Xiaomi looks like it might be the latest phone-maker seduced back to the ways of the clamshell, according to a new patent discovered by LetsGoDigital.
It's spotted the approval of a patent from Xiaomi that indicates the Chinese manufacturer is working on a folding phone with a design reminiscent of the new Motorola Razr. The patent was filed back in 2018 but only granted this month.
It's far from the most detailed patent in history, but does have a few sketches packed in that give a flavour of what Xiaomi was aiming at, at least back when it submitted it for approval.
As mentioned, the fold is along the phone's horizontal middle, making it a clamshell design rather than the sort used by the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Fold.
The screen shown in the sketches has almost no bezel to it at all, but even more interestingly the phone has a pop-up camera design, even within its folding structure. That would make it a mechanically complex device compared to many smartphones knocking around today.
Meanwhile, the rear camera for the phone also has what looks like an interesting design touch, with a screen embedded around its lenses and sensors. It looks unlikely that this will be a touchscreen given its size, but it could well be used to display notification icons or details, to let you know at a glance whether you have messages or emails waiting.
That's a smart way of maximising the small surface area left by a clamshell phone once it's closed, and actually a good call-back to similar systems on phones from a decade or more ago, before the format was left behind.
Patents being patents, this could be smoke in the wind, but it does show that the clamshell phone could be back for good.