Microsoft could be working on a phone which takes the Surface Duo (pictured above) concept a little further, adding a third screen into the mix – although that extra display will be a very small affair which is present on the hinge of the device.
This potential new piece of hardware is documented in a patent filed by Microsoft which was spotted at Free Patents Online [PDF] (by Windows Latest), which describes a device having a ‘screen region’ on the hinge.
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So, as mentioned, the basic concept is a dual-screen device which folds via a hinge mechanism, with the third display on the hinge, being capable of displaying all sorts of information depending on the state of the device.
For example, if the dual-screen device is closed, notifications or missed calls could be displayed on the outside of the hinge (perhaps using specifically colored patterns to indicate these things at a glance). Or if both main displays are folded back-to-back, or in tent mode, the hinge could display info relevant to another app running on the screen which can’t be seen by the user in that configuration.
One potential operation describes having separate apps running on the first and second main displays, with a gesture to the third (hinge) display facilitating switching between playing the audio of the first and second apps.
And if the user has the dual-screen device open, using both main displays together, the third hinge-based screen could simply be employed as part of one single continuous display. So if you’re looking at a photo, for instance, that image will run across the first, second and third screens to form a full picture.
Obviously the third mini-display could also be used to reduce any interface clutter on one of the main screens, by hosting commonly used UI buttons, to get them out of the way. It could also display the name of a movie currently playing, or a song name if audio is playing, and so forth.
Essentially, all manner of tricks might be possible with this small third display on the hinge, in terms of it detecting the current configuration of the device, and intelligently lending relevant support or information to the user based on what they are actually doing at the time.
Whether Microsoft will actually ever make a dual-screen device with a third screen embedded in the hinge is anyone’s guess, though. Just because research and development has been exploring the idea doesn’t mean that any such piece of hardware will ever make it past the drawing board, testing or prototype stages.
Still, it’s always interesting to see what might be in the pipeline from Microsoft, and the company is clearly still looking at ways to make mobile computing more innovative beyond the likes of Surface Duo.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).