Microsoft Surface
Microsoft might possibly release a Surface-branded smartphone later this year. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Rumors of a Surface Phone from Microsoft have been circulating the web for some time now and it might just be a foldable smartphone. Recently discovered patent filings have revealed that Microsoft is experimenting with a large smartphone that can transform into a tablet.

The patent application from Microsoft was made public on Monday and was first published online by MSPowerUser. It shows a 2-in-1 device that comes with a hinge allowing users to fold it out into a tablet, or fold it into a smaller manageable smartphone. The flexible hinge will also let users set up the device in tent mode similar to Lenovo’s Yoga tablet.

Microsoft Foldable Phone
Microsoft's concept phone in tent mode. Google Patents

The hinge itself appears to come with a flexible display panel. When the device is opened up into its tablet configuration, the flexible hinge provides a large and uninterrupted view of a single display. This makes it ideal for reading or typing.

Based on the illustrations provided, the device appears to be a lot thicker than current smartphones due to its foldable design. However, this does provide users with larger screen real estate when folded out in tablet mode.

Although companies like Microsoft are known for filing patents for numerous experimental products, this foldable phone concept in particular is distinct from the rest. The patent filing lists the inventor as Kabir Siddiqui, the same person responsible for previously patenting Microsoft’s Surface kickstand and Surface camera, as pointed out by The Verge.

Microsoft Foldable Phone
Microsoft's phone concept showing the flexible hinge and the device's tablet configuration. Google Patents

It’s being speculated that Microsoft might announce a Surface Phone some time this year. There’s a possibility that this patent filing is hinting at what the company is planning for its own smartphone. Microsoft has been known to deviate from traditional designs when it comes to its Surface line, and a foldable 2-in-1 smartphone might help it better compete with its rivals.

Foldable smartphones with flexible displays aren’t that farfetched either as numerous other companies have been experimenting with it for awhile now. Samsung and LG are both rumored to be planning on releasing foldable smartphones later this year as well.