IBM has received a patent for a smartwatch which unfolds into a smartphone and then can be further extended into a tablet.
As one the largest technology companies in the world, IBM has received more US patents than any other company each year for the last 26 years, although these don’t always enter production.
The smartwatch-to-tablet patent, which was awarded on 11 June, builds on the record 9,100 patents which IBM received in 2018.
Its single-panel smart watch can unfold into a four-panel smartphone, and from there into an eight-panel tablet, with extra screens all housed beneath the smartwatch screen.
Dutch technology website LetsGoDigital has produced images of the device based on the blueprints in IBM’s patent filing.
In its simplest form, the patent – which was filed in 2016 – is for an electronic display device which has extendable additional displays in a storage compartment.
© Getty Huawei’s Mate X (left) and Samsung’s Galaxy fold (right)
It is effectively a smartwatch which can be unfolded into a smartphone, and again into a tablet, one-upping Samsung and Huawei’s foldable smartphone ideas.
However, unlike the devices from those manufacturers, there is no suggestion that IBM will be rushing to market with its new device.
Samsung has delayed the release of its new Galaxy Fold smartphone after reviewers experiencedbreakages within days of receiving the device.
A new date is expected to be announced at an event in August.
Huawei, Samsung and LG have unveiled new foldable phones in recent months, with the Chinese and Korean companies clearly anticipating significant consumer interest in the kit.
It’s more than a decade since the debut iPhone all but killed the flip phone but even though they seem to be on their way back into style, Apple has yet to join the foldable competition.
And these new-look phones don’t come cheap.
Samsung, who took the first leap in revealing its design last week, will charge an eye-watering £1,500 for its Galaxy Fold.
But Huawei’s new Mate X ramps up the price to €2,299 (£1,996), while LG’s dual-screen phone the V50 is retailing for only $1,060 (£800) although it is much more like a flip phone that a true foldable device.