2), we also see what looks like a Z-folding approach (Fig.3), and possibly what taking a selfie or video calling may look like (the first image). The last picture shows the nature of the curved area of the unit which, similar to the Galaxy Fold, would leave a gap.

This Z-folding type of design hasn’t yet been seen on any foldable device outside of concepts and patents, so Google could potentially be the first to market with such a product, if it were pursuing it.

But boy is that a big if.

Reality check time

These types of patents frequently appear but only rarely do we get to see a finished product based on them. Several Samsung folding phone patents emerged before the Galaxy Fold launch, and they do not resemble it. That’s not to so these patents couldn’t be used in the future, or that they don’t help in the development of similar products, only that they don’t guarantee such a device will ever be released.

Further, Google is rumored to have requested those with roles in its tablet and laptop division find other positions in the company, suggesting hardware development is being deprioritized, or there won’t be as many hardware lines in the future. Its Pixel lineup of phones are no doubt safe, but the Pixelbook series, and perhaps new prospects like a Google foldable, may not survive the restructure.

Editor’s Pick

What’s more, Google’s Pixels usually don’t reflect current mobile trends. Its Pixel phones have been slow to adopt multiple cameras and to shrink their bezels, unlike its major competitors. It’s also not one to focus on hardware innovations, but instead tends to lead the way through software.

In other words, if a Google folding phone is in the works, Google likely won’t be in a hurry to reach the market with it, and probably won’t pioneer a unique Z-folding device.

With all that being said, Google is a huge technology company with vast resources, and if people start spending on folding phones (i.e. it sees profit in them), it will no doubt produce one at some point. All I’m saying is, don’t expect the Google folding-Pixel (Fixel?) this Autumn alongside the Pixel 4.

Up next: These are the best foldable phones with flexible displays

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