Earlier this quarter, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from LG that revealed an elaborate design for a dual display smartphone. LG is far from being the first with this idea as we've already reported on such designs from Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and others. But LG understands that the next wave of smartphones in the not-too-distant future will focus on next generation mobile TV services. Considering that they're the number two TV vendor in the world at the moment, they have to view this as a potential long term threat. With Apple being the new TV Bogeyman in the wings, all of the leading TV vendors are a little on edge as to what flank Apple could attack them on. LG's killer app for this new smartphone design is without a doubt, mobile TV. They're simply not going to be caught flat footed in this all important market segment.
LG's Patent Background
In recent time, a mobile terminal is developed in a bar type whose front surface is mostly configured as a screen. The bar type mobile terminal has the advantages in the aspect of no need of an opening and closing operation and a simplified design, but also has a disadvantage in view of difficulty in configuring a large screen. When a dual display unit is provided on the mobile terminal to configure the large screen, such advantages of the bar type may not be guaranteed. To overcome this, a new form factor which ensures the advantages of the bar type and also allows for use of the dual display unit may be considered.
LG Invents Dual Display Smartphone
Leaping right into LG's patent filing, we see that LG's patent FIG. 1A noted below is a perspective view of a future dual display smartphone in a folded configuration showing us its face side display. In Patent FIG. 1B we're able to see the smartphone's back side display configuration. Further, we see in patent FIG. 2A that the dual display smartphone is in an unfolded configuration.
For the sake of clarity, we added text and color to LG's patent figures so as to highlight certain features.
The filing states that the first and second bodies may rotate over 180 degrees when the folded configuration is converted into the unfolded configuration to form a dual display on which one image may be formed on the display. Alternatively, the dual displays could have different content on each them so that a user could be video conferencing on the first open display while working on a document on the second.
Also noted in the patent figures above are first and second "manipulating units," which could be implemented as a dome switch, a touch pad, a jog or joystick for rotating a key.
The Dual Display's "Moving Unit"
The only thing worth noting in patent FIG. 2B is the new hinge mechanism used in this new design thta LG simple refers to as a "Moving Unit."
A Key Part of the Hinge Mechanism: The Barrel Member
The hinge or "moving unit" noted in patent FIG. 2b will allow the two displays to continually fold and unfold smoothly over the years and to enable it to provide a single display for watching mobile TV.
Other companies are hard at work on creating this new all-important hinge for dual display smartphones. Samsung's latest hinge design was revealed in our recent July report. Other designs have alsow surfaced in the last year (one, two). Other companies working on a hinge solution include Microsoft, Toshiba and Sony.
LG's patent filing dedicates a huge portion of it to describing the details related to the "moving unit" and a key component that they describe as the "Barrel Member" noted above.
LG's Killer App may be as simple as Mobile TV
One feature that LG emphasized in their patent application for a next generation dual display falls into their favor: mobile TV. LG was ranked the number two TV vendor in 2012 and it looks like they want to protect that position as mobile TV begins to gain traction.
Buried deep within the patent filing, LG discusses that this new smartphone will provide major wireless standards including a broadcast channel. Specifically, they state that "The broadcast receiving module receives broadcast signals and/or broadcast associated information from an external broadcast management server through a broadcast channel. The broadcast channel may include a satellite channel and/or a terrestrial channel."
The broadcast associated information may exist in various forms. For example, it may exist in the form of an electronic program guide (EPG) of digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB), electronic service guide (ESG) or digital video broadcast-handheld (DVB-H), and the like.
The broadcast receiving module may receive a broadcast signal using various types of broadcast systems. In particular, the broadcast receiving module may receive a digital broadcast signal using a digital broadcast system such as digital multimedia broadcasting-terrestrial (DMB-T), digital multimedia broadcasting-satellite (DMB-S), media forward link only (MediaFLO), digital video broadcast-handheld (DVB-H), integrated services digital broadcast-terrestrial (ISDB-T), and the like."
Hot One-Hand Scrolling & More
Another potentially hot future LG smartphone feature involves backside controls. While Apple has patented some sophisticated backside controls for a tablet, their smartphone application for such controls are limited to using swiping motions over the back side camera to scroll through documents or surf the web without touching the face display.
Google is likewise working on a similar feature for Android. But LG's approach is much simpler on this dual display form factor and perhaps potentially more powerful.
LG's patent filing explains that while there are two independent displays, the touch controls can be configured differently when in the folded mode as a smartphone. When in this mode, touch controls on the backside display could control functions on the face side of the smartphone as illustrated in patent FIGS. 9A and 9B above.
Beyond scrolling through a webpage or document with one hand, the controls can extend to acting as a cursor or pointer control as noted in the yellow screen in the patent figure above. LG states that "The control method may allow a touch input without obscuring the front GUI with a hand."
Patent FIG. 9B illustrates that the imagery found in the smartphone mode of FIG. 9a could be reoriented once in dual mode automatically from portrait to landscape.
LG's Mobile QHDTV Quality on the Way
Lastly, it should be noted that as LG moves towards this next generation form factor, their plan for being one of the best mobile TV platforms is already on track. It was reported on earlier this week by Korea Times that LG will introduce the world's first 5.5 inch QHD LCD panel with 538 pixels per inch in 2014. The report states that "The resolution is so high that you may think what you see in the TV is real." What TV? LG's 2014 smartphone.
LG filed their patent application under serial number 720076 back in Q4 2012 in the US and in Q1 2012 in Korea. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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