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Samsung thinks foldable phones are the new flip phones

A patent application gives us a good look at the company's plans for a foldable smartphone.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Now Playing: Watch this: This Samsung foldable phone may become reality in February
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The rendering shows a hinge on the back of the device, which gives the phone an axis to fold on.

Samsung

When folded, the phone resembles a Microsoft Surface Book. Note the small gap.

Samsung

The next-generation flip phone could be foldable.

A Samsung patent application was recently published (original, in Korean) and shows renderings of a phone that folds in half down its middle.

The company is expected to release a bendable smartphone next year, according to reports. We don't know for certain whether this patent application would tie in to those alleged devices -- or ever be used at all -- but it looks plausible at least.

This type of design could lead to a smartphone with many interesting features. Bending a phone in half makes it easier to carry around, and the phone's inwardly curved design could comfortably hug your cheek.

Samsung has experimented with flexible screens for a long time. While the Galaxy Edge line technically incorporates a flexible screen beneath a rigid body (you can't bend it yourself), Samsung also wants to produce a phone that you can repeatedly bend or even fold.

This isn't the first patent-related renderings we've seen with foldable screens, either. A Samsung patent filing from last year showed design concepts for not only foldable smartphones, but also ones that can be rolled up like a scroll.

Bendable, foldable and rollable phones present technical hurdles. Not only does the screen itself have to move without breaking or wearing, but the stuff inside has to as well, or at least be placed in an area where it won't get harmed. When's the last time you saw a bendable battery?

So the question isn't whether Samsung is working on foldable phones, but how long we have to wait until they're ready for show-and-tell.

Samsung said it would not comment on rumors or speculation.

This Samsung foldable phone may become reality in February (CNET Update report)