End of February 2019 Samsung revealed its long rumored smart phone with a foldable display, the first of its kind to have an official release date. A number of players have been rumored to be working on such devices, however Samsung’s combination of in-house smartphone and display technologies may have led to it being first to market.

A closer look at the innovation landscape and the qualitative strength of the patent portfolios in the field of foldable smartphone technology shows the enormous lead Samsung has and the areas in which Apple has to catch up.

The design for the Galaxy Fold follows closely the WO2015126068.A1 patent, with a highly mechanical folding mechanism. There are a number of other designs which have been patented by the telecommunication giant which may indicate what is yet to come.

Samsung Galaxy Fold Design

 

All major smartphone makers have been rumored to be working on foldable technology, however looking at the innovation landscape we can see Samsung has the clear lead. With their Patent Asset Index™ beginning to rise around 2011, before the other players, Samsung have managed to maintain a steady growth pacing the market.

 

Patent Asset Index in foldable smartphone technology

 

Conversely Apple appears to have worked intensively on the problem of foldable mobile devices and subsequently clawed back it’s efforts. With strong patents being filed in 2011, but subsequent filings are few and far between. It looks as though Apple may do its usual trick of not being first to the punch, but maybe getting it right when they get there.

 

Patent Asset Index by filing Year for Apple foldable display patents

 

Looking closer at the areas covered by the Apple and Samsung foldable display portfolio it becomes clear there are some areas of technological development missing from Apples portfolio – Namely G06F and G02F, which include “foldable electronic displays…” and “flexible substrates eg. plastic…” respectively. Clearly key areas where Apple may need to buy technology before they are able to bring to market such a device.

 

Apple and Samsung foldable display technology

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