Samsung, LG and now Nokia are tipped to come out with their versions of a foldable phone this year. And now, Microsoft has been granted a patent for a phone that unfolds into a tablet. Applied in October 2016, a patent was granted to the Software major in January this year by the USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office).

The device’s description calls it a “Mobile computing device with a flexible hinge structure.” The leaked patent image suggests that the phone folds into a smartphone size device, and when unfolded, a user can then use it in ‘Tablet’, or a ‘Tent’ mode, depending on his preference. Tipped for launch this year, this might well be what the upcoming Microsoft Surface Phone might look like.

The patent further explains the need for such a device in the following manner:

A user may purchase a mobile phone having a relatively small display device to make phone calls, text, and so on. If a larger display device is desired, a user may also purchase a tablet to answer emails, browser the Internet, and so on. Additionally, form factors have been developed that represent a compromise between these form factors, such as a “phablet” that may have decreased mobility due to an increase in size of a display device. As such, conventional mobile computing device form factors often forced a user to make a choice regarding a form factor that may involve a compromise between these form factors (e.g., a “phablet”), purchase of multiple devices, and so on.

Techniques are described involving a mobile computing device having a flexible hinge structure. In one or more implementations, a mobile computing device includes a plurality of housings, a display device that is flexible, and a flexible hinge structure. The flexible hinge structure secures the plurality of housings to each other, permits the plurality of housings to rotate about an axis in relation to each other, and supports a continuous viewing area of the display device that extends across the plurality of housings and the flexible hinge structure.

Expected to arrive in different variants, the Microsoft Surface phone was teased last year as a high-end device that will create a new category for itself. It might even beat the Koreans to the goalpost and become the first foldable device we might see this year.

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