Microsoft patents hinge for dual-screen mobile phones, computers

Microsoft are one of the most prolific patent holders in the US. The Redmond firm are well and truly raking it in from licenses relating to the Android OS, and are not shy to slap a patent on just about anything, from augmented reality bananas to emotion sensing smart bras.

Many of these inventions may never see the light of day and are simply intended to fend off rivals, but these latest patents when combined with recent comments from Lumia marketing VP Tuula Rytilä create an intriguing possibility.

"This disclosure relates to hinge mechanisms for mobile electronic devices, such as mobile phones and mobile computers." Conventional hinged mobile electronic devices, such as "flip phones", typically include two body portions or leaves, hinged about a single pivot axis. In the closed position, this single pivot axis is positioned even with the plane of contact between the two leaves. Because of this geometry, the two leaves cannot open 180 degrees and/or the hinge protrudes upward out of the plane with the leaf faces.

Essentially what Microsoft seek to solve with this latest patent is the inability for flip phones to open to a horizontal 180 degree angle without some form of trade-off, like having the hinge protrude out of line with the flat plain created by opening the two halves. Lenovo recently achieved this feat with their Yoga 3 Pro and its unique hinge, pictured in the lead photo for this article.

"Disclosed herein are embodiments of multi-axis hinge mechanisms for mobile electronic devices that allow for at least 180' determinate pivoting motion between two portions of the devices."

Although flip phones feature hardware keyboards in the second portion, the drawings above seem to represent screens pressed against each other. Companies in the Android contingent have toyed with dual-screen phones, but none have thrown their full weight behind this form factor as of yet.

I got to speak with the Lumia marketing VP at Mobile World Congress 2015 a few weeks back as part of a group of fans and tech bloggers. When responding to criticism that Microsoft weren't creating enough differentiation between the low-end and high-end Lumia phones, Tuula praised the innovation of the Surface Pro 3, citing that the Lumia team would look to bring that spirit of invention to future devices.

"When we think about high-end phones, I don't think that a 5-inch rectangle is the end of how we want to work or live when we're mobile and using mobile technology. I think there's a lot of ways we can still innovate and reinvent and for us as a challenger in that space that's what we need to do."

Could these patent drawings represent future Lumia phones? The option for a second screen to display a second app or a larger qwerty keyboard is quite an enticing one. Considering Microsoft's focus on productivity, it seems likely that the chaps at Redmond are at least toying with these sorts of dual screen designs.

Source: US Patents Office

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!

  • Wasn't there a phone like that before
  • Hmm, Kyocera Echo?
  • Kyocera echo yep that's was it
  • When the Echo came out, phones barely had capability to run one display. now that displays are running into quadHD, i think we can have two 1080p displays run smoothly. Its all about timing when the capability is ripe, iphone was a true testament to timing.
  • Kyocera Echo yup that it was
  • nope, Nokia Communicator series (9000, 9110, 9210, 9300, 9500)
  • I think I like this idea better but with Windows 10.
  • Samsung must be scraping the bottom of their marketing budget. o_O Jeez.
  • Hashtag Whoa...
  • Guys, what about dual screen phone with 1 screen being an e-paper display for keyboard ?! Or it would gain Xbox controller-like buttons while in game
  • How about a dual screen phone with one screen can rotate or slide in/out. Main screen doesn't rotate. Second screen can be turned off if you don't use two screens.
  • I would love a dual screen for a dual sim phone with each screen assigned to a sim card. Now that would be just awesome for my personal & business outlook accounts!
  • I agree.
  • Problem with that would be that no US carrier supports duel Sim phones at this moment.
  • How about a dual screen with one screen at home and the other on you?
  • There is a Russian Android phone that already does that.
  • Yotaphone.
  • And Yotaphone 2. Pretty overpriced though.
  • YotaPhone 2 has regular screen on one side and e-ink screen on the other. Not hinged though
  • i dont know about the phone being like this, but microsoft had a concept some thing like this for tabs maybe 4-5yr ago.
  • The Courier was the first thing to come to my mind. I woukd still love to have one.
  • NinPhone DS confirmed
  • Yup
  • Surface Phone? :P Just a thought.
  • A surface phone would be ARM, so a new surface RT?
  • Surface RT is dead...
  • Make it a phone it wouldn't be...
  • Looks like RT phones will never happen. All windows10 for phones will be exactly the same from the cheap crap to the useless phablets. We won't be have a Gnote killer.
  • Useless phablets.... That's dumb.
  • Phablet is dumb.. There's no oficial thing denominating a big smartphone as phablet.. It's a losers thing
  • Gnote made a name for itself and sold well.
  • You mean the term❓
  • You know what I mean...
  • No, that comment was for dude above.
  • The WC app doesn't show who you responding to, which they need to implement. Sorry.
  • I believe the Lumia 1520 was a GNote killer
  • Ummmm not really... I mean, as far as capabilities the 1520 shipped with WP8.0 which was nothing compared to Android at the time.. It had it's advantages over the Note, but overall, unbiased,, the Note prevailed.. Has more productivity apps pre installed, and more apps in general...
    And sales❓ Lets not even go there.... I'm using a 1520 as I type this, and I can't truthfully agree with you..
  • The features were the highlight of the note. Less apps.
  • Exactly....
  • Many features could have gone to the 1520 to make it stand out as one of the best wp phablets but MS would rather have their OS the same across the board. This is the only thing that as a 1520 user makes me upset about: Improved multitasking, well all around music player (Zune as many love to have), robust office, etc.. Some features from windows RT would be nice. Oh well, I could only dream. And of course there is no way I'm migrating to Android, the cluster fuck of an OS that millions love.
  • That millions deal with because they don't know any better....
  • Now if the next generation could have a digitizer, it would be killer...
  • Huhhh❓
  • pressure sensitive stylus, like the note and surface have.
  • We can dream...
  • We wish:)
  • RT❓ Lol.
  • I would rather have them call it a Lumia Pro.
  • I'm good with that- Lumia Pro & ProXL
  • No! Surface sounds a million times better than Lumia anything. I don't really like the name Lumia at all. Microsoft needs a new name for their phones.
  • @Egyptian
    Yea... Even I don't like the name LUMIA, it sounds like some kind of disease.
    I love my 820 though....
  • They want to take on Surface design and innovation, and not on the Brand.
  • So a Nintendo 3DS running Windows
    Edit: Actually, now that I think about it, that doesn't sound like a bad idea
  • Lol! I'd totally buy that.
  • You can with a flash cart well using an emulator
  • Nice
  • The old Courier project....
  • And
  • Interesting!  I just noticed one of the apps on the Courier renderings had the waffle button (for app launchers/tiles) in the top corner, wayy before Google implemented it into their Google Web Apps.  (In case people are wondering who did it first lol)  AND it looks similiar to how it looks on Office Online today.  Very interesting!  Maybe the Courier project is actually living on!
  • That's what I was thinking.
  • Sure hope so. Well back when the courier was killed they said that the hardware was not good enough yet. We sure have powerful enough SoC and storage options by now to bring it back to life.
  • Interesting, it did remind me of it, just smaller. This would be awesome.
  • I could see how they could use it to extend their Surface blade concept.
    When they came out with the Remix Blade, the first thing I thought of was that they were going to expand this by making the blade basically a second screen that could change dynamically depending on what type of app you were in.
  • Really disappointing they never went further with the Blade concept. They seem to have forgotten about it completely since the 3.
  • I want an eReader like this! Paper screen technology with a hinge, allowing me to actually hold a device and read it like a book but with the Kindle app on it. The front screen can show the cover of the book I am reading so when I close it it will still be there =). 
  • That's actually a good idea for Kindle fans. Amazon should have used that concept on their phone to help differentiate themselves from Android
  • Entourage edge or something like exists. I have one. Idk if that is spelled correctly though.
  • Ooh I hope they are either toying with tactus-esque tech, bought them or have done a partnership deal.
  • So, finally a chance at getting back phones that can be used blindly instead of needing to stare at the for even the most basic operations?   Suddenly, I feel hope.
  • We'll see. Microsoft has filed tons of patents that they never used.
  • Mario might go in here.
  • Don't want a second touch screen for keyboard. I want a hardware keyboard!
  • Go blackberry then
  • Indeed the Passport is what you want son.
  • There was a video of a dual screen phone in one of Microsoft's videos 2-3 years ago. It split apart and looked cool as a concept.
  • Yea... It was called COURIER.
  • It will never see the light of day.
  • Of corse it wont Nintendo will probably make a fuss
  • They intended to do this years ago with their Courier phone/tablet. Glad they are coming back to it. I'd buy one. See:
  • One of the older Office future vision videos had a dual screen phone; this is maybe an iteration of that...
  • Nice to see them hard at work on a high end device...
    And, this is a good side effect of MS purchasing Lumia from Nokia... Nokia really had no use for designs like this, but MS does, and can implement a lot of things that Windows, or even Xbox, entails into different smartphone designs..
  • Low-end dual-screen windows phone incoming
  • Yeah... Both screens probably equal to 800x480. Lol.
  • Hahahhaha post of the day!
  • Any of you seen the Nokia Morph concept from years ago? I am still waiting for something like that.
  • Talk about edge...
  • Either way, TAKE MY MONEY!
  • The Courier project lives!!
  • This is cute but can we get a phone with the Surface Pen first, PLEASE?!
  • Please please!
  • That would be nice.
  • Surface Phone!
  • I actually posted a comment or thread piece recently about a keyboard on the phone, I didn't get much love. But I still like the idea of it.
  • Interesting...
  • I'm a little skeptical of this being used on a surface (or surface phone) because I specifically asked Panos last year at one of those MS Store events about a hinge mechanism. He said any hinge design turned out clunky (I think that was the exact word) and he was more confident in the kickstand design. This was before the yoga pro 3, so I'm not sure if the team saw that and thought they could do one better. But from his tone it sounded like they really exhausted any hinge ideas.
  • A stand would also be great
  • I could see the hinge acting as a stand if it's sturdy enough.
  • Forget flagship phones. I need one of those bras, even though with my workouts on my Band, my man boobs have gone from D cup to C.
  • Turning it into reality is a must!
  • Are ≠ Is
  • Wasn't windows 10 for phones supposed to bring "running 2apps at once" multitasking on one screen? Where's that feature? Forget about dual screen and hinges lol. Smh
  • They could still do that though? The added bonus of having two screens is the extra screen space for running two apps, not the CAPABILITY to run two apps. Lol smh
  • Is this the resurrection of courier?
  • Please please please please please make this
  • How does this differ from the hinge on the yoga pro 3?
  • Obviously we want the screens to be borderless and be able to be folded up into a tablet. Which will later be perfected with flexible displays.
  • Imagine a keyboard that can take up that entire second screen, Cortana having that screen all to herself for results and assistance, web browsing with Spartan in desktop mode, and the extension of the multi-screen in Windows 8. Imagine remote desktop and similar apps. Imagine the phone that ONLY the Surface Pro team could build. Bring it!
  • Probably too much to hope for the (re)birth of the Courier. Now that the technology has mostly caught up with the vision, it could be Microsoft's "One more thing..." after announcing the official launch of Windows 10.
  • That would be cool. :)
  • Courier lives!
  • The future success of Lumia hinges on innovation like this... ...Get it? Hinges? No? I'll get my coat.
  • Is the courier making a comeback?
  • I would like to see this give the ability to have a dual sim phones that one screen is Verizon and one is At&t or one is personal and one is work.
  • RIM did the same thing some time in 2013 I think
  • Don't fear proofreading; proofreading is your friend.
  • Just take my money!!!
  • The Yoga 3 sucks btw. They removed the top keyboard row for some unknown idiotic reason.
  • I think this innovation from nokia(microsoft mobile),not from parent company Microsoft.
  • I hope the Courier will make an appearance!
  • Hmmm... I had that idea back in 1989 for tablet/laptop, touch screen on each side. One side could  you could have an ebook, and note taking on the other side with a pen/stylist. Flip it around and one screen would turn into a keyboard. Or just have both sides for reading (like the infamous Courier that never made it). Tried talikng people at MS and Intel about it, they liked the idea, but realized that the technology just didn't exist at that time. I never did follow through with patents or copyrights. I just wanted it to be built by someone. Hopefully it will come, someday. But I have to say, just having a Surface has made me happy to get something close ;)
  • Courier....please be the Courier.
  • Microsoft Courier rose from the dead
  • Microsoft are a bunch of retarded morons. Flexible screen with aspect ratio of 1.4142 is the way to go. They even got the ratio wrong with the surface pro 3.
  • They're bringing back courier
  • Nokia e90. Judging from all the Nintendo DS mentions, most on this forum are young. I miss the e90 to this day. Was my favorite phone. Made in Finland. So advanced for its time. It was bulletproof. Hope the new phone is something similar!
  • Courier Phone
  •   Hell, might as well try. Microsoft doesn't have anything to lose. It might just be the device to finally get WP over the hump in terms of sales so that they start putting up those iphone numbers.
  • Courier :'-(  
  • Man I hope so we need incredible unique hardware to lure ppl to windows and we can deal with the app problem afterwards all hardware companies like apple and google got their start with little to no apps but the hardware is what brought ppl over
  • Flip phone pls. w/Nokia R&D team..
  • Jeeez i was wondering a Phone like that
  • Microsoft courier finally?!
  • This is what 2520 should have been saved for. Dual screen 1520.
  • So... we could use it like a phone, or like a laptop, or like a nintendo DS, or like a vita with the touch screen on the back?  That would be interesting indeed.
  • Hey, Microsoft finally watched the movie 'Her'? 
  • nice idea! good job!
  • Its a Nintendo Game n' Watch! More to the point, give me an AR banana.
  • The MS courier was a dual screen Tablet Microsoft would have brought to market a year after the Apple Ipad #1 came out but it was killed because it did not have good email software and perhaps other issues. Bill Gates did not like it. this caused a very costly delay of microsoft entering the tablet market. for 2 years Microsoft let Android and Apple tablets have no competition untill the Surface computers came out. that hurt them badly.
  • Good observation. Very true.
  • Sounds like a revival of the Courier. I really wanted that.
  • Microsoft Courier? Finally? :-D Look at the Pics and Vides. What do you see? Right. Lots of similarities to todays products. Stylus? Looks like the Surface Pro 1/2 one. Waffle Menu like in office 365? Check. One Note Functionality? etc.
  • Oh yes
  • I always liked the idea of the Courier. One of the main reasons I love my RT is the split screen layout. All of the scenarios described above show the possible variations. Boom - goodbye Apple if that happens.
  • Wow. Looks like we are going to gi back to the past and bring it to the future.
  • Cool.
  • I would rather make it a dual screen slider than a hinge. The second screen would be optional and could be used for the keyboard. Oh screw it make a phone like the HTC Arrive only bigger. You know with a real keyboard and real tactile feedback!
  • 2:10 minute ;)
  • Lets not get ahead of ourselves.  The patent is on a hinge, not a phone or tablet.