Microsoft is attempting to patent a device with a flexible hinge and display that would transform a phone into a tablet. Patent filings discovered by MSPoweruser reveal that Microsoft is, at least, experimenting with this type of concept for a future mobile device. Accompanying notes and diagrams detail what looks like a large smartphone that can fold over and transform into a tablet form factor or even the tent mode found on Lenovo’s range of Yoga tablets. There appears to be modes for two or three screens to extend flat out to make the device bigger and more of a tablet like Microsoft's original Courier concept. Microsoft first filed this phone patent in October 2014.
While Microsoft patents thousands of inventions that never make it into final products, the context of this particular application is key. The inventor is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, who has also successfully patented Microsoft’s Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle previously. Persistent rumors have suggested that Microsoft is looking to bring a Surface Phone to the market this year, but the software maker has consistently avoided traditional form factors for its Surface devices. This latest patent could show how Microsoft is looking at a potential return to phones, allowing the owner to transform a device into something greater than just a smartphone.
Microsoft’s Surface Studio device leaked out months in advance thanks to patent filings that revealed the exact design of the company’s 2-in-1 PC. It’s unlikely that this is the final design of a rumored Surface Phone, but this type of concept device could provide some clues to how Microsoft is looking at smartphones and mobile devices after its retreat from the mobile market last year.