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(Pocket-lint) - Back in March we learned that Royole was partnering with ZTE for its future folding devices. And it looks as though ZTE is working hard in its development department, as a new patent suggests it is designing a tri-folding phone for future release.

It's not the first time we've seen tri-folding phones - i.e. a device with two hinges that unfold to make one flat display - with the likes of TCL having already presented dual, triple and even rollable phone designs.

ZTE has long aimed to be ahead of the curve too. Back in 2017 it launched its Axon M, which features two full-size screens. It wasn't far off a modern foldable, except it didn't use a flexible display, so there was an obvious join when those two screens 'joined'.

So what's special about the ZTW tri-folding patent? Well, right now details are rather sparse. The key aspect seems to be how the fold functions: there's one main screen, with two hinges on either side, bringing 'half screens' into position to double the overall display size.

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The patent has been filed with CNIPA (China National Intellectual Property Administration) thus far, suggesting this is very much a China-only phone - perhaps no surprise, given ZTE's general absence in international markets.

That's about as much as there is to it right now. Whether it will become a prototype or a real product, we'll have to wait and see.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 2 June 2020.