IBM patents a smartwatch that becomes a phone and a tablet

IBM patents a smartwatch that becomes a phone and a tablet
While we await the release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X, there is talk of Sony working on a phone with a retractable rolling display. And Apple is reportedly working on a foldable iPad. Now IBM, a company that was once the biggest name in the tech world, has received a patent for its own foldable device with a different form factor. LetsGo Digital (via Tom's Guide) posted the actual patent from the USPTO. Titled "Variable display size for an electronic display device," the patent was originally applied for in 2016 and was issued to Big Blue last month.

The patent shows a rectangular shaped smartwatch that has a thicker than usual casing underneath the display. That's because the case contains a compartment holding seven additional display panels. Users would be able to unfold the display on the watch from one panel to two panels, four panels, or eight panels. Each panel measures 3-inches by 2-inches; completely unfolded the device creates a single tablet-sized screen measuring 12-inches by 8-inches.

When four panels are opened, the device goes from smartwatch mode to smartphone mode with the appropriate change in UI. Icons are larger and bigger images can be viewed. In this mode, the remaining four panels remain stacked and stored. When the last four panels are unfolded and all eight are in use, the device shifts into tablet mode and requires both hands to operate. The seams on the displays are said to be minimal. The device will have at least one speaker and will work with an optional mouse and physical keyboard.


IBM has been out of the consumer electronics business for sometime now, so it most likely would be interested in licensing the patent once the technology is available to mass produce such a product.

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10 Comments

1. TBomb

Posts: 1572; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Typing would be horrible, so hopefully you are ready to use talk to text. I don't know anyone who likes to text one handed on a virtual keyboard....

2. lyndon420

Posts: 6824; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Ok...not going to see anything like this for many many many years.

3. Subie

Posts: 2388; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Is IBM looking to become a patent troll...

4. srgonu

Posts: 557; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

The UI in the b&w pictures are from Samsung touchwiz.

5. odachek

Posts: 127; Member since: Sep 01, 2012

Seeing bezel lines in-between screens is just old skool.

6. NateAdam8

Posts: 439; Member since: Feb 17, 2012

This if made will be the thickest smartwatch ever made and chunky on the wrist.

8. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1270; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

It will be like a dumbbell tied up with the wrist...

7. Plutonium239

Posts: 1232; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

It will probably be quite a while before even the battery tech is good enough to pull something like this off.

9. tokuzumi

Posts: 1929; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

This confirms what I have talked about for a while now; phones are becoming so big that we all went to using watches to show us our notifications. Now that we are using our watches more, manufacturers are offering larger screens. Soon our watches will be full sized phones we attach to our wrist. I do really like the foldable nature of the screens though. I could definitely see myself using this as my primary device, which would free up space in my pockets.

10. Plutonium239

Posts: 1232; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

Eventually we should get to the point where we can interface our tech directly with our brains and have all this functionality in the form of an implant, that's what I really want.

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