Foldable smartphones and tablets have been on the market for some time, with Apple's competitors like Samsung leading the charge. While this technology is still a niche market, rumors suggest that Apple has been exploring the idea of foldable devices internally.
Consumers are eagerly waiting to see if Apple will introduce a foldable iPhone or iPad in the future. In this article, we will discuss what we know so far about Apple's potential entry into the foldable device market.
Rumors and Speculations:
Over the past few years, Samsung has been the driving force behind foldable smartphones, releasing the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Flip Z, which inspired other companies such as LG, Motorola, and Huawei to follow suit. While there are now several Android-based foldable smartphones on the market, Apple has yet to introduce a foldable device.
However, rumors about a foldable iPhone have been circulating since 2016. In 2019, Samsung reportedly offered to supply foldable displays to Apple, while Corning, an Apple supplier, was said to be working on a foldable glass solution. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed that Apple is experimenting with both an 8-inch and 9-inch foldable iPhone with flexible OLED displays.
Despite these rumors, the development of a foldable iPhone has not yet kicked off. Kuo initially predicted that Apple would introduce a foldable iPhone in 2024, but has since revised his prediction to 2025 or later. According to Bloomberg, Apple has started early work on an iPhone with a foldable display but has not yet committed to releasing a foldable device.
While it's unclear when or if Apple will release a foldable iPhone or iPad, it's apparent that the company is at least considering entering the foldable device market. It remains to be seen how Apple will approach the design and functionality of a foldable device, and whether it will be able to address concerns such as durability and environmental impact.
Foldable iPhone Patents
Apple has filed several patents related to foldable iPhones, but it's important to note that not all patented technologies make it to market. Nonetheless, these patents provide some insight into Apple's approach to foldable devices.
In 2016, Apple's first foldable iPhone patent surfaced, describing a smartphone that folds in half horizontally using a flexible OLED display and a hinged metal support structure. A 2019 patent application describes a foldable smartphone with a built-in heating element or displays heating feature to cut down on failures at the fold in cold temperatures. Another patent granted in 2020 describes a hinge mechanism that utilizes movable flaps to help prevent the display from being creased or damaged when folded.
In March 2021, Apple was granted a patent that describes a unique alternative to a foldable iPhone. The patent envisions two separate devices that automatically detect each other when placed together with a shared display. The wording of the patent suggests that Apple could create a single bendable device comprised of two displays in seamless communication with each other.
A 2020 patent filing suggests that Apple is exploring a protective layer for a foldable iPhone that would resist cracking. The iPhone would feature a hard coat layer that would fill pre-existing micro-cracks to make it harder for a larger crack to appear.
While these patents provide some insight into Apple's potential approach to foldable devices, it's important to note that patents don't necessarily guarantee that a product will be released, or that it will feature the exact technology described in the patent.
Foldable iPhone Prototypes
There have been rumors that Apple has been testing two different foldable iPhone prototypes at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China. One of the prototypes is said to be a dual-screen model with two separate displays connected by a hinge, while the other is a foldable iPhone with a clamshell design similar to the Galaxy Z Flip. However, it's important to note that these are just rumors, and Apple has not made any official announcements about a foldable iPhone.
The test devices have been described as shells with limited internals and not fully functional iPhones, which suggests that work is still in the early stages and has not progressed to a full device.
Apple is also reportedly testing electronic paper display (EPD) technology for future foldable devices. The EPD displays could be sourced from Chinese company E Ink and would be more energy-efficient than other forms of display technology.
Expected Look of Foldable Iphone:
As of now, there are no concrete rumors or leaks about the design of Apple's foldable iPhone. Apple's patents have featured a device that folds horizontally, which is different from the vertical folding design of Samsung and Huawei's foldable smartphones. However, it's important to note that patents are conceptual, and the final design of the foldable iPhone may look different.
According to some reports, there is allegedly a prototype being worked on that features two displays connected by a hinge. However, this is just speculation, and Apple has not confirmed any such device.
Until Apple makes an official announcement or further details leak, it's impossible to know for sure what the foldable iPhone will look like.
Release Date Rumors
The release date of the iPhone Flip, Apple's first foldable phone, is currently open to speculation. While display analyst Ross Young has suggested that Apple could introduce a foldable iPhone as early as 2023, other reports suggest that a 2024 or even 2025 release is more likely. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that a foldable iPhone may not arrive until 2025, while another analyst, Ben Wood, believes that a foldable iPad will be released before then.
It's important to note that these are all just rumors and predictions, and Apple has not announced any official plans for a foldable device. As such, skepticism about the release date of the iPhone Flip is the healthiest outlook. Nonetheless, Apple foldable phone patents and concept drawings from independent designers suggest that when the iPhone Flip finally does see the light of day, it could be the most revolutionary iPhone yet.
Apple Foldable Phone Expected Price:
The price of the iPhone Flip, Apple's first foldable phone, is currently unknown and difficult to predict. Pricing will depend on various factors, including the device's design, features, and intended market. The Galaxy Fold debuted at $1,980, while the Galaxy Z Flip released at $600 less, costing $1,380. The most recent Galaxy foldable, the Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4, have a similar price difference, with the Z Fold 4 costing $1,799 at launch and the Z Flip 4 priced at $999.
If Apple releases a smaller and cheaper foldable device, its price may not be too far from premium handsets such as the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which is priced at $1,099. However, if the foldable iPhone is intended to be a phone that can transform into a tablet, similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the price could well exceed that of Apple's conventional smartphones, perhaps even reaching or exceeding the $2,000 mark. It's important to note that until Apple makes an official announcement, the pricing of the iPhone Flip will remain speculative.
Could Apple’s First Foldable Actually Be an iPad?
There have been rumors suggesting that Apple's first foldable device may not be a foldable iPhone, but rather a foldable iPad. The rumors started with a report from CSS Insight's annual predictions report, in which the chief of research, Ben Wood, speculated that Apple may prefer to experiment with a folding iPad first to avoid any issues with a folding phone. However, Wood did not provide any insight into what a folding iPad could look like.
In January 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tweeted that there will be an "all-new design foldable iPad" launching in 2024. Kuo did not provide any details about the design of the device, but he mentioned that Anjie Technology will manufacture a carbon fiber kickstand for the tablet, which is intended to be lighter and more durable than current options.
Expected Durability of Foldable Phones:
Apple has been working on improving the durability of its rumored foldable iPhone. In October 2020, a patent suggested that the device could come with an upgraded version of the iPhone's ceramic shield, specifically designed for a flexible display. The ceramic shield would consist of four layers, including a transparent support layer made of glass or sapphire for additional strength. There has also been speculation that the display could have a self-healing material layer to minimize the appearance of scratches or dents.
In addition, in February 2020, an Apple patent emerged that would allow the foldable display to bend in the middle without creating excessive stress on the panel. The design would create a gradual curve instead of a hard crease, which could improve durability and extend the life of the display. Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip uses a similar design.
Apple has filed a continuation patent that outlines ways to make the iPhone Flip even more durable with the help of a crack-resistant display.
Competition of Foldable Apple Phones:
Currently, Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola are the main competitors in the foldable smartphone market. Samsung has released two foldable smartphones, the Galaxy Fold and the Galaxy Z Flip, while Huawei has released the Mate X. Motorola has released the RAZR, a foldable smartphone that is designed to look like the traditional Motorola RAZR flip phone.
The Galaxy Fold is a convertible device that can serve as both a smartphone when folded and a tablet when unfolded. The Galaxy Z Flip and the RAZR are designed to be more compact and pocketable, with a folding design that makes them more portable than traditional smartphones.
Huawei's Mate X is unique in that it folds outwards instead of inwards, which gives it a display on both sides when closed. However, all of these devices come with a high price tag, with prices ranging from $1,980 for the Galaxy Fold to $2,600 for the Mate X.
While there are other smartphone companies that have released foldable phones, the prices continue to be high, making them less accessible to the average consumer. It remains to be seen how Apple's foldable device will stack up against the competition in terms of design, functionality, and pricing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Apple Foldable Phones
➤Does Apple have a folding smartphone?
As of now, Apple has not released a foldable smartphone. However, there have been rumors and reports suggesting that Apple is testing various foldable iPhone prototypes and working on improving the durability of such devices. It's important to note that until there is an official announcement from Apple, these reports should be taken with a grain of salt.
➤Will Apple launch a flip phone?
There have been rumors and reports suggesting that Apple could launch a flip phone or a foldable iPhone in the future. However, as of now, there is no official word from Apple on whether it is working on such a device. It remains to be seen if and when Apple will release a foldable device, and what form it will take.
➤Did Apple grant a patent for a foldable device?
Yes, Apple has been granted several patents related to foldable devices, including a patent for a hinge mechanism that allows a device to fold and unfold without damaging the display. Apple has also filed patents related to flexible displays, durability features, and more. However, it's important to note that not all patents filed by Apple will necessarily lead to a product being released.
➤Are folding phones worth it?
The value of folding phones depends on individual needs and preferences. Folding phones offer a unique form factor that can provide a larger display in a more portable package. However, they are also more expensive and less durable than traditional smartphones. It's important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if a folding phone is worth it for you.
The rumors and speculation surrounding Apple's potential entry into the foldable smartphone market have been ongoing for years, but there is still no official word from the company on whether it is actually working on such a device. While there have been reports of prototypes being tested, patents filed, and rumors of a 2024 release date, it's important to approach these with skepticism until there is an official announcement from Apple.
If Apple does release a foldable iPhone, it will likely face stiff competition from established players like Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola, all of whom have already released foldable devices. However, Apple has a history of entering markets later than its competitors and still managing to disrupt them with its unique approach and design.
In the meantime, it's worth keeping an eye on Apple's continued efforts to improve the durability and reliability of its devices, as this could be a key factor in the success of a potential foldable iPhone.