We know that Samsung is exploring the idea of phones with rollable displays – it's already teased the technology – but it looks as though transparent screens could also be in the mix for future handsets, according to newly uncovered documents.
SamMobile has spotted an application Samsung has made to the WIPO – the World Intellectual Property Organization – which outlines a handset that not only features a rollable display but also has a transparent section embedded in said screen.
Two different designs are included in the application, but they both illustrate a section of the phone screen that extends from the main display, and which is see-through. It looks as though the opaqueness of this extended section will be adjustable too.
Augment your reality
There's one area where this type of technology would be really useful, as mentioned in the documents: augmented reality. The extended section of display could show digital objects while everything in the real world remains visible as well.
So, for example, if you're hunting down targets in an augmented reality game, they should be easier to see in physical space. It might also make it easier to text while walking without ending up colliding with a tree or another pedestrian.
As ever with these types of applications, it's no guarantee that this kind of technology will ever appear in an actual smartphone – but it gives us some idea of what the engineers at Samsung are exploring, and what we might see in future devices.
Analysis: display innovation continues
We've got foldable phones to thank for the most noticeable innovations in smartphone technology in recent years. While everything else that makes up a smartphone remains largely unchanged, except for minor year-on-year upgrades, the displays are where the real differences are starting to appear.
As handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 show, having a screen that bends in the middle can open up a variety of new options for a smartphone – whether that's ending a call with a snap of the phone or having two apps up on screen side by side.
Putting together these next-gen screens isn't all that straightforward, but Samsung and other manufacturers are improving the display technology all the time. It seems likely that we'll see both a foldable Pixel phone from Google and a foldable iPhone from Apple in the not-too-distant future.
Now it would appear that we can add transparent (or partially transparent) displays to our list of future technologies to watch out for, as well as foldable and rollable screens. With ongoing upgrades in other areas as well, including augmented reality software, there's lots to look forward to.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.