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Yet another foldable device patent appears online from Microsoft

This past year, Microsoft has filed several patents that evolve around foldable devices, and today, yet another patent has appeared online giving us possibly our best look yet at what a potential foldable handset from Microsoft could look like.

The patent is for a "Portable device with adjustable optical arrangement" and looks to be a way to solve having two optical arrangements on a single device that can then line up when closed, possibly acting as a way to compensate for thin displays resulting in small cameras. By stacking the two displays back to back the optical arrangement can in effect double in size.

The complexity and adjustability of the optical arrangement may be limited by the space available in the device. In particular, the thickness of the device is often limited, allowing a strictly limited thickness or length of the optical arrangement only. This may be the case, for example, in foldable devices where the maximum thickness of each portion of the device is restricted by the maximum allowable overall thickness of the device in its folded position.

We already know that Microsoft is internally prototyping a foldable device with a focus on pen and digital inking. It is widely believed that this device is codenamed Andromeda, and will be similar to that of the Microsoft Courier but in a smaller, pocket-able form factor.

Sources suggest this device will be the first to ship with a version of Windows 10 that features CShell and built with Windows Core OS, and may utilize a dual-screen system. The patent revealed today appears to show a dual-screen device that folds into a smartphone-like form factor.

Of course, patents aren't always representative of what the final shipping product may look like, and Microsoft may decide to cancel its plans to release a foldable device at any time. If such device doesn't get canceled however, we hear it may make an appearance as soon as next year.

Why Microsoft could very well revive the Courier in 2018

You can see the full patent here (warning: PDF).

What are your thoughts on Microsoft's foldable device plans? Let us know in the comments!

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

186 Comments
  • I hope that the speculation is correct. This would be a great reveal for CES.
  • If it's a Surface product, they'll likely wait until BUILD to reveal it.
  • Build? Why Build? MS usually has separate Surface events held in New York.
  • @rodneyej True, but I meant to say BUILD would be more likely than CES. You are correct, Microsoft would probably hold a separate Surface event for such a large announcement.
  • 😆😆😆😆😏
  • There will be nothing at CES. Microsoft hasn't been at CES in many years.
  • There will be nothing outside of build either and by the time they announce the so called surface arm device with telephony, Android OEM's will have captured that segment of the market and Microsoft will be in the same situation they're in now; last place and out of the game! Thanks Satya!
  • Lol. How can they capture that segment without Windows?.... They can't.
  • CES is in 5 weeks... You can forget that.
  • Man, excuse me if I'm insulting you, because I don't know you, but are you retarded? Do you really believe that Microsoft will unveil probably the most anticipated flagship consumer hardware product of theirs on an event different from a dedicated one that is only theirs?
  • Wow!... We save those type of insults for only the few pathetic trolls on the site. Chillz, man. Lol
  • Speculation. That's all we WP fans have. Everything including Surface phone cancelled or vaporware, yet now we are expected to believe the Courier has done a Lazarus. It's such a hard road to follow being a fan of anything MS is involved with. No point being interested in this, seeing is believing.  
  • Surface Phone canceled? Vaporware?... Huh? It was never reality, as far as we know. Your comment doesn't mean anything.
  • Supposedly they cancelled a Surface phone a couple years ago. I think that is what he referenced.
  • I think something that was never a reality would classify as Vaporware.  Am I right?
  • Build it, and they will come :)
  • Looks as though it has some type of dual facing camera system for the FFC & RFC.
  • Microsoft will release this after Samsung has started making versions 4 or 5 of a similar device.🙄
  • But thats not certain 
  • Possibly... The problem is that Samsung's device will most likely run Android, which will make it just a glorified smartphone.
    ..............
    Now, if Samsung releases a similar device running Windows OA that's a win for MS, and thier upcoming device.... Either way, an Ultramoble Surface device will be tops. Tops.
  • So Microsoft's will only be good when attached to an external monitor and running legacy Windows programs. Samsung's will be better at all other times.
  • Haha, So you still have no clue. Come on, you can do better.
  • Of course a pathetic troll wouldn't realize that Samsung couldn't build a similar device without Windows,, unless they used OSX😆..... Because, iDroid wouldn't even count. SMDH. Only a dumb ass child would even think to compare Android to Windows.
  • This would be a small touch screen device and Microsoft doesn't have the software to support such a device. Not at all. It will not have apps and they certainly haven't been putting effort into getting apps on Windows. Any touch device that can fit in your pocket will be useless with Windows. If you want the "Ultimate Mobile Device" then duct tape a compute stick to an iPhone X.
  • What do you think UWP is for?
  • Who are you replying to?
  • Microsoft have advantages in foldable phone because of windows.if Samsung made foldable phone will run on android,so it will be smartphone and tablet .if Microsoft will made foldable device it will be phone also it can run win 32 pc apps and software's
  • No, an MS device will be a full PC (Continuum style), a tablet and a not-phone. It certainly won't be a phone as they've pulled out of the phone market. 2018 will be the year the mobile phone gets replaced by the new not-phones if MS do this right. I mean, OK, so I don't actually understand what a not-phone is, but that's what MS are pushing and I'm keen to find out.
  • I don't agree with that either.. This device wouldn't be here to replace, or compete with, iDroid devices. Smartphones aren't going anywhere. This device would be just another PC form factor to choose from, although many may find it's portability, and telephony, a plus... But, like every PC form factor, this specific PC might not (initially) be for everyone.. Smartphones, we can all agree, are for everyone.... I don't see why you guys have such a hard time dropping the comparisons.
  • Semantics. Just because Microsoft doesn't call it a phone, doesn't mean it isn't a phone and doesn't mean it won't have to compete with iPhone or Android. A ~6" touchscreen device, whether it folds or not, will be seen as a modern phone and will be expected to have an experience similar to modern phones. This is the same argument Nokia made. They couldn't compete with iPhone and Android so they adopted Windows phone. That didn't change the fact they still had to compete with Android and iPhone. Microsoft cannot provide that experience. This will be another flop because they have not put in the effort required to make the platform viable. Their chance with UWP ended as soon as they stopped making small touchscreen devices.
  • "2018 will be the year the mobile phone gets replaced"..... Hahahahahahahaha, that right there is the most ridiculous statement ever, you win, lol
  • I don't care if they don't want to call it a phone as long as I can put a SIM card in and make calls I'll be fine :-)
  • eSIM..no SIM Card..my speculation
  • Well, kinda... The device would be a PC, that just happened to have telephony.
    ......
    Android, and iOS, have TOTALLY NOTHING to do with the discussion.
  • You and Microsoft can say that all day, but it will still be on a shelf next to iPhone and Galaxy. Consumers will see them just the same. Small mobile touchscreen devices that make phone calls and compute. Semantics won't win the war. Great devices and experiences will. Microsoft hasn't been building the experiences needed for such a device. They abandoned that experience.
  • No it's not going to be on the shelf next to the Iphone and Galaxy. It will be much more likely next to the IPAD & Galaxy Tablets if anything. This device is more a tablet comparision than a phone.
  • It will rather be next to other Surface devices and 2-in-1 PC's. Will be marketed as a pocket PC with phone capabilities.  
  • And pay royalties to Microsoft for use of their patents?
  • Samsung has foldable device patents too. They are supposed to be releasing a Galaxy X that's foldable.
  • ZTE already did it with Axon M.
  • And Kyocera did it years ago too.
  • And Apple will release it in 5 years time and claim it as a world first.......
  • Ms Surface Courier. Trust Me.
  • Scribe
  • Scribe sounds like the you're a servant, not the Boss.
  • Kinda does... You're right. Still... Scribe
  • lol
  • MS Pocklet.....pocket tablet..... Ok, I will stop now....
  • They should just call it the Surface not-Phone and have done with it. That way people won't get confused and start thinking it's competing with mobile phones.
  • Nice one.
  • 😂😂😂😂
  • MS Surface Note. Trust me :)
  • That would be so damn cliché, and misleading, especially since Note is HIGHLY associated with smartphones... How about NO??
  • Let's see what Panos and his team(s) do with it. I'm sure it'll look amazing.
  • I don't share your confidence in the least.  I haven't heard of any viable technology in existence that would make ANY folding screen acceptable. That is a pig that nobody can put lipstick on.
  • @scubadog might just be lack of vision on your part. But let's wait and see.
  • Scubadog? Lack of vision? Not open minded? Not accepting of change?...... Nawwww, you don't say.
  • Might be he's sick of the never ending BS that flows like a river here. Fk me, how can anyone not be jaded where MS products are concerned. Time for everyone concerned to put up or shut up.
  • You haven't heard of it so it doesn't exist huh?
  • In may +/- 1968 you would have probably said "there is no way mankind will stand upon the moon anytime soon the technology simply isn't there"
  • NASA's working on this? Wow.
  • Bring it on! my wallet is waiting.
  • Is your wallet vibrating in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
  • Lmao. Sorry rodneyej, neither my wallet or I swing that way haha.  
  • NOT your lucky day then💜💜💜
  • Suits me just fine, so yeah I'll pass haha.
  • 😒😒😒😒
  • I am rocking a cracked 830 for 6 months. I have been waiting. My body and wallet are ready as well
  • Lol😂😂😂 Really, man.. Just get an Android device, or even dare I say an iPhone😣 It's not the end of the world.
  • Surface Studio patents were pretty spot on
  • First ignorant troll comment will be "I don't see what this offers different than a smartphone"
    ..........
    Second ignorant troll comment will be "but it has no apps"
  • What, in particular, would be ignorant about those statements?  Looking at the drawing, I would have to agree with the first question right off the bat.  It doesn't bring anything new to the table and, I would argue, makes the user experience far worse.  And, since we don't know what OS it would use, it couldn't actually have any apps tied to it yet.
  • ScubaDog, I agree!  As I have repeatedly said, what moves people off of what they currently have - a smartphone & a laptop.  Maybe it is not, "How is this different than a smartphone?" but it is the question - "Why would folks carry this over what they currently have or with what they currently have?" And the apps question is relevant.  Apps became important because of User Interface issues with small screens.  If people don't want a text based input device (keyboard) or pointing device (mouse) then you have to adjust the UI so that those things aren't required.  I know that everyone who does any inking is on this site and they are going to say that they digital ink their spreadsheets.  Sorry to tell you but the rest of the world uses text based input devices and pointing devices to do lots of heavy lifting when interacting with a UI.  Apps guide the user with a much more limited set of possible interactions.  So that is why apps are important. If inking is going to take over, then it has to be more efficient and effective than what we currently have.  I'm sorry but for most folks, inking just isn't there. This is also being touted as a digital moleskine.  That sounds like a consumer focused product and the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team doesn't have a good track record with consumers.  The barrier to entry by iOS or Android isn't too great and the consumer thinks those OS's will be supported. Beyond that, what is the business case for someone to switch from carrying a smartphone & laptop?  Will people now carry 3 devices with different data plans for each?  Do folks think that this mytical unicorn device will supplant the smartphone (even though it will be marketed as not being a smartphone replacement) AND the laptop?  It might be able to supplant the laptop but then folks will need to carry additional devices for text entry and pointing. Look, it sounds cool!  But where does the benefit come in that makes people either drop a device(s) or carry a third?
  • The Microsoft Unicorn. I like it 👍🏻
  • 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😁😂
    What's even more funny is that the trolls are always so damn predictable.
  • It runs Windows.
  • HUGE difference....
  • I don't see what this offers different than a smartphone. It has no apps. Just thought I'd get them out of the way so the real discussions can begin. ;) Personally, I like the idea of a foldable device. As a web and graphic designer, being able to take my ONE device with me in my pocket so I can work anywhere without having to deal with a smartphone screen would be amazing. 
  • Will a smartphone that unfolds to have an ~8" screen and no keyboard be sufficient to replace your laptop?
  • Might be, yes. It wouldn't replace my works laptop, but may well replace my own.
  • If it's running Windows 10, yes it would, as all of the software I use each day is readily available and powerful. I've been able to do quite a bit using my laptop with its touch screen (though even more so with an added keyboard). Now, should one of the halves of the device here allow for a touch keyboard while the other half is the screen, that would be most ideal (essentially a smaller laptop that could make and recieve calls). This wouldn't be good for the graphic design part, but would work for the web design. Otherwise, it wouldn't be terrible to keep a USB keyboard and mouse (which are not expensive) in places where i might need them most (home, office, car). I already have them laying around anyway. Right now, I'm using a desktop PC + Laptop PC + Android smartphone in my day to day life (and the only legit work I can do on my smartphone is some social networking). Having all three of those devices in one core device would be fantastic.
  • Salty trolls who unnecessarily feel that thier Android devices might be threatened by this don't get what you just typed... Exactly!
  • You forgot, "Nadella will cancel this before it releases"...
  • Yes that is a risk. If he thinks there's any consumer interest he may well start 'focusing' on it which would eventually kill the project. The key thing here is to sound doubtful and make sure you tell everyone you know not to buy it unless they're enterprise customers. That way Ol' Nads'll hopefully get distracted with his new 'focus' on Xbox (goodbye Xbox, sigh...) and might just let this slip through the net. This is why we need Bleached and pals. If it wasn't for them, we'd not have even got this far.
  • Just because they may have a different opinion to you doesn't make them an ignorant troll, that makes them different.
  • No.... They're ignorant trolls. There's no doubt about that.
    .........
    But, yes I agree, they are definitely different.
  • Who wants to bet Satya Nadella will cancel this device?
  • From what's going on at MS now,,, Satya Nadella would be behind this device, if we're seeing continued development on it.
  • You forgot the third troll comment ;-)
  • Right.. 😄😄😄😄
  • Looks like it doesn't have a seamless join when folded into a tablet. That's awful.
  • Just another idiotic design idea.  Yes, I definitel want a display with a big PART down the middle of it.  Idiots.
  • U are the idiot for thinking that this patent is final. Kinda hilarious idiotic
  • Lol... 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
  • How's the trolling going these days?
  • I use dual monitors every day.  Yes there is a bezzel line down the middle.  It is not something that bothers me too much.  The advantage of dual screens far outweighs any line.  Also keep in mind that the drawing is rough.  The finished product will differ from the drawing.  However the drawing does hint at a bezzeless seam.
  • Your monitors aren't 6" screens. Big difference.
  • They had another design concept that showed light waveguides to make the two screens meet at the join without having to extend the delicate LCD to the edge of the device.
    Remember this patent is about the optics for the back camera, each patent protects one piece of the final device.
  • ScubaDog, you clearly don't know what you are reading/looking at. Let me break it down: The patent is for stacking two cameras together because putting a good, or complex optical arrangement into a thin display is not possible. By dividing the camera up, it can function as a single camera when opened, but increase its functionality when closed. The patent is not for the hinge. In fact, the hinge/dual display design is not part of the patent, it's for show purposes only. This could be used for phones, tablets, or even folding laptops where the display flips back. From the patent:
    "A portable device is disclosed which may be, for example, a laptop computer or any type of mobile device such as a mobile phone, a smart phone, a tablet computer, or a digital compact camera."
    So, please learn to read these things more carefully before labeling people "idiots" as you're the only one coming off here as lacking insight, not Microsoft.
  • The tiniest variation in the hinge alignment (as per daily use) would render the setup useless. MS better have a bullit-proof hinge design!
  • So you're say the whole thing"hinges" in it?
  • An interesting side fact...looking at the designers/inventors on the patent forms, they're all Nokia guys.....at least according tho thier linkedin profiles And Nokia absolutely knew how to nail mobile camera technology. The 1020 was the pinnacle of great camera tecnology on a mobile device. With those guys involved anyting is possible
  • Yeah, "Scubadog".... Lol
  • Shick Shick,BOOM
  • Who says this will be the final design?
  • Ever use 2 monitors? Do you actually know what the hinge will look like?  Did you realize foldable screens are a thing? Typical ScubaDog, no research.
  • You underestimate the eye's capabilities of correcting for these kind of intermittent objects in the eye's "sight area"
  • My concern, and I WANT ONE lots, is that what fools the eye won't fool the finger. Dual touch is a bigger problem than dual display I think.
  • Both patents mention separate optical units (not imaging sensors, just lens) in the 2nd screen that work when combined with the imaging sensors in the 1st screen. Interesting way to improve a mobile camera when generally they are limited by how little space they have for lens. :D
  • Sounds like what i was thinking.. When folded it has much more lens area to focus with??. Some **** like that.
    .........
    Either way, I'm glad to see that Camera technology is a concern.
  • Interesting as this one looks like it folds with the screens on the outside.
  • Ignore the folding part, not part of the patent. It's about the optical sensors/arrangement.
  • Ah, my bad - my inner geek got excited by the pictures
  • There will be 4 (yes four) screens on the MS Surface Courier. Trust Me.
  • The patent is focused on optical (camera) stacked arrangement, but variation sketches show the application of it for two separate screens, sliding screens as well as continuous screens...
  • MS is like a mad scientist.  Innovating but not executing fully.... I really hope this turns out....but not like a Zune. Go MS!
  • It better be available globally too... Zune flopped because no one could buy it unless you flew to the US...
  • Dont see y it wud change suddenly.
  • Cortana, Bing... More of the same. MS simply never learns...
  • Stay tunned....building a zune moto mod as soon as I can score my 3d Printer.
  • If it is truly a good product, it wouldn't matter. It will be successful in the launch markets and grow into others. It must be really expensive to launch a product in multiple markets so you are taking a bigger risk if it fails. If a product fails in the most lucrative markets, what is the chance it will work elsewhere? Why take that risk?
  • Easy on Zune, it brought about Metro UI, which is now in and on everything! Microsoft should have gotten credit for a more simplified experience with UI's
  • If it were not for Zune metro UI would not be anywhere in the market, Microsoft made it work and doesnt get credit that UI that is on almost all digital UI's.
  • Interesting images. Shows a normal camera augmented by a zoom lense when folded. I like the concept, as optical zoom is lacking in todays smart phones. Looking at the patent document shows more zoom options, even adjustable optical zoom seem possible.
  • Why a warning about it being a PDF? PDF is the best format out there for reading documents- even better than reading a webpage.
  • Vapourware
  • You said the same a couple of days ago about WOA .......
  • WoA is still vapourware. Those devices are months away. It is very unlikely, but they still can be cancelled.
  • These trolls are hilarious. Ignore their childishness..
  • No kidding. Like Asus, Hp, and Qualcomm just held one of the biggest tech event to show a vaporware.
  • With Day Planner software this could be the best thing ever. Every lady that I know carries some sort of a day planner and they grouse about having to move their data every year. Team up with Franklin or Day Timer and you will never be able to keep them in stock
  • Just build it already
  • Who cares? Microsoft is dying.
  • What? They're posting record quarters. The share price is sky high. They're launching new products 2-3 times a year. What are you on about?
  • Hate
  • 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
    Dying???😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆
    MS?😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 You cra cra. SMDH 🙄
  • If this lands in 2018 I'm literally going to camp out at a store to get one. It'll be the most exciting thing to happen in the mobile sector for at least 5 years.   
  • I concur but would refine at least "15 years"