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Microsoft’s Surface Duo and Duo 2 Android smartphones look the part thanks to their innovative dual-screen design and stunning attention to detail and build quality. However, as a user experience they fall apart on messy software and poor cameras. Reviews and sales reflect the lukewarm reception of the handsets. So, is Microsoft once again ready to step away from mobile hardware again?

Actually no, at least not according to a new Microsoft Patent. It shows the company is doubling down – or should that be trebling down? – on its smartphone with a potential Surface Trio. Yes, as the name suggests, Microsoft is developing a device that has three displays.

Patently Apple found a Microsoft patent filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that highlights the new type of design. You may be thinking the Surface Duo 2 already sort of has three displays with its outside bar, but that is admittedly a very limited screen.

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So, what would a Surface Trio look like? Well. an image that accompanies the patent shows that the device will look like a Surface Duo but will have one display that is visible on the outside when the device is closed.

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Patent

Currently, the Duo shows both displays when it is open or closed in reverse, but no screens when it is closed properly. While that small hinge bar display helps, one of the biggest downsides to the Duo is needing to open it to get any task done. Adding an outside display will take usability of the handset up a notch.

In the patent, Microsoft describes how the functionality will work, using a new hinge design:

“Multi-panel display devices may be useful in a variety of different scenarios. For example, multiple software application windows may be visually presented on separate display panels at the same time. Multi-panel display devices may use a hinge to allow for the display panels to fold in different directions (e.g., inward/outwards). Such foldability allows multi-panel display devices to have a larger total display area relative to a similarly-portable single display device, while also allowing for smaller folded dimensions relative to a non-folding display device offering the same display area.”

As always, we are firmly in development territory. There are no guarantees this patent will ever see the light of day as a full product.

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