Samsung unveiled its first foldable smartphone way back in 2019, and has continued releasing new models every year since then. Other companies like Google, LG, Motorola, and Huawei have also followed in Samsung's footsteps, so there are multiple Android-based foldable smartphones to choose from.
Samsung makes its foldable smartphones two ways, with the phone-to-tablet Galaxy Fold that opens like a book, and the smaller flip-up Galaxy Flip Z.
Most foldables on the market have the book-style folding mechanism, and as Apple waits to debut a foldable device, Android smartphone makers are getting better and better at hinges, crease-free foldable displays, and more. Samsung is on its fifth-generation foldables, but Apple still has not yet introduced a foldable device.
No foldable is perfect as of yet and there are still some issues with pricing and durability, but foldable smartphones are a growing trend. There are some rumors that Apple is investigating foldable iPhones and other devices, but we haven't heard anything concrete yet.
Foldable iPhone Rumors
The first 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, but LG clearly did not end up supplying foldable displays to Apple at that time because no folding iPhone materialized.
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, and LG has been refining its technology every year.
Rumors in 2019 suggested that Samsung offered to supply foldable displays to Apple, and Apple supplier Corning was rumored to be working on a foldable glass solution that Apple might adopt.
In September 2020, rumors indicated that Samsung was providing foldable display samples to Apple for a future foldable iPhone, but years later, there is no indication that Apple is planing to use Samsung's technology.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who often has reliable insight into Apple's plans, said in 2021 that development on a foldable iPhone had not yet kicked off, but he later claimed that Apple experimented with an 8-inch foldable iPhone with a flexible OLED display and a 9-inch foldable device.
Kuo initially said that Apple would introduce a foldable iPhone in 2024, but in 2022, he revised his prediction and said that Apple is unlikely to unveil a foldable iPhone until 2025 or later. Display analyst Ross Young has also suggested 2025 is the earliest that we might see a foldable iPhone.
Kuo believes that a foldable 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, such as a tri-fold device.
In 2021, Bloomberg claimed that Apple had started "early work" on an iPhone with a foldable display, but that it had not committed to releasing a foldable device at that time. Development in 2021 had not expanded beyond a display, and Apple did not have full foldable iPhone prototypes. It is not clear if that has changed at this point, but it seems unlikely because there have been no subsequent rumors about a foldable Apple smartphone.
Apple has allegedly discussed several foldable screen sizes, including one that unfolds to a size similar to the 6.7-inch display on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and others in the 8 to 9 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.
Foldable iPhone Prototypes
In December 2020, a rumor from the Asian supply chain suggested that two of Apple's foldable iPhone prototypes had passed internal testing for durability, but nothing came of that information.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The extra layer would be placed directly on top of the display and would resist punctures and scratches.
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 horizontally both inwards and outwards from Samsung and Huawei, plus Samsung makes a version that folds down vertically.
We don't know what Apple's foldable smartphone might look like until it's further along in development, but there is allegedly a prototype being worked on that features two displays connected by a hinge.
When Will Apple Launch a Foldable iPhone?
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple will introduce the first foldable iPhone in 2025 or later.
Display analyst Ross Young believes that Apple has delayed its foldable iPhone until 2025, with Apple reportedly not in a hurry to enter the foldable market.
Other Foldable Apple Devices
Along with a foldable iPhone, rumors suggest that Apple is exploring other foldable devices, including iPads and MacBooks that have foldable OLED displays.
Apple is said to be working with LG to create ultra-thin foldable cover glass for future Macs and iPads.
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