Samsung's rumored tri-fold phone could offer even more screen space

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, with one hinge. (Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

Handsets like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 show that Samsung has mastered the art of making folding smartphones, and it now seems ready to add another fold to the mix, based on a recently published patent.

As spotted by LetsGoDigital, the patent outlines a device with three separate display parts that combine to form one giant screen. The device folds up in  Z shape, so when everything is closed up, one display panel is still visible as a screen.

To make this work, Samsung is using two different hinges, as the documentation shows: one folds inwards, as on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, and one folds outwards, as we saw with the Huawei Mate X (where the main screen stays on the outside of the phone).

Samsung tri-fold patent

(Image credit: Samsung / WIPO / LetsGoDigital)

All in the details

This isn't the first time that we've heard about a tri-folding phone from Samsung: you may remember that Samsung's plans were first revealed by a tipster back in April, although there wasn't much in the way of supporting information then.

This new patent application gives us much more detail about the device, right down to the positioning of the circuit boards and the fingerprint sensor embedded in one of the screen panels. There's also a triple-lens rear camera positioned on the back.

Samsung has even found room for a HDMI connector as well as a USB-C port, though the usual caveat about patents applies – these filings show design ideas, and don't always end up being converted into actual products that go on sale to consumers.

Analysis: Samsung is ready to experiment

Motorola Razr 2020

Another foldable form factor, modeled by the Motorola Razr. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Samsung has never been shy about trying new ideas with its phones, whether that's adding a stylus or making use of a folding screen. It tends to be one of the first manufacturers to embrace new technologies such as under-display cameras.

The electronics giant is already the best in the business at making foldable phones, and the new patent that we've seen suggests that there's plenty more to come . Adding another hinge brings with it a whole host of extra engineering challenges – but Samsung doesn't seem to be daunted by that.

Only a few days ago we saw another Samsung patent that hinted at another innovative form factor: a device that combined a foldable screen with a rollable one, so the display stretches to expand as well as coming with a hinge. It's clear that there are a lot of ideas floating around the Samsung teams right now.

Tri-fold smartphones have already appeared on the scene, but only in prototype form so far. When one will actually goes on sale remains to be seen, but Samsung could possibly debut something alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in mid-2022.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

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.