Foldable phones once seemed futuristic. But as it turns out, the future is now. Most major smartphone makers have released, or are working on foldable phones, and Lenovo is no different.

This week, Dutch tech news blog LetsGo Digital unveiled drawings of Lenovo’s new foldable phone design, and it’s caused a bit of an international buzz.

According to the images obtained, Lenovo’s foldable phone is tall and narrow, with the bottom half folding upward to close vertically.

There’s also a “Scorpian Tail” hinge, allowing for multiple folding points. But as such, it’s impossible to completely fold flat. It cannot be folded symmetrically either, because the main display is always visible.

Source: LetsGoDigital.

Source: LetsGoDigital.

Being a patent, it’s rare that this design will even see the light of day. But that didn’t stop commentators from sharing their initial thoughts, with some calling it “half-baked” and “unique”.

NotebookCheck’s Daniel R Deakin wrote:

Looking at these renders it seems Lenovo got completely lost. From the front and unfolded, the Lenovo smartphone looks more than respectable, if somewhat reminiscent of an older Sony Xperia design language. There are rolled-up hinges that occupy a significant portion of the rear, and these allow a user to fold the device up and over the front display to reveal…a smaller display.The folding mechanism lets the user fold the smartphone’s rear over the front, covering most of the front display and replacing it with a smaller display that resides on the rear in unfolded mode. It’s a strange concept that is difficult to work out in terms of practicality. Plus, the owner of this particular Lenovo foldable smartphone would be stuck with a ‘hinge gap’, as the patent drawings make it clear to see the fold does not flatten completely out. There’s a strong suspicion this particular patent will stay in the filing cabinet while Lenovo focuses on a much more practical design.

SlashGear’s Ewdison Then was even more direct:

As far as strange patents go, one of Lenovo’s latest probably takes the cake, with a fold and a second screen that barely makes sense. We’ve seen our fair share of clamshell-style foldable phones and, being the owner of Motorola and its famous RAZR brand, it’s unsurprising that Lenovo would take a few stabs in this form factor as well. The idea of an extra tall phone, probably taller than even the Sony Xperia 1, is already an odd one. Lenovo’s foldable phone idea, however, takes it to the next level. The hinge, for example, is reminiscent of another recent patent that showed similarities to Microsoft’s dynamic fulcrum “scorpion tail” hinge on the Surface Book. Like other foldable phone patents, this creates a gap at the hinge because screens still can’t fold flat. What’s different here is that the fold isn’t at the middle of the device but closer to the bottom and can also fold at different parts. This means that a part of the main screen will always be visible, whether it’s just a small strip for the notifications or a larger area that’s almost a third of the entire screen. In addition, there’s a smaller second screen on the back that can be used when the phone is folded or turned down on its face. Whether this design makes any practical sense is still a puzzle.

Foldable phone competition fierce

Of course, Lenovo isn’t the only one working on a foldable phone. Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy Ford,  its foldable smartphone, in San Francisco in February.

It is expected to sell for $1,980 when it is released April 26.

Consumers willing to pay that hefty price will get a device that can unfold like a wallet. It can work like a traditional smartphone with a 4.6 inch screen or morph into something more like a mini-tablet with a 7.3 inch screen.

When fully unfolded, the device will be able to simultaneously run three different apps on the screen. The Galaxy Fold will also boast six cameras: three in the back, two on the inside and one on the front.

After spending nearly five years developing the technology underlying its foldable-screen phone, Samsung is clearly hoping for a big payoff. And no doubt, Lenovo plans to be close behind.

Samsung unveils next-gen smartphones from foldable $2,000 device to 5G