Samsung in 2019 and 2020 unveiled two foldable smartphones, the the Galaxy Fold and the Galaxy Flip Z, both of which feature a foldable design that converts from one shape to another, kicking off a new wave of foldable smartphone releases.

The Galaxy Fold transitions from a 4.6-inch smartphone into a 7.3-inch tablet, while the Galaxy Z Flip is a 6.7-inch smartphone that folds in half to be more portable. Other companies like Motorola and Huawei have also released foldable smartphones with similar designs. The technology is nascent and still has some issues, but foldable smartphones are a trend right now, and a trend that Apple might one day adopt.

galaxy fold kv device

Samsung's Galaxy Fold

Foldable iPhone Rumors

Hints of a foldable iPhone surfaced in 2016 when rumors suggested LG display would be mass producing foldable displays for smartphones in 2018 and supplying them to companies like Apple and Google.

lg folding display

Foldable display concept from LG

A 2017 rumor kept the folding ‌iPhone‌ concept alive, indicating Apple was partnering up with LG to develop an ‌iPhone‌ with a foldable display. LG has a number of foldable display prototypes that use flexible OLED panels, including one that folds over like a book and a second that rolls up like a newspaper.

lgfoldabledisplay

Another foldable display concept from LG

More recently, Samsung has allegedly offered to supply foldable displays to Apple, and Apple supplier Corning is working on a foldable glass solution. Corning is a current Apple supplier, and foldable glass from Corning sounds promising for a future ‌iPhone‌.

Samsung is rumored to be providing foldable display samples to Apple for a future foldable ‌iPhone‌ as of September 2020. Samsung is reportedly providing Apple with samples for one year, suggesting that Apple is ramping up work on a foldable ‌iPhone‌. Recent rumors also suggest that LG Display could also be involved in the development of a display panel for a foldable ‌iPhone‌.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who often has reliable insight into Apple's plans, said that development on a foldable ‌iPhone‌ has not yet kicked off, but Apple is said to be working to release an 8-inch foldable iPhone with a flexible OLED display by 2023 if key technology and mass production issues can be worked out. Kuo later revised that prediction to 2024, suggesting Apple still has problems that it needs to iron out.

Kuo believes that the upcoming ‌‌iPhone‌‌ will adopt a silver nanowire touch solution for the device's display, which will create a "long-term competitive advantage" for Apple in the foldable device market. This display technology will be needed for future foldable devices that support more than a single fold.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has started "early work" on an ‌iPhone‌ with a foldable display, but the company has not yet committed to releasing a foldable device.

Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable ‌‌iPhone‌‌ prototypes in its labs. Like foldable smartphones from other companies, a foldable ‌‌iPhone‌‌ would allow for Apple to create a larger display in a package that is still pocketable.

Apple has discussed several foldable screen sizes, including one that unfolds to a size similar to the 6.7-inch display on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and others in the 8 inch range. Apple's designs are said to have a "mostly invisible hinge" with electronics located behind the display rather than two panels separated by a visible hinge.

Leaker Jon Prosser has claimed that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone prototype that features two separate display panels that are connected by a hinge rather than a single display design like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, but this is not in line with Bloomberg's description of Apple's display work.

Hinged iPhone 2020 Article

A mockup of an foldable ‌iPhone‌ with a dual display design

Prosser says the foldable ‌iPhone‌ will feature round, stainless steel edges like the iPhone 11, and while there's no notch, Apple has added a "tiny forehead" that houses Face ID. Though the prototype is two separate panels, the displays together look "fairly continuous and seamless." Apple is likely testing multiple prototype designs and it's not clear if this prototype (or any prototype) will make it to an eventual release.

Research firm Omdia believes Apple will launch a foldable ‌iPhone‌ with an OLED display in the range of 7.3 to 7.6 inches and Apple Pencil support as soon as 2023.

Foldable iPhone Prototypes

In December 2020, a rumor from the Asian supply chain suggested that two of Apple's foldable ‌iPhone‌ prototypes have passed internal testing for durability, but this is not in line with rumors that work is early and has not progressed to a full device.

Apple was allegedly testing two different foldable ‌iPhone‌ designs at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China. One of these 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.

The test devices have been described as shells with limited internals and not fully functional iPhones, and it continues to be unclear if this is a product that will make it to launch.

Foldable iPhone Patents

Apple patents all kinds of things that never become finished products so patents aren't necessarily a reliable way to predict what's in development, but Apple has a few foldable ‌iPhone‌ patents.

19104 19023 161122 Folding l
Apple's first foldable iPhone patent surfaced in 2016, describing a smartphone that folds in half horizontally using a flexible OLED display and a hinged metal support structure. Both halves of the display remain accessible when the phone is shut, and there are also drawings depicting devices with multiple folds.

19104 19026 161122 Folding 4 l
A 2019 patent application describes foldable smartphone with a built-in heating element or display heating feature to cut down on failures at the fold in cold temperatures, a problem that has the potential to impact foldable smartphones.

apple foldable smartphone heating patent

Apple in February 2020 was granted a patent for a foldable device with a hinge mechanism that utilizes movable flaps to help prevent the display from being creased or damaged when folded.

The hinge mechanism is designed to ensure adequate separation between the first and second parts of the display. When the device is unfolded, movable flaps extend to cover the gap, and then retract when the device is folded.

An Apple patent granted in March describes a unique alternative to a foldable ‌iPhone‌, explaining a system that would allow two or more devices to act as one when brought close to each other through the use of proximity sensors.

apple patent bendable device separate displays

The patent envisions two separate devices that automatically detect one another when placed together with a shared display. The wording of the patent seems to suggest that Apple could create a single bendable device comprised of two displays in seamless communication with each other.

A 2020 patent filing suggests Apple is exploring a protective layer for a foldable ‌iPhone‌ that would resist cracking. The ‌iPhone‌ would feature a hardcoat layer that would fill pre-existing micro-cracks to make it harder for a larger crack to appear.

apple foldable display layer 2
The extra layer would be placed directly on top of the display and would resist punctures and scratches.

apple foldable display layer 1

When Will Apple Launch a Foldable iPhone?

Apple analyst ‌Ming-Chi Kuo‌ believes that Apple will introduce the first foldable ‌iPhone‌ in 2024.

What Will Apple's Foldable iPhone Look Like?

With no concrete rumors about a foldable ‌iPhone‌ in the works, there's no word on what form a foldable device might take.

As reference examples, we've seen foldable smartphones that fold vertically both inwards and outwards from Samsung and Huawei. Apple's patents have featured a device that folds horizontally and is not quite as wide as smartphones from Huawei and Samsung's versions, but Apple's patents are conceptual.

foldable iphone concept

Foldable ‌iPhone‌ concept

We don't know what Apple's foldable smartphone might look like until it's further along in development, but there is allegedly prototype being worked on that features towo displays connected by a hinge.

What's the Competition?

As mentioned above, Samsung has come out with the Galaxy Fold, a $1,980 smartphone that folds in half inwards thanks to a hidden hinge in the middle.

galaxyfold2

Samsung's Galaxy Fold

Early reviews for Samsung's device haven't been great, so it remains to be seen if the foldable smartphone trend will catch on. Samsung has other folding smartphones in the works, though, so it sounds like the South Korean company isn't ready to abandon a trend that it kicked off.

galaxyfold1

Samsung's Galaxy Fold

Samsung unveiled a second-generation foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip, in February 2020. The Galaxy Z Flip is a 6.7-inch smartphone that folds in half to make it more compact and pocketable. It differs from the Galaxy Fold because it starts out smartphone sized and isn't operable while folded, while the Galaxy Fold is a convertible device that's meant to serve as both a smartphone when folded and a tablet when unfolded.

galaxy z flip 1

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip

Huawei in February 2019 out with a folding smartphone, the Mate X, which is priced at $2,600. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X folds outwards instead of inwards, which gives it a display on both sides when closed. The Mate X measures in at 6.6 inches in smartphone mode and 8 inches when expanded.

matex2

Huawai's Mate X

Motorola also has a foldable smartphone, the RAZR, that's similar to the Galaxy Z Flip. It's designed to look like the traditional Motorola RAZR flip phone, but with a screen that folds in half to provide a full-screen experience.

motorolarazr

The Motorola RAZR

Foldable Smartphone Issues

Ahead of the launch of Samsung's first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, Samsung was forced to delay

When launching the Galaxy Fold, Samsung was forced to delay the debut after reviewers provided with one of the new devices uncovered major durability issues, with screens breaking after just a few days of use.

brokengalaxyfold

A broken Galaxy Fold, image via The Verge

Samsung addressed the problems with some design tweaks, making the Galaxy Fold more durable and better able to withstand repeated folding.

Similar problems have been uncovered with the Galaxy Z Flip, and there have been complaints about the display quality (the Galaxy Z Flip uses bendable glass) and at least one user has seen issues with the display cracking in cold temperatures.

galaxyzflipbreak

A broken Galaxy Z Flip, image via Twitter

Motorola's RAZR has also not fared well, and one reviewer saw the device's display break down the middle after just a week of usage with no known trigger causing the failure.

motorolarazr1

A broken Motorola RAZR, image via Ray Wong

Given the high price points of foldable iPhones, their delicate nature, and their penchant for failing, Apple may be planning to wait until the technology is more mature before deciding to launch its own foldable ‌iPhone‌.

Guide Feedback

Have questions or feedback on our foldable ‌iPhone‌ guide? Send us an email here.

Related Articles

under display touch id

Kuo: iPhones With Under-Screen Touch ID Now Coming in 2023, Foldable iPhone in 2024

Monday September 20, 2021 8:52 am PDT by
In addition to claiming that iPhone 14 Pro models will feature a hole-punch display design and a 48-megapixel Wide lens for the rear camera system, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlined his expectations for future iPhones beyond that. In a research note seen by MacRumors, Kuo said that while he previously predicted that Apple would launch its first iPhones with under-screen Touch ID in the...
Pixel Fold

Google 'Pixel Fold' to Use Ultra-Thin Glass, Still on Track for 2021 Release

Wednesday July 14, 2021 4:09 am PDT by
Google's designs on its first foldable Pixel phone appear to have ramped up a notch, with the company said to be tapping Samsung to supply ultra-thin glass (UTG) layers for an infolding 7.6-inch device that could launch this year. MacRumors concept render According to a new report from The Elec, Google is just one of several mobile makers seeking to secure UTG orders from Samsung, which is...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Yellow

Kuo: Apple to Launch 8-Inch Foldable iPhone in 2023

Sunday May 2, 2021 8:43 pm PDT by
Apple is working to launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Based on our latest industry survey, we forecast that Apple will likely launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, with SDC as the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Kuo: Apple Could Launch Foldable iPhone With 7.5–8 Inch Display in 2023

Monday March 1, 2021 7:11 am PST by
In a wide-ranging research note today outlining a roadmap for the iPhone lineup, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo shared a tidbit on Apple's foldable iPhone plans, indicating that the company could launch a device with a 7.5–8 inch display in 2023. A 2023 launch would be dependent on Apple being able to solve "key technology and mass production issues" this year. He says the product has "not yet...
Pixel Fold

New Report Lends Credence to Rumors of Foldable Google Pixel Phone Launching This Year

Wednesday February 24, 2021 3:40 am PST by
With more and more Android smartphone vendors coming out with their take on the foldable phone concept, and Apple rumors swirling about a possible future foldable iPhone, Google appears keen to get in on the act as soon as this year with its first foldable Pixel device. MacRumors concept render According to a new report by The Elec, Samsung is in the process of developing in-folding foldable...
mate x2 huawei

Huawei Unveils $2,800 Foldable 'Mate X2' Smartphone With Dual-Screen Redesign

Monday February 22, 2021 4:53 am PST by
Chinese smartphone company Huawei has today unveiled its latest foldable smartphone, the Mate X2, at a special event in China. The successor to 2019's Mate X, the phone has received a radical redesign and now features a large uninterrupted 8-inch screen that folds inwards, rather than having the main display on the exterior, as with the original device. The main screen uses a 180Hz...
foldable iPhone concept feature

LG Reportedly Assisting Apple on Foldable Display Development

Wednesday February 17, 2021 11:02 am PST by
Apple has commissioned LG Display to develop a display panel destined for a foldable iPhone, according to the Chinese-language version of DigiTimes. Citing industry sources, DigiTimes claims that LG Display is assisting Apple with the development of a foldable OLED display panel for an iPhone. It is not clear, however, if LG Display will supply Apple with this display panel for mass...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple May Launch 7-Inch Foldable iPhone With Apple Pencil Support in 2023

Tuesday February 16, 2021 4:37 am PST by
Apple may launch a foldable iPhone with a 7-inch OLED display and Apple Pencil support as soon as 2023, according to global technology research firm Omdia. In analysis cited by investment research firm EqualOcean, spotted by iPhone in Canada, Omdia predicts that Apple will launch its long-rumored foldable iPhone in 2023. The device is said to have a display size in the range of 7.3 to...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple Testing In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for iPhone 13, Foldable iPhone Also in the Works

Friday January 15, 2021 12:46 pm PST by
Apple has started "early work" on an iPhone that has a foldable display, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Though testing of a foldable iPhone has begun, Apple has not committed to releasing a device that has a foldable display. Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable iPhone prototypes in its labs. Like foldable...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Two Foldable iPhone Prototypes Reportedly Pass Internal Durability Tests

Thursday December 31, 2020 5:50 am PST by
Two prototype foldable iPhones have passed internal tests for durability, according to Taiwanese website Economic Daily News. Tests of an Apple-designed folding hinge system for two different iPhones were reportedly recently completed at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China. The first foldable iPhone to undergo testing is said to be a dual-screen model, which is likely the same...
foldable iPhone concept

Apple Has Sent Folding iPhones to Foxconn for Testing, According to Chinese Report

Monday November 16, 2020 3:32 am PST by
Apple has begun sending foldable iPhones to assembly partner Foxconn for testing purposes, with a projected release set for September 2022, claims a new Chinese report out today. Citing supply chain sources, Economic Daily News says the testing involves evaluating the use of OLED or Micro-LED display technology, because the choice of either screen will affect the subsequent assembly methods. ...
foldable iphone

Apple Researching Stronger Displays for Foldable Devices to Resist Cracking

Tuesday October 27, 2020 7:38 am PDT by
A newly-published patent filing has revealed that Apple is developing a protective layer to resist cracking on foldable displays, as well as improve scratch resistance and durability (via Patently Apple). The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing, titled "Hybrid coverlay/window structure for flexible display applications," outlines how curved, flexible, or foldable display modules could...
foldable iphone

Apple Reportedly Orders 'Large Number' of Samsung Foldable Mobile Phone Display Samples

Thursday September 10, 2020 9:08 am PDT by
Samsung will reportedly provide foldable display samples for a potential future iPhone, following a request from Apple, according to leaker "Ice Universe," who has today shared the information on Weibo. The "large number" of foldable displays will be samples for use in mobile phone devices, and Samsung will apparently supply the units to Apple for the duration of one year. The leaker also...
Pixel Fold

Leaked Google Documents Suggest Foldable Pixel Phone in the Works

Thursday August 6, 2020 9:18 am PDT by
Google plans to release a foldable Pixel phone in the fourth quarter of next year, according to leaked internal documents (via 9to5Google). Codenamed "Passport," the device is explicitly referred to as "foldable," and appears alongside a list of past and future Pixel devices. MacRumors concept Google confirmed last year that it is developing technology that could be used in foldable...
Hinged iPhone 2020 Feature

Apple's Foldable iPhone Prototype Allegedly Features Separate Display Panels Connected by Hinge

Monday June 15, 2020 12:53 pm PDT by
Apple is working on a foldable iPhone prototype that features two separate display panels that are connected by a hinge rather than a single display like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, according to leaker Jon Prosser who shared the info in a tweet and a YouTube interview shared by Jon Rettinger. A mockup of an iPhone that has two displays and a hinge Prosser says that the foldable iPhone has...
apple patent bendable device separate displays

Apple Patents Tech That Could Solve The Biggest Issue With Current Foldable Devices

Tuesday March 10, 2020 5:48 am PDT by
Apple today has been granted a patent for technology that could potentially be used to circumvent the issue of foldable displays creasing and cracking at the fold over time – a problem that has plagued many consumer foldable devices that have made it to market thus far. Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under the heading "System with multiple electronic devices," the patent...
galaxyzflip1

Testing Samsung's New $1,380 Galaxy Z Flip Foldable Smartphone

Wednesday February 19, 2020 2:24 pm PST by
Samsung last week unveiled the Galaxy Z Flip, which began shipping out over the weekend. We managed to get our hands on one of the new foldable smartphones, and thought we'd check it out to see how it compares to the Galaxy Fold and how foldable smartphone technology is progressing. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The Galaxy Z Flip is the followup to Samsung's...
motorolarazr1

Latest Foldable Smartphones Experiencing Failures and Durability Issues

Tuesday February 18, 2020 11:47 am PST by
Foldable smartphones are the latest device trend, and companies that include Motorola and Samsung have released new foldable smartphones over the course of the last few weeks. The first foldable smartphone from Samsung, the Galaxy Fold, had major durability issues that caused its launch to be delayed. Samsung's newest foldable device, the Galaxy Z Flip, seems to be faring a bit better so far,...
apple patent foldable device movable flaps 1

Apple Patents Foldable Device With Movable Flaps to Prevent Display From Creasing

Tuesday February 4, 2020 5:53 am PST by
Apple this week has been granted a patent for a foldable device with a unique hinge mechanism that utilizes movable flaps to help prevent the display from being creased or damaged when folded. Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today, the patent explains that the hinge mechanism would ensure adequate separation between the first and second portions of the display. When the...
samsung galaxy fold 1

Samsung Plans to Launch a Flip Phone-Style Device With 6.7-inch Bendable Display Early Next Year

Tuesday September 3, 2019 4:16 am PDT by
Undeterred by its recent Galaxy Fold un-launch, Samsung is apparently set to unveil a luxury smartphone early next year that can be folded down into a compact-sized square, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Samsung's Galaxy Fold hasn't even been released yet The South Korean smartphone giant is working on a device with a 6.7-inch inner display that shrinks to a pocketable square when...