Everyone loves a foldable phone

Both Google and Microsoft filed foldable-phone-related patents this week. Could more bendy phones be on the horizon?

A drawing of a paper origami crane

Is this the next Pixel Phone?

Image: Protocol

Another week of neat patent filings from the big tech companies. Amazon wants to help you not waste time, Apple cares about battery life, and both Google and Microsoft have bendy phones on the brain.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.


Foldable screen for a bendy phone

Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have loved the idea of a big phone — bigger screen, longer battery life, easier to hold — but wish that it could do what a small phone does: fit comfortably in a pocket. Everyone from LG to Samsung to Motorola has tried to make foldable phones in the last few years, but none have hit the mainstream. The main complaint is that the screen is too fragile to withstand all that folding.

This patent imagines making a foldable screen that attaches to the foldable OLED screen, giving the entire thing a little more structure, durability and support. It outlines various configurations of links and brackets that can bend and move in various ways. Looks like the Pixel might have a bendy future.


Your order's ready

My favorite thing to do during quarantine was pick up orders: I ordered something via an app, and was then alerted when my order was ready. Then I'd hop in the car, park in a designated spot and pop the trunk so the sales associate could put my bags in the car. Each store had various levels of sophistication on how their app worked. Some asked you to text a number when you got there, some asked you to enter your spot number into the app. And some, like this patent describes, just knew when you were coming.

This patent lays out how a store can be alerted when a customer is coming, so neither the customer nor the salesperson needs to sit around and wait. By having the customer opt in for the app to track their location, speed or direction, the app can make a pretty solid guess about when the customer will show up. Or, by using geographical fences, the salesperson could be alerted how far away the customer is, and do various tasks (start grabbing things off the shelves, for example) that will make pickup orders even more efficient.


Better way to find your friends

The Find My feature on the iPhone lets you find the location of your Apple devices, if you have it turned on on each device. It also lets you send your location to friends and family, and if they want, they can share their location with you, too. It's key for parents, who want to keep an eye on where their teens are going. And it's fun to share your location with friends, so you don't have to ever text "When will you be here??" again.

The problem with location tracking is that it eats up a ton of battery and system resources. But this patent imagines a way to save battery life, as it assumes that you don't always need to know someone's precise location (what the patent calls a "deep location"). If you do want to know more precisely where your friends are, you can ask Find My to go a little deeper, which is where the battery-sucking GPS comes in, but only briefly, and you can even stop sharing your location completely after even just a few minutes.

Understand my crappy handwriting better

I don't have the best handwriting, but if you asked my iPhone what it thought of my handwriting, it would tell you that I don't know what I'm doing. But it's not my fault! The iPhone has a hard time figuring out what I'm trying to say even when I write block letters in all caps. This patent wants to make writing on a phone even easier, by tweaking the way the phone recognizes inputs, including how hard you press on the screen.


AR for everyone

As AR devices become more popular in enterprise, IT departments will have to figure out how to maintain all the devices so that they're up to date and don't have any issues. This patent wants to make that process a bit easier, by allowing multiple devices to be maintained and updated at once.

Sign in much faster

There's absolutely nothing worse than using an AR or VR device and having to type in a password, letter by letter, hoping that you don't mess something up because it makes you want to throw something. This patent offers various alternatives, including using a phone number or numbered code to log you in much faster.


Another foldable phone?

Looks like the foldable Pixel Phone might have some competition: Microsoft is also thinking about a foldable phone future, but of the UI, not the screen itself. It lays out all the various ways that the UI can turn ugly if it's in a folded or unfolded state. Maybe Google and Microsoft should team up on a Windows Pixel Phone?


Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.


Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

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Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.


The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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