Windows phone reborn: Microsoft patent hints at foldable touchscreen smartphones

A patent filed by Microsoft for magnets mounted on rotating axes suggests the company may be developing a folding tablet/smartphone hybrid.

Microsoft Surface's general manager on the next big thing in mobile computing
Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • A Microsoft patent filing for rotating magnetic locks reveals that the company is continuing to invest in mobile devices, this time with potentially foldable touchscreens.
  • As always with patents, there's no indication that this refers to a planned, or even existing, device. While it's worth being excited that Microsoft is still interested in smartphones, don't get too carried away--a folding Windows smartphone may never emerge.

Windows Phone fans rejoice: A patent filed by Microsoft points to continued investment in Windows-driven smartphones, and the latest generation may feature folding screens.

The patent itself, "Magnetic Block Locking of an Electronic Device," may not seem exciting, but give it a read, paying particular attention to the image: The patent is for magnets that make it easier to lock a folding smartphone screen in place, both in the open and closed position.

Like all other patents, a filing doesn't mean that Microsoft is set to announce folding smartphone/tablet hybrids, nor does it mean a folding phone is even in the company's future. Unusual tech patents are filed regularly, if for no other reason than to keep someone else from doing so.

That said, this patent for rotating magnets is enough to get excited about--it does prove Microsoft hasn't completely given up on the mobile tech space.

What the patent actually is

If you've taken a look at the patent you might be thinking it's a bit dense, and that's true: The language of the patent itself makes it difficult to digest what's really going on. Here's the gist of it.


Microsoft's rotating magnetic locks

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has patented a way to hold a folding device closed with magnets mounted on a rotating axis. In its design there are two pairs of magnets doing the work: one set near the hinge point of the device, and the other pair at the top and bottom edges that meet when folded in half.

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The magnets themselves are bar shaped and mounted on an axis that allows them to rotate so that whenever the device is closed the polar opposites will meet and stick to each other. The patent specifically mentions the two halves being able to close with the screen either to the inside or the outside, making rotating magnets a necessity for invisible and reliable closure.

It remains to be seen if this magnetically equipped, folding Microsoft smartphone will ever see the light of day, but don't give up hope yet: The Windows Phone may not truly be dead.

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