As Samsung gets ready to release the Galaxy Fold again, we examine its recent patent filings and look back into Apple’s infamous Antennagate Scandal.
Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is set to go on sale in the US in a few days. The breakthrough product can be unfolded to maximize the screen estate for a tablet-like experience. Back in April 2019, the wait for the first foldable smartphone appeared to be over with the unveiling of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. As soon as the device was shipped to reviewers, news started coming in about the display screen’s tendency to break or bulge due to various reasons. For instance, Verge reported the appearance of one or more bulges on the display that created a gap formed at the hinge while opening and folding the device, which could lead to damage. Due to these issues, Samsung cancelled the planned April launch.
Samsung’s patent publications related to foldable technology from 2015-2019
Samsung’s filing activity related to foldable smartphones has shown steady increases in the last five years. Only a few of the recently published patent applications address the design problems encountered earlier in the Galaxy Fold. Interestingly, only 15 patent applications were both filed and published this year that relate to foldable display technology. In particular, the following Samsung Patent application, published by the Korean Intellectual Property office [KR20190040156A] on April 17, 2019, appears to focus on 3 particular problems. Interestingly, this application was first applied on 5th April 2019 and published within a couple of weeks. The patent application discloses a unique sliding structure for the hinge thereby addressing the buckling or crease problem with the display. The application also includes additional folding/sliding arms between the outermost layer of the hinge and the display, thus making it difficult for dust or other particles to make their way to the underside of the display. The application also discusses using a “hard plate” that is disposed under the display screen.
KR20190040156A : Foldable display device with sliding and multi-joint structure (top); KR101986617B1: Foldable device with cover member to cover the joint portion such that the device is not exposed to the outside (middle); US20190245955A1: Cross-sectional views of a display unit of a foldable device in a folded state and one embodiment of the foldable device (bottom)
Apple’s patent publications related to smartphone antenna placement and performance between 2008-2014
The recent events surrounding foldable smartphones takes us back to the infamous “Antennagate” scandal, as it came to be known, following Apple’s handling of antenna performance issues in the iPhone 4. Apple’s patent filings on antenna placement and performance saw a steady increase following the scandal. Selected Apple patents related to antenna placement and performance are presented below.
US8270914B2: “Antennagate” patent (top left); US8325094B2: Logo antenna for a portable electronic device (top right); US9991584B2: Antenna configuration in outer housing (bottom left); US9588643B2: routing based on detection of how a user operates an electronic device(bottom right)
The revamped Galaxy Fold carries improvements such as extending the screen protector under the bezel so you are not tempted to peel it off, reducing the size of the gap when it’s closed, adding covers to better protect the insides from debris, and adding more protection to the back side of the screen itself. Samsung Fold's biggest competitor until now, Huawei’s Mate X, is also behind schedule and may not launch until the end of this year. It will be important for Samsung and other foldable manufacturers to be able to resolve these issues at an early stage for successful product launches.