Mobile phone makers typically keep their cards close to their chests when it comes to new designs and models, but the cat can get let out of the bag if said designs require a patent to be filed.
This is what seems to have happened to Microsoft, which recently sent a patent filing to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that went on to get seen by eagle-eyed tech enthusiasts.
Excitingly, the patent suggests the company is working on a new device with a dual-screen foldable display that could revolutionise not just the smartphone market but that for mobile devices in general.
Microsoft had to send illustrations in with its application – and they're now all over the internet for everyone and their mother to pore over. The filing would seem to reveal that the folding mechanism for the two separate screens will be operated by a free-stop 360-degree hinge that sits flat in the hand rather than protruding.
This would mean that the phone's two screens could be unfolded at any increment of that 360-degree angle while still remaining upright, allowing the device to be used flat; like a laptop; like a tent, or anything in between.
The device was labelled “Andromeda” and was billed as Microsoft's solution to the issue of phones getting bigger and bigger again. The company pointed out that once bezel-less smartphones have been done, there will be little room for improvement in terms of screens without making the devices themselves larger.
“Users want their mobile phone to fit comfortably in their hand or in a shirt or pants pocket,” Microsoft pointed out.
It said Andromeda could be used in an open, expanded position with both displays flush as though it was a single-screen device; closed with the displays face to face to protect them; or fully open with displays back to back.
This is an interesting development, as there haven't really been any two-screen devices since the Nintendo 3DS console for gaming. It also follows on from a raft of recent rumours that Microsoft was working on something that could work as both a phone and a tablet.
It's likely that Microsoft's Ink feature will be a big part of Andromeda, which brings in a range of different possibilities for this phone-tablet hybrid. For instance, users could view business presentations on one screen while taking notes with a stylus on the other, or easily add captions to photographs for social media by having images at the top and text on the bottom.
Of course, this patent application doesn't mean Andromeda will come to fruition in this exact form, or in the near future. But with Samsung having also recently submitted details of a foldable phone to the Korean patent office, Microsoft may need to get a move on if it thinks this is the future of smartphones to avoid getting left behind.
Some tech experts are already suggesting that if Andromeda is developed, it could kill the mid-range tablet by offering a device that incorporates all of its functions in phone form, so it will be interesting to see where we go from here in terms of new technology.