Microsoft patent points to a flexible, single-screen folding Surface device

Previous patents relating to Andromeda seem to point to the idea of a dual-panel display that can be folded with a central hinge. However, this new patent has something truly sci-fi futuristic, while offering an incredibly intimate look at the inner workings of the device.

While this doesn't appear to resemble the mythical Surface 'Andromeda' device, it does show that the company is exploring various new form factors relating to folding. The inclusion of a possible USB type C port indicates that this is larger than what rumors tip Andromeda to be, and could represent a new product line entirely for the Surface family.

The heavily detailed patent goes to lengths to explain how the "deformable" fold in this tablet works, which would allow it to be opened or closed, but not reversed, as was expected with Andromeda.

Microsoft describes methods the company is using to prevent "crimping" damage to the folding display, reducing stress as its folded and unfolded from repeated use. Without the assembly at the fold, Microsoft notes that the middle portion of the device might feel, and I quote, "mushy," while elaborating on how they intend to solve these hurdles.

While this patent is quite a departure from some of the other Andromeda schematics we've seen recently, it does resemble some of the earlier designs Microsoft was exploring for foldable devices.

As usual, patents don't necessarily translate into products on store shelves, so taper expectations, but it's interesting how far along Microsoft seems to be with some of the intricacies of folding displays. Perhaps the Surface Go 2 will differentiate itself further from its bigger brothers by becoming foldable in the future.

Related: Everything we know about Surface "Andromeda"

Thanks for the tip, Steven!

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I am so ready for this device. Day one purchase for me. Please happen!
  • What are you ready for exactly? You don't know what the device is or does yet.
  • I'm sure he has an idea of what he feels this device will be like. Obviously no guarantee, but an educated guess...
  • It's great to see these designs ...hope they'd turn it into real products!
    btw, why no article about Msft open sourcing 60k patents that help linux yet?...that's major news in my opinion.
  • why no article about Msft open sourcing 60k patents that help linux
    We wrote it up yesterday.
  • thanks, I missed it! btw, it was great to see you on TWIT... typically Leo & crew spend most of the show talking about "the dongle company", Google and Amazon :) It was great to hear what's going in the microsoft world!
  • Dual screen is cool, but 1 screen is totally fine too. As long as it's a full Win10 PC and I can dock it on my gamepad for XPA.
  • Not sure if a "full Win10 PC" is marketable. How many people are buying Windows 8" tablets? What I assume this will be will be Core OS with some aspects of W10. In fact I would assume a ARM device and, at best, a Win32 hyper layer for those occasional 32bit needed apps.
  • Does Win8 tablet run XPA? It's not even running the same UWP we run today. Current WoA or Core version, whichever. As long as it runs the same code/UWP we run on our Win10 PC, or else, Windows Phone all again... then... It's destined to fail. Why code and QA twice (4 times if you include Android and iOS)? Makes no sense for a programmer. Win32 is only necessary if you are a creator e.g. want to do some light Photoshop on the go. Light app programming or new game programming concept /or tech experiments... sure, so some quick work while waiting?
    But for a slightly serious work, unless you carry a bigger screen and KB, might as well just do it on a Pro or Go. My main usage for this device will be
    1. XPA
    2. OneDrive on Demand
    3. Light photoshop (there are some alternatives on the store)
    4. pen for draft and note taking
    5. news, email, msg and other standard stuffs. I'll throw away my Nexus immediately if 1~5 is fulfilled. Lastly and honestly, I don't want any Win32 on this thing if there's an UWP (ARM64) alternative.
    1. Don't want garbage in he system.
    2. don't want separate updater running in the background.
    3. want no emulation.
  • The market already proved that there's no place for Windows in mobile devices (tablets/phones) as no one wanted or needed it.
  • Hmm you must be a an Apple or Android troll Microsoft is selling enough
    Surface Pro Tablets/Laptops hybrids & Surface book Laptop/Tablet hybrids
    to make it a Billion Dollar business so saying that Microsoft failed at
    Tablet/Hybrids is not a correct statement. True 8 inch windows 10 Tablets
    have not been the best sellers but the ANDROMEDA device will be a
    different type device whose impact is yet to be seen
    Microsoft had been reported to want to sell a limited amount of
    Andromeda devices because it knows it's a niche Product that mat not
    sell as well as other devices
  • I said tablets/phones. Surface devices are PC's.
  • And this will probably be that too, in some sense at least.
  • Yeah, and the Newton demonstrated to Lord Gawd Jobs that pads and handwriting recognition were evil machinations of Satan/Scully/MS/Anybody and there was no market for them, and the Fanbois rejoiced. And, verily, Apple found a way to over-charge for them and the Fanbois erected the Temple of iPad and worshipped what Lord Gawd Jobs sent down to them as Newly Revised and Edited Holy Revelation. And, once again, the Fanbois and Sheeple rejoiced. Can't wait for the New Testament of Apple where we find out touch screens were sacred all along, too.
  • Guess it will be Andromeda 2, not Go 2. Looks great!
  • That's a bad dimension for a screen. And I feel confident the screen will not survive actual use. Depending on the size, where would you actually carry it? <rhetorical question>
  • So you think it'll be larger than 6.5 inches folded? Because people are carrying 6.5 inch phones in their pockets everyday.
  • Just because people are carrying oversized phones doesn't mean they are great. It just means they are carrying oversized phones that look cumbersome to carry around. But to each their own. I can't wait for the trend to reverse. Can't stand those oversized phones. So 1980's and 1990's.
  • The Andromeda device is not a Smart phone it's an exotic shaped PC
    that has a built in Cell phone for those who want to use it
  • You know something that no one else is expecting?
  • I don't think the aspect ratio of the diagram pictured is what's important here. I think the main purpose of the diagram is to show how the parts would work, not that its an actual device at that aspect ratio...
  • From what I can see, this patent has nothing to do with dimensions.
  • I have concerns about a screen that bends too. The feel and the durability for an item that bends would need to be some new composite material. Maybe some transparent Carbine fiber composite? Or transparent Aluminum composite? If they can pull of a glass like hardness with the flexibility of plastics that has a high resilience to material fatigue it could be done. The do have a challenge to overcome here. Microsoft has had a focus on new Materials with the surface line. It may be this mechanical and new composite that get the job done.
  • That's what I want out of this device! I don't want a two screen device, I want a phone-sized screen that unfolds into a tablet-sized one. No creases in the middle of the screen messing up pen input...just one beautiful flexible screen!
  • This! A two-screen device will HAVE to overcome the crease-issue...
  • Listening to twit I found out that this prototype already exists and Microsoft planned to show it off at the recent event but held off. I'm pretty pumped for it. I'm really to replace my smartphone with a better device.
  • Blackberry Passport! x2 How successful had that form factor been, remind me please?
  • I believe you're talking about a smartphone? Wrong discussion - we're talking about a different type of device.
  • Would love to see this device... yesterday! My lumia finally died last weekend. Black screen of death. Gave in and purchased an Android based Honor 7x. Nice phone actually. And affordable for its specs. Sad part is that I am a UWP dev with an app on the M$ store. And no longer have a phone to run my own app!!! Arg!!!!! Microsoft has undermined the efforts of us UWP devs. It’s shameful really. :0(
  • So you don't have a Windows PC? what is your app? I wanna try it out.
  • Uhm, then get an used one for 30 bucks? Or ask a friend who doesn't use his anymore?
  • Ooooooh… I wonder if these will be handed out to everyone that attends Build 2019? Or will they each only be getting the new HoloLens? :)
  • The days of them handing out expensive gifts at Build are over. But frankly I think it has less to do with the hardware and more to do with the OS that we will not see this till at least next year.
  • Surface SiFi at work!
  • «The inclusion of a possible USB type C port indicates that this is larger than what rumors tip Andromeda» -- I completely don't understand the connection here. Why can't a smaller device not include USB-C? I even remember a parent from MS that showed how to bury the port in smaller/flatter devices.
  • I am not sold on a solid flex screen yet. This is if the material is like that of the old plastic touch screens. I would rather have the glass two screens than a bad feeling one screen. I will be interested to see how they deal with this.
  • Tried to edit but, it will not let me so here I go again. Here is hopping that they have a new transparent composite (carbine fiber / Metal / Glass) the together with this mechanical patent would allow the screen to fold, but avoid material fatigue . Given that Microsoft has been working with new to computer materials (magnesium, Alcantara) do they have a new material that feels hard/smooth like glass that can bend like plastic? I would love a one screen that does not have the draw backs of "mush" and "creases". Although I would rather have two screens with a split over the one with "mush" and "creases" plastic feel.
  • Would be cool if they go for e.g. a bezeless 6 inch phone-like screen size x 2, that would folded still perfectly fit in a pocket while unfolded being able to offer an Ipad Mini like screen size (~8 inch 4:3).
  • A device that does "everything" but is good at none of those things.
  • As long as it can be pocketable.
  • If they use it for a phone and I'll be interested in seeing it but I won't buy anymore MS phones nor will I recommend them to any customer unless they specifically ask for an MS phone.
  • Throw in the dynamic touchscreen and they're onto a winner here. Chuck in Esim (I hope they throw in a sim slot as well, as esim is not mainstream yet and it would be easier to shoehorn in dual LTE sim capabilities).
  • I am Glad to see that Microsoft is still working on the Andromeda device. I think
    it will be an exotic shaped folding Mini PC that has a built in Cell phone
    Microsoft's CEO Nadella did say we will make phones but they wont be like any
    out there today. Not everybody will buy one but I think enough Andromeda devices
    will be sold on a World wide basis for them to remain a Surface product
    for years to come
  • A surface phone on the way? Great.
    Microsoft please make the phone for a few us that want to use your device. Most people will complain about one thing or the other, just learn from how apple handled complains from users, when they removed earphone jack, fingerprint scanner. Apple ignored them and went ahead with their plans.
    Listening to users complains is good, but some complains are from your competitors, they are made to discourage you and bring down the product.
    Know your customers, and don’t always give up easily on your products because of complains, you could have easily continued with newer products and improved on them rather than starting afresh with a surface phone. Trust me, a few of us are eager for a new windows phone. Just make it for the few of us that always prefer windows phone. Remember it is for a few of us, just like the days of window mobile, in the era of Symbian. Window mobile was for a few people, while Symbian phones reigned as king.
  • wait is it detachable and the other screen can be folded again? thats 3-fold surface. wow
  • Looks like a different take on a Surface Book hinge to avoid as much screen fold-radius-fatigue as possible.
  • Fascinating. Far more detail than what we're getting from Samsung, as far as we know.