Part of the reason smartphone have largely replaced PDAs over the last few years is that there are a growing number of activities that require an always-on internet connection. But another reason is that people don’t like carrying around two or three devices when they can stuff just one item in their pocket. Who needs a phone, PDA, and digital camera when you’ve got a smartphone?
So at a time when some companies are betting that we need a new category of device to fit between a phone and a notebook computer, it looks like others are trying to figure out how to cram even more functionality into a portable phone. The folks at Go Rumors noticed a patent application from Taiwanese OEM Qualcomm that details a single device with three displays that you can fold or unfold depending on your needs. It can function as a phone when it’s at its most compact. Unfold all three panels and you have a tablet. Arrange them so that the device can be propped up like a laptop and you can use it like one, with an on-screen keyboard taking the place of a physical keyboard.
This is just a patent application at this point, and there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see a real product based on the design. But at least one inventor has been pitching something similar for a while now.