Forward-looking: While most of the news surrounding foldable phones is currently focused on Samsung's Galaxy Fold---and its problems---it's easy to forget about the world's first foldable handset, the FlexPai. A new patent from the company behind that device, Chinese firm Royole, suggests it could be the first to release a different type of bendable: a folding smartphone.

Dutch site LetsGoDigital spotted the patent, which was filed in the second half of 2017 before being published on the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) website on April 4 this year.

As with the FlexPai and other folding smartphones, the design lets users increase the screen real estate of a smartwatch, which typically have small displays, by unfolding it, essentially doubling the size.

Magnets are placed behind the display to stop the screen from flipping open when you're walking around with the device on your wrist. It also uses a flexible battery that is placed inside the watch band itself.

Another patent shows an alternative design. The display on this 'smart bracelet' unfolds in a different direction and is said to use a type of rotating mechanism.

As is the case with every patent, there's no guarantee that any of these designs will become real products, but it's certainly an interesting use case for foldable screen technology. Some of the issues people still have with smartwatches are their small, hard-to-use displays and the constant need to recharge them. It's possible that Royole's designs, should they come to pass, could go some way toward addressing these issues.

In related news, Google recently revealed it has been working on prototype folding phones for some time, but it will still be a while before we see a flexible Pixel device.