We don’t know if Microsoft is still working on their folding “Surface Phone” but from the various patent filings now coming to light it is pretty clear that at some point in 2015-2016 the company was furiously developing the device, and the various patent applications has so far given us a pretty good idea of the design and features of the handset.
The latest application, published yesterday but applied for in February 2016, tells us a bit more about the construction of the device.
The patent for “COVER OF DEVICE ACTING AS ANTENNA OF THE DEVICE” reveals that the handset would be made substantially from metal, and would have the now typical “dialectic” lines familiar from the back of the iPhone and HTC devices which allow antennas to be built into metal handsets.
Microsoft’s patent would make use of the double-sided nature of the device to avoid some of the issues of electrical interference and “detuning” that occurs when touching these antennas when using the handset, avoiding the “holding it wrong” issue.
According to an embodiment mobile device comprises: a first body and a second body, wherein the bodies are configured to be displaceable with respect to each other when using the mobile device, wherein each body comprises: a first conductive portion of a cover of the mobile device configured as an antenna of the device; a second conductive portion of the cover configured as a ground of the antenna; a dielectric slot in the cover, which is configured between the first and the second portions; wherein a design of the first and the second conductive portion of the first body and the dielectric slot of the first body aligns with a design of the first and the second conductive portion of the second body and the dielectric slot of the second body, when the bodies are on one another.
The patent was applied for by Antti Karilainen, Antenna and RF expert, who notes specifically while at Microsoft he worked on:
– Antenna sharing of different radio systems
– Mobile device form factors with different metallic designs
– Mobile device antennas for future form factors
Sadly Karilainen, who came to Microsoft from Nokia, no longer works for Microsoft, having left in August 2016, and we wonder if with Microsoft’s waning smartphone ambitions there is still a place at the company for such hardware engineers. Another example of this brain drain would be Marko Eromäki, an ex-Nokia optomechanical camera expert who while at Microsoft patented an electromagnetic retractable lens system which would have allowed a camera to be flush on a mobile device and extend when in use. Now working for Huawei, I suspect we will never see Microsoft deliver such an innovative camera.
Of course, the rumours of a Surface Phone is not dead yet, with tales of it being seen on Microsoft’s campuses. It does, however, seem clear that if Microsoft were to ever release an innovative smartphone they will need to overhaul both their software and hardware expertise.
The relevant patent can be seen here.