How Would a MacBook With a Foldable Display Work?

Amid reports of Apple working on a notebook with a foldable display, how exactly could such a device be implemented?

foldable macbook pro with keyboard space gray red majin buConcept by Majin Bu

Earlier this week, Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) analyst Ross Young claimed that Apple is exploring the possibility of offering notebooks with foldable displays. The company is said to be discussing such devices with displays around 20-inches in size with its suppliers. This display size could allow for 4K resolutions or higher, Young added.

Young has revealed a wide range of accurate insights into Apple's plans, such as the iPhone 13 Pro's ProMotion display, the display size and bezels of the sixth-generation iPad mini, the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro's mini-LED displays with ProMotion, and more, so his reports are worth taking seriously. He says that the foldable notebook could compose a whole new product category for Apple, but with so little known about the mysterious new form factor at this very early stage, there appear to be three main options for how Apple could conceive of the device.

All-Screen MacBook

Perhaps the most obvious implementation for a foldable Apple notebook is an all-screen MacBook with a display that spans the entire interior of the clamshell design. Young appeared to speculate that this implementation could result in a dual-use product, saying that it may be able to work as a notebook with a full-size on-screen keyboard when folded and as a monitor when unfolded and used with an external keyboard.

foldable macbook astropadConcept by Astropad

There are several drawbacks to the likelihood of this design, including Apple's well-known reticence to offer a touchscreen-based Mac, with company executives often publicly shooting down the possibility of it ever offering such a device. For example, former Apple design chief Sir Jony Ive has said that a touchscreen Mac would "not be a particularly useful or appropriate application of Multi-Touch."

macOS is heavily optimized for indirect trackpad or mouse input, rather than touch. In 2020, Apple engineering chief Craig Federighi said that Apple designed and evolved the look of macOS in a way that felt comfortable and natural across a family of devices, and something like touch is not remotely considered. This is not to mention the potential ergonomic issues of a touchscreen keyboard and trackpad. As a result, an all-touchscreen MacBook seems to be very much out of step with the company's thinking in recent years.

Foldable Display With Physical Keyboard

A more out of left field form factor could be a MacBook with a vertically longer display that folds at the hinge and meets the device's physical keyboard. This solution could offer the benefits of a larger display with room for peripheral on-screen content, while still retaining the benefits of a physical keyboard and trackpad.

foldable macbook pro with keyboard silver blue touch bar majin buConcept by Majin Bu

The design could also offer a way to revive the Touch Bar without sacrificing physical function keys. In another interview, Federighi explained that the MacBook Pro form factor with the Touch Bar avoids the ergonomic problems caused by other touchscreen laptops:

We really feel that the ergonomics of using a Mac are that your hands are rested on a surface, and that lifting your arm up to poke a screen is a pretty fatiguing thing to do.

Regardless of whether or not the Touch Bar is revived, extending the MacBook's display in this way would abide by Apple's ergonomic demands of not lifting one's arms to touch the screen while offering a new location for touch input.

In this instance, the 20-inch display size could be more plausible, potentially offering an even larger MacBook Pro to sit above the 16-inch model in the lineup, akin to the 17-inch MacBook Pro that the company offered between 2006 and 2011.

Just a Foldable iPad Pro?

While Young described the device as a "foldable notebook," there is a chance that, if it is an all-screen device, it could actually be a foldable iPad Pro. After all, a touch-based all-screen notebook running macOS would likely cannibalize the ‌iPad Pro‌, so the device running iPadOS could make more sense.

foldpad filmic twitter
This thinking would also seemingly line up to Apple's current outlook. When asked about touchscreen Macs last year, John Ternus, Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering, pointed to the iPad:

We make the world's best touch computer on an iPad. It's totally optimized for that. And the Mac is totally optimized for indirect input. We haven't really felt a reason to change that.

There have been sketchy rumors of Apple working on a foldable iPad Pro in the past, so the idea would not be totally unheard of.

It is also noteworthy that this implementation could also line up with rumors of a larger iPad Pro. Last summer, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman suggested that Apple was working on even bigger iPad models that could further "blur the lines" between tablet and laptop:

I'm told that Apple has engineers and designers exploring larger iPads that could hit stores a couple of years down the road at the earliest. They're unlikely for next year—with Apple's attention on a redesigned iPad Pro in the current sizes for 2022—and it's possible they never come at all. But a big iPad would be the perfect device for many people, including me, and would continue to blur the lines between tablet and laptop.

Now, at least two Apple suppliers, BOE and LG Display, are preparing to supply Apple with OLED displays in larger sizes for future iPad models.

Larger display sizes may bring the ‌iPad‌ closer the Mac than ever before, but there would likely also need to be software improvements to properly take advantage of the larger display. Apple last updated the ‌iPad Pro‌ in April 2021, but some users have complained that iPadOS does not take full advantage of the hardware the ‌iPad Pro‌ has to offer, making it more challenging to replace a Mac than it could be.

Gurman opined that Apple will ultimately need to allow Mac apps and a Mac-like multitasking experience with more flexible arrangements of app windows on the ‌iPad Pro‌. By the time even larger iPads come to market, it is likely that further iterations of iPadOS may improve the experience to take better advantage of the ‌iPad‌'s hardware.

Release Date

Young said that the launch timeframe for Apple's foldable notebook is "likely later" than 2025, with 2026 or 2027 being floated as reasonable possibilities, but there is still a chance Apple discontinue the project long before then.

Meanwhile, Young said that Apple's long-rumored foldable iPhone has been delayed until 2025, a significant delay compared to previous predictions that the device would launch in 2023 or 2024.

Top Rated Comments

california_kid Avatar
18 weeks ago
Clearly this is a ploy to sell more Apple Polishing Cloth
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ziggie216 Avatar
18 weeks ago
Foldable Display With Physical Keyboard

Yea it's call a laptop which we are all currently using. This is just introducing complication that isn't solving a problem.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dermeister Avatar
18 weeks ago
Dear God it's the Return of the TouchBar by other means.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Diamond Dog Avatar
18 weeks ago
A solution in search of a problem.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deannnnn Avatar
18 weeks ago
That's going to be a no from me.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MGrayson3 Avatar
18 weeks ago
Badly?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

foldpad filmic twitter

Apple's Even Bigger iPad Pro Could Be Foldable

Friday March 25, 2022 2:00 am PDT by
Apple could be working on an even larger, foldable iPad Pro model, multiple reports appear to indicate. Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) analyst Ross Young recently claimed that Apple is exploring the possibility of offering notebooks with foldable displays. The company is said to be discussing such devices with displays around 20 inches in size with its suppliers. This display size...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Blue

Report: Apple Exploring 20-Inch All-Screen Foldable MacBook, But Foldable iPhone Delayed Until 2025

Monday February 21, 2022 8:47 am PST by
Apple has likely delayed its foldable iPhone until 2025 and the company is exploring all-screen foldable MacBooks, according to Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) analyst Ross Young. In a new DSCC report on upcoming foldable and rollable devices, Young explained that Apple's long-rumored foldable iPhone has been delayed until 2025. This appears to be a significant delay compared to previ...
Flat MacBook Air 15 Feature

Larger 15-Inch MacBook Air Expected in 2023

Wednesday March 23, 2022 11:43 am PDT by
Apple is developing a larger 15-inch MacBook Air that could come out in 2023, according to research shared today by Display Supply Chain Consultants in its quarterly report. The full report is limited to those in the display industry who subscribe, but display analyst Ross Young provided a bit of color on what can be expected. Apple is working on a MacBook Air that's somewhere around 15...
14in MacBook Pro Deals Red Orange

Deals: Take $200 Off 2021 MacBook Pro Models in Amazon's New Sale

Monday March 14, 2022 6:47 am PDT by
Amazon today is offering deals on a few models of Apple's 2021 MacBook Pro lineup, with as much as $200 off the newest Apple notebooks. All of these models are in stock and sold directly by Amazon, and no coupon codes are required this time. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps ...
oppo find n

Oppo Says Smartphone Innovation Has 'Hit a Wall' As It Teases First Foldable Device

Thursday December 9, 2021 2:05 am PST by
Chinese consumer electronics maker Oppo says that innovation in the smartphone industry has "hit a wall" and that people are asking, "What's next for smartphones?" In an answer to that question, the maker teased its first-ever foldable smartphone named "Find N." In a press release, Oppo's chief product officer, Pete Lau, said that following "four years of intense R&D and six generations of...
top stories jan 8

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Without Notch, AirPods Pro 2, and More for 2022

Saturday January 8, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Happy New Year 2022! With calendars turning over to the new year, it's a great opportunity to look ahead at expectations for 2022 and there has been no shortage of rumors on that front already. This week saw rumors about the iPhone 14 Pro, AirPods Pro 2, the next iPhone SE, and more, while we wrapped up 2021 and kicked off 2022 with the first two episodes of our new podcast, The MacRumors...
OLED iPad Air

Apple Rumored to Be Planning OLED iPad Pro in Both 11-Inch and 12.9-Inch Sizes

Monday March 14, 2022 9:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to launch new iPad Pro models with OLED displays in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes in the future, according to a report published today by Ross Young, co-founder and CEO of research firm Display Supply Chain Consultants. "Looking at tablets beyond 2022, we expect to see Apple shake-up this category again by launching OLED iPad Pros," wrote Young. While mini-LED display...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Blue

No Foldable iPhone Expected Until 2023 at the Earliest, But 2024 More Likely

Monday December 13, 2021 12:13 pm PST by
Apple is not expected to introduce a foldable iPhone until 2023 at the earliest, with 2024 being the more likely target date, according to display analyst Ross Young. Rumors about a foldable iPhone have died down in recent months, but there continues to be evidence that Apple is at least working on prototypes of foldable devices. In September 2020, it was suggested that Samsung had provided f...

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple CEO Tim Cook Hints at AR/VR Headset: 'Stay Tuned and You'll See What We Have to Offer'

Wednesday June 22, 2022 6:34 pm PDT by
CEO Tim Cook this week did an interview with China Daily, where he once again commented on on the future of augmented reality and hinted at Apple's work on an AR/VR headset. Render via designer Ian Zelbo Cook said that Apple is excited about the opportunities available with augmented reality, which is not too far off from prior comments that he's made, but he went on to say that people should ...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
customize wallpaper setting ios 16

iOS 16 Beta 2 Tidbits: New Wallpaper Colors, Backup Over LTE, SMS Filtering and More

Wednesday June 22, 2022 2:16 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the second betas of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, and the new betas introduce new features and refine some of the changes that Apple made with the first iOS 16 release. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Lock Screen Photo Wallpaper Customization When customizing a photo on the Lock Screen, there are two new DuoTone and...
home app ios 16

Apple Confirms iPad Will No Longer Be Supported as a Home Hub in iOS 16

Wednesday June 22, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
The iPad will no longer be able to be used as a home hub following the launch of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS Ventura, and the HomePod 16 software this fall, Apple confirmed today. As discovered in iOS 16 code by MacRumors contributor Steve Moser, Apple says that the iPad will no longer be supported as a home hub. This information will be displayed in the Home app after updating to iOS 16.A home ...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple Rumored to Announce 'Game-Changer' AR/VR Headset in January 2023

Friday June 24, 2022 2:52 am PDT by
Apple is "likely" to announce its long-rumored mixed-reality headset as soon as January 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reiterated. Concept render based on purported leaked information by Ian Zelbo In a detailed post on Medium, Kuo explained that Apple's headset will be a "game-changer" for the augmented-reality and virtual-reality market. Describing some of the headset's...