LG has been granted US patent 10,254,863, as noted by Let’s Go Digital, which sets out one potential vision for foldable phones — and it involves a mostly transparent display. Filed in 2015, this patent is just a hint at how long tech companies have been mulling foldables, as well as how weird and outlandish their concepts have been. The idea with this one is that you’d have one half of the device with an adjustable transparency, with the other half having some transparent portion and an opaque section to accommodate its battery. As usual with patents, the why of such a gadget is not explained, only the how.
Earlier this year, LG went on the record with its belief that it’s too soon to launch a foldable a phone, and the company instead opted for a second-screen accessory for its upcoming LG V50. Both of those moves seem justified by the current facts of the developing foldable category: Samsung and Huawei are the only major companies to have announced foldables, and neither of them has been able to price its device under $2,000. LG could, as has been its wont, dive into the chase for hype and engineering prestige, but the company’s more pragmatic approach of late has gone against that. All of which is to say: don’t expect a transparent LG foldable to surface anytime soon.
LG certainly has the necessary technology to make a transparent foldable a reality. LG Display, which is a nominally independent company but obviously has a great working relationship with LG Electronics, has been demonstrating rollable OLED screens and transparent displays for quite a while. If you’re wondering why LG persists with its unprofitable smartphone efforts, one good reason is that every new LG phone can serve as a tech showcase for the broader corporation’s advances.
The transparent foldable design set out in LG’s new patent is notable for one other reason: the hinge. A substantial part of the accompanying imagery is dedicated to the hinge, which is quite the complicated piece of kit. Other companies, like TCL and Huawei, have also been super secretive about their hinge technology, and it does appear like the mechanics of the actual folding and unfolding will be a point of differentiation when foldable devices do eventually become a reality.