Microsoft's dual module phone concept is awesome

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: June 8, 2012

While they wait for Windows Phone to finally gain more traction in the market, Microsoft is hard at work innovating. Or, well, at least filing for some pretty intriguing patents. Specifically, two separate filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by Microsoft deal with pocket-sized devices with detachable parts.

Just last September, Unwired View stumbled upon a rather unique filing by Microsoft that detailed a seemingly efficient way with swappable cartridges for a smartphone. In the space that a horizontal QWERTY slider would hold its keyboard, Microsoft envisions housing exchangeable components, such as a second display, expandable memory, an extended battery or gaming controls. All of these can be changed on the fly and could make a smartphone cater to specific needs more efficiently.

But the components, in the sense that they can also work while not docked in the parent device, are also standalone. An image in the patent filing showed a smartphone connected to a television via docking station. The user is across the room holding a wirelessly connected cartridge that can be used to control the media being played on the TV through the phone.

It's pretty intriguing stuff, to say the least. But another patent filing by Microsoft one-ups the swappable cartridges concept and has left me drooling on my keyboard.

Published yesterday to the USPTO website was Microsoft's patent application for a "dual module" device. In other words, this dual module device would be a phone comprised of two separable displays that communicate and are synchronized seamlessly and wirelessly with one another. One device can "sense" the other and they can be used completely separately or in conjunction with one another.

In essence, you could tweet and watch YouTube videos of cats at the same time with one of these dual module devices. Awesome, right? It gets better.

Along with the images from the application, a concept video from last year shows us just exactly how these modules could work together to make the mobile experience unfathomably cooler. The 46-second video uploaded by WMPowserUser begins with a man walking through an airport looking at a single display using augmented reality. He pulls up a calendar entry, and to continue using the augmented reality application, he removes the first display from atop the other and has one display in each hand. Ahead of him in the airport is a friend (colleague? girlfriend?). He starts a call with her. On the module in his left hand starts a video call and he puts the other display up to his ear to listen and talk. Without audio, it's difficult to understand exactly what's going on in the video. But he brings the module down from his ear and connects it to the side of the other and drags something (likely his location) from the augmented reality app and "drops" it on the caller, which I presume was him sharing his current location with her.

Immediately after watching the video, hundreds of scenarios – where this would be useful or helpful – surged through my head. Sharing photos and other data with a friend's phone could be as simple as touching them together and dragging and dropping different media, similar to a concept envisioned by The Astonishing Tribe or the Amnesia Connect. You could also continue a text message conversation without interrupting your Netflix or YouTube stream. And switching back and forth between a note taking app and the browser when referencing something would be a problem of the past.

You would get the benefits of carrying and paying for two phones in a single device with one plan.

There are a few caveats to such a design, however. Fragility, for example. I can't imagine a dual-display device like this would be ultra sturdy. (Then again, if it were made of Corning's flexible glass, it might be a little more durable.) Another problem would be charging. Would you have to charge two separate devices at night? Or would you plug one in and let it inductively charge the other (similar to Powermat)? Not to mention, being able to keep up with one phone is a difficult enough task for some. What happens if you lose one of the modules? Can a single module be replaced? (Better yet, could you purchase a third or fourth module?)

The potential for this technology is limitless and actually makes me extremely excited to see Microsoft's actual plans for this technology.

The upsetting part, though, is that Microsoft now has a patent for a concept. We're not even sure they're actually working on this, or when they might start ... or if they ever will. So it could be ages before this technology comes along, if it ever does. And, if you're not a fan of Windows Phone, you may be out of luck anyway as Microsoft now owns the rights to this tech. (That could mean no dual module Android phones, and that's downright depressing.)

This is the sort of tech that would make me jump to Windows Phone without hesitation. What about you, ladies and gents? Do you want a dual module phone? What about interchangeable cartridges? Do you think Microsoft's patents foretell a bright future for Windows Phone?

Image via USPTO