What you need to know
Microsoft's new patent filing revealed that the company is experimenting with 360-degree folding screens.
The patent details how the screen and hinge design may operate.
Microsoft's second known patent focuses on displays that can fold from 0 to 360 degrees.
A recent patent filing revealed that Microsoft is experimenting internally with 360-degree folding screen designs. First spotted by Patently Apple, the filing details how a 360-degree folding screen and hinge may work together to provide a flexible screen that can fold all the way around from fully closed to fully opened.
The patent follows another one from 2022, which also details how to reverse a foldable display without a gap, so clearly, Microsoft is interested in the idea.
Could this be Microsoft's screen and hinge design for the next Surface Duo? I would be very surprised. Microsoft's hardware teams patent all kinds of designs, and it's no surprise they are experimenting with this technology. That said, just because it can be done in labs doesn't mean it's easy to manufacture or can be built for a reasonable cost.
Interestingly, in 2022, LG showed the world a working prototype of an 8.03-inch foldable OLED display that can fold inwards and outwards at any angle from 0 to 360 degrees. The resolution is 2480 x 2200 with 413 PPI, offers 430 nits of brightness (but peaks at 600), and delivers 109.9% DCI-P3 color gamut, which is not far off from the screen size of Surface Duo. Microsoft could very well be looking at this technology for a device down the road as it is evident it exists, but it is unclear when it can be mass-produced and made affordable.
Earlier this year, I was told that Microsoft's next folding smartphone would drop the dual-screen design in favor of a folding screen with a 180-degree hinge and external cover display, just like the Google Pixel Fold or Xiaomi Mix Fold 3. That was before Microsoft began a huge wave of layoffs and cutbacks, which I'm told forced the Surface team to postpone work on this device.
It's unclear if the next Surface phone will be ready in 2024, as was initially planned. I highly doubt it will use a 360-degree folding display if it is. My sources say durability concerns still need to be addressed, and this kind of design would be too expensive for most customers.
That said, never say never. Plans can always change, and I'll let you know if I hear that's the case. For now, we can only speculate. I think a 360-degree folding Surface tablet is more likely than a phone. A 13-inch foldable Surface Pro that folds into a 9-inch Surface Mini? Sign me up.