Oppo is in the Development of Its Range of Foldable Smartphones

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Smartphone fabricant Oppo is on the rise. In home its country China, Oppo is now the market leader. Internationally the brand is still significantly less known. That should change soon because Oppo intends to sell its smartphones also in Europe and America. Also, it is possible to buy an Oppo smartphone in the Netherlands. That made the innovative company known last week during the press conference of the revolutionary Oppo Find X fullscreen smartphone. However, Oppo has many more plans for the future, including a folding smartphone.

A handful of manufacturers are working in the background on the development of a foldable smartphone. We have already seen several prototypes and many more patents from manufacturers such as Samsung, Apple, LG, Huawei, Motorola, and ZTE.

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However, it is Oppo and sister company Vivo who have shown the most groundbreaking innovations in the last year when it comes to new smartphone designs and technologies. First Vivo with her in-display fingerprint sensor. After that, the company was the first in the world to display a full-screen smartphone without a notch, the Vivo NEX. More than a week later, with the Find X, Oppo introduced a smartphone with an even larger screen-to-body ratio of no less than 93.8%.

Both Chinese manufacturers are, just like OnePlus, part of BKK Electronic. Will the company also become the first smartphone manufacturer to introduce a foldable smartphone? Oppo has recently applied for various patents relating to various foldable smartphone designs; we take them one by one.

Foldable Oppo smartphone with a rotating mechanism

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Oppo Mobile Communications filed a patent with WIPO on 22 March 2018 for a ‘Rotation mechanism and foldable mobile terminal’. At the same time, a second patent was filed for a ‘Hinge assembly, rotation mechanism and, foldable mobile terminal’.

Noteworthy about these patents is the fast publication date. Oppo has submitted a separate request to WIPO for a so-called ‘ early publication ‘, the reason; a similar patent had already been applied for in China. According to the regular procedure, however, it would have taken months before the patent would be published. But these conscious patents have already been published after two weeks, on April 6, 2018. Both are written in English.

The patents are clearly intertwined. In the first patent a foldable telephone is shown with two display parts, the second patent shows a similar design, but with a different hinge.

The patented Oppo foldable smartphone has one large flexible display, which is in a folded position on the outside of the device. A rotating mechanism is used to open and close the mobile device. A similar design we encountered earlier with a folding device from Huawei. By placing the display on the outside, the angle of rotation of the screen is larger, so that this design can be realized more easily.

Oppo foldable smartphone with three displays

However, that is not the only patent we have come across from Oppo regarding foldable smartphones. Oppo Mobile Communications has also applied for a patent for a foldable mobile terminal. This patent was published on February 22, 2018, and contains a flexible smartphone that consists of three display parts.

In the folded position you have a regular smartphone at your disposal, this can then be folded twice for a 3x screen as we are used to today. A similar phone with folding screens we also saw from LG earlier this year.

With this design, a swivel hinge is also chosen. The housing around the first part of the flexible display is twice as thick, it contains all necessary components, including the camera module. In the third part, the microphone and speaker are integrated. Furthermore, magnets are used to keep the three parts together when the device is folded.

Oppo folding smartphone with airbag

Finally, we have discovered a patent that shows many similarities with patent designs of the Galaxy X, Samsung’s foldable smartphone. Although the patent is already a bit older, the solution is unique and special. This Oppo foldable smartphone is provided with two airbags, which are placed left and right of the folding mechanism.

These airbags make it possible to bend the flexible screen frequently, a problem that more manufacturers struggle with. For example, last week we published a patent on a Motorola foldable smartphone, using a hot element to enable frequent folding of the display.

Oppo, therefore, opts for airbags. The user can supervise this process himself by holding his hand on the side of the device (which is automatically the case when you open and close the smartphone). An elastic element is installed on the side. When the smartphone is unfolded, the trapped air will be moved, thus supporting the inside of the bending area.

Once folded, the flexible display is on the inside of the device, similar to a folding phone. Thanks to the airbags, the foldable smartphone can be folded and unfolded frequently, without damaging the flexible screen.

Foldable smartphones of the future

In this experimental phase, it remains the question that Oppo ultimately chooses. In 2016, a prototype of an Oppo folding smartphone already appeared, which could be folded inwards. Probably – just like with Samsung – the durability of the device is a problem. Finally, the device must be able to be folded frequently, without any possible damage. The airbag can offer a solution for this.

Personally, however, I believe that the patent on the folding smartphone with the rotating hinge is most likely to be short-term. The documentation on this subject is by far the most detailed, the implementation seems to be the easiest and besides, we have rarely seen that an ‘early publication’ document is requested.

There is, however, also a clear disadvantage to this design. Finally, the displays are not protected in such a case when the device is folded away. Also, the use of a phone case becomes more difficult when the display is processed on the outside.

In any case, it is clear that the Chinese manufacturer is not only working on full-screen smartphones, such as the Oppo Find X. The innovative company has its eye on the future and can come across surprisingly. The Samsung Galaxy X is expected in the first half of 2019. Will Oppo still surprise us before that time?

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