The biggest smartphone makers like Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, and Oppo have been creating foldable phones since 2019, but one tech giant has been notably absent from the race: Apple.
The company behind the iPhone has yet to introduce its own foldable contender, but rumors from tech analysts say they are working on one—patents and concept drawings have surfaced online.
According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple started "early work" on an iPhone with a foldable display in January 2021. However, this doesn't mean that we'll probably see the device this year or even in 2024.
As per tech insider and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, we can expect to see an Apple foldable in 2025 at the earliest and it may be a hybrid of an iPhone and an iPad.
I expected Apple to launch a foldable iPhone as soon as 2024 in my reports last year, but now it's clear this prediction needs to be revised. I predict Apple may launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, which may be a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad & iPhone. https://t.co/HGIDPFvdar— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) April 1, 2022
Here's what else is known so far about the future device.
Display and design
Kuo said that Apple is testing a foldable with a 9-inch display, which would make the device like a smaller iPad. The analyst said this in response to MacRumors' April 1 report about how the tech giant is working with LG for the flexible panel.
In 2020, Apple patented a foldable phone design with the US Patents and Trademark Office. Looking at the patent and the measurements, the foldable would be similar to Samsung's 7.6-inch Galaxy Z Fold 3 but bigger.
However, Apple leaker Jon Prosser suggested a second design, saying the iPhone "Flip" will use a clamshell design in 2021. This would make it akin to the new Motorola Razr and Samsung's other foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip.
Prosser claimed that the prototypes don't feature a notch like the current iPhones but have a small forehead for Face ID and other sensors. It will also sport a round, stainless steel edge like the iPhone 11.
He also said that there will be two separate panels for each fold but they will look "fairly continuous and seamless."
Apple has also taken out other patents with the USPTO, including one for a tri-folding display, a flip-up one, and a wraparound screen. It looks like Apple is still experimenting with a lot of different designs for its folding iPhone.
As Samsung and Motorola are learning, foldable smartphones face major durability issues with their screens.
The earlier's first iteration of the Galaxy Fold saw broken displays just after a few days of use in 2019. Samsung has since tweaked the design to make it better able to withstand repeated folding.
This issue is a huge concern, especially since foldable devices don't come cheap. With users shelling out as low as P80,000 (Samsung's latest Galaxy Z Fold 3 is priced at P87,990), they would expect a more durable handset.
And since iPhones typically have higher price tags than their Android competition, an Apple foldable might not be any cheaper.
There's still a long way to go until 2025 so more things could change design-wise, price-wise, or Apple might not even launch a foldable at all. We'll see until then.