Cellphones that can Reconfigure into a Bracelet Format

During this past week, there was patent activity that indicates a continuing interest on the part of major cellphone makers in devices that can be mechanically switched from a conventional flat form to a wearable, bracelet format.

Backing up just a bit, an early patent application related to this technology was filed by Apple in 2011. The application can be found here. The device includes a flexible display coupled to a bistable spring. The bistable spring is capable, in this case, of being configured to enable an elastic transformation between a flat state and a bent, ring-like state.

In the application, Apple went on to propose powering the device with a solar panel beneath the display or by using the kinetic energy associated with movement of the user’s arm.

At about the same time as Apple’s filing, Samsung submitted an application related to a mechanically reconfigurable device. One innovative idea included in the Samsung application was the provision of a display that rotates, moving with the user’s arm.

Last week the USPTO published a new Samsung patent application related to a reconfigurable device. It can be found here. The patent discusses in some detail the mechanical means by which the device is made reconfigurable. As was the case with the Apple device, it also includes the use of a bistable spring. The disclosed device also includes touch input and a transparent panel to protect the top surface from scratches. The body of the device may include a processing unit and an input-output unit that perform functions according to the purpose of the device.

Samsung 2Samsung 1

This week’s news is the issuance of a design patent to LG that describes a flexible smartphone that could be used in connection with an attachable wristband accessory. The design patent can be found here.


It might be noted that design patents typically provide only a simple illustration of the possible device. LG has provided little in the way of details about the device other than indicating an interest in the technology.

Regarding this last point, although filing for patents is indicative of interest by a company in a given technology, it is equally true that such an interest may not translate into consumer products. Having said that, I suspect that the demonstrated level of interest in this type of reconfigurable device coupled with its potential for application in the hot wearable product area, the result should be the appearance of such products in the consumer market. We shall see. – Arthur Berman