A recent patent application from Google suggests that the search giant is experimenting with collapsible display technology, similar to the panels seen on the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold. The filing seen by Patently Mobile describes a method for building an OLED panel that can be repeatedly bent and used in a "modern computer device".
What is interesting here is that Google does not produce any monitors by itself, and is not the type of company that manufacturers have their own phones. Like Apple with its iPhones, Google outsource the manufacturing of Pixel 3 to Foxconn, and both HTC and LG shared manufacturing tasks on the Pixel 2 phones. It does not mean that it is impossible for a product based on this patent to see the light of day, it is just that if it does, it will probably be that Google licensed it to a third party instead of producing a collapsible screen itself.
The patent continues to envisage a possible folding device that can bend at two different locations – a "Z-fold display" – without breaking, thanks to what sounds like a smaller number of layers needed when building the screen on the unit. We do not show manufacturing experts.
It is not clear whether Google would ever build such a thing or why we would like a Z-fold, but the survival of foldable phones is definitely still an open question. Samsung's Galaxy Fold is rated to survive hundreds of thousands of times, while the Gorilla Glass manufacturer Corning develops a glass screen that can be folded and hopes to be more durable than existing plastic solutions.
It is important to mention that Google's patent does not even mention the word "phone" once. Instead, it refers to how the monitor can be used by "modern computers". It sounds like it is talking about phones to us, but it can refer to tablets or even laptops, provided Google still works on tablets and laptops anymore.
Google's interest in folding smartphones has so far been focused on the software aspect of their design. It added support for collapsible screens for Android in November and also worked with Samsung to ensure that Android would act as the Galaxy Fold operating system. It is obvious that folding phones are important for Android, and Google seems to be interested in both the hardware and the software.