iPhone Flip: What We Know About Apple’s Foldable Plan

In recent years, Samsung’s annual Galaxy Unpacked events in August have prompted the same question among iPhone fans: When will Apple give us something like the Galaxy Z Flip 4 or Galaxy Z Fold 4?

Rumors of Apple’s work on foldable iPhone technology have been circulating for years. Despite the amount of scuttlebutt we hear about Apple’s research and development on this mythical device, strangely enough, it always seems to be just around the corner and years away at the same time.

Apple iPhone Flip prototype.
Multi-tech media

All that seems obvious is that Apple is experimenting deep in its skunkworks with at least one foldable iPhone. Furthermore, it’s hard to say what an “iPhone Flip” might look like in reality or even when we’ll see one. Still, here’s what we know about the alleged iPhone flip phone by piecing together the various clues over the years.

Design and display

Very little is known about the design Apple will eventually adopt for its first foldable iPhone. Samsung has covered the two most obvious styles with the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 – but that doesn’t mean Apple should follow suit. Apple has filed dozens of patents pointing to designs for a foldable iPhone, but these contain so many possibilities that it’s anyone’s guess at this point in which direction the company will go. They can’t all be right.

We do know that Apple is actively working on folding prototypes. Numerous reports reveal that Apple has been developing and testing foldable OLED displays and hinges since 2017, and research and development is still ongoing.

Apple iPhone Flip prototype.
Drafts iPhone

In 2016, LG began mass production of foldable screens, indicating its intention to supply them to several companies, including Apple. That idea gained traction in late 2017 when sources claimed that Apple and LG had actively collaborated to develop specific foldable display technology for a future iPhone — a collaboration that is still ongoing.

By 2020, Apple and Samsung Display had reportedly signed a deal in which the display maker would provide a “large number” of foldable display samples for a year to use for testing foldable iPhone prototypes. At the same time, Apple had also reportedly started testing hinges, looking for both a display and a hinge that could withstand up to 100,000 folds.

To put this into perspective, most laptop hinges are rated for anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 folds. However, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 can survive at least 200,000 folds. We haven’t heard if Apple has since raised its standard to match Samsung’s.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 sitting on a bench.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Apple also seems to be testing a few significantly different designs. In early 2020, leaker Jon Prosser claimed to have seen a prototype device that used a dual-screen design similar to Microsoft’s Surface Neo and Surface Duo rather than a single folding screen.

The following year, however, Prosser said his sources had informed him that after completing the first round of hinge testing, Apple would put all its efforts into a clamshell folding iPhone with a design similar to the Galaxy Z Flip. Prosser also claimed that this iPhone would come in more “happy” colors to target “more regular customers”.

Meanwhile, industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple’s first foldable device would be significantly larger and might not even be an iPhone in its own right. Instead, Kuo predicted an entirely new class of devices with 7.5- to 8-inch screens that would blur the line between the iPhone and the iPad. Unlike Prosser, Kuo claims to have seen no samples of this device.

Foldable iPhone prototype.
Patently Apple

It’s worth noting that while Prosser has often been right about Apple’s product release dates, he has a much less reliable track record when it comes to Apple products, as he mostly relies on sources who claim to have insider information about what’s going on inside Apple. Kuo’s predictions tend to come from the other direction, as he looks at trends within Apple’s supply chain and the types of components in demand.

Of course, like Samsung, Apple has two devices in the pipeline: a clamshell foldable “iPhone Flip” designed for fun, along with a more serious business “iPhone Fold” or “iPad Fold”.

Cameras and other specifications

A report from early 2021 of Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman may throw cold water on leakers who claim they’ve already seen foldable iPhone prototypes. According to Gurman, Apple’s development of a foldable iPhone has not progressed beyond the screen, and the company “has no prototypes of full handsets in its labs yet.”

In nearly two years since that report, we’ve heard little more than the occasional confirmation that Apple is still in the early stages of experimenting with multiple designs.

There is no information available on what we will see regarding cameras, processors and other features. That’s not surprising at this stage, as it’s likely Apple hasn’t even made these decisions yet. Of course there is a lot of speculation, but all of that should be taken with skepticism.

Flip software

While most of the leaks and reports have focused on the hardware and design of a foldable iPhone, Apple is probably hard at work on the software side as well. Neither iOS nor iPadOS, as they exist today, will easily translate to a foldable design. This year, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 showed us that the software interface is just as essential to the folding experience as the hardware design.

Multiple apps at once on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Given Apple’s meticulous focus on user experiences, the company is probably already throwing ideas around for a foldable version of its mobile operating system. Depending on which direction the iPhone Flip goes, we can see an entirely new derivative of iOS appearing on it.

Publication date

While Apple is actively testing designs for one or more foldable iPhones, multiple sources have indicated that the company isn’t fully convinced yet. At best, a foldable iPhone is still years away; at worst, we may never see one.

In his report in early 2021, Gurman made it clear that Apple had “no concrete plans to actually launch a foldable iPhone”. In early 2022, MacRumors shared a message from leaker “Dylandkt” that SAID Apple was still concerned about the viability of foldable display technology and whether there was even a sufficient market for foldable smartphones.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 is upside down on a table.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

In a Tweet thread that has since been deleted along with Dylandkt’s Twitter account, the leaker said that while Apple is still working on several ideas, some within the company feel the display technology has not yet matured.

Not surprisingly, sources claim Apple is “playing the long game”, waiting to see how the technology progresses. It also wants to ensure that there is a long-term market for foldable smartphones and that this is not just a passing fad that will subside in a few years.

Still, Kuo last year predicted that Apple would release its first foldable iPhone by 2023, targeting mainstream consumers, and predicted that shipments could reach 20 million units in the first year. Kuo also expects Apple to use the most advanced display technology to give it “a long-term competitive advantage” and make it “the biggest winner in the new trend of foldable devices.”

However, earlier this year, display analyst Ross Young, who has a pretty solid track record when it comes to all things screen technology, told him he’s been told by sources in the supply chain that there won’t be a foldable iPhone soon. . 2025, which is a very preliminary estimate. “The company appears to be in no rush to enter the foldable smartphone market, and it may even take longer,” Young noted in its February 2022 foldable/rollable display shipment and technology report. Kuo confirmed this timeline a few months later. .

In my reports from last year, I expected Apple to launch a foldable iPhone as early as 2024, but now it’s clear that this forecast needs to be revised. I predict that Apple will launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, which could be a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad & iPhone. https://t.co/HGIDPFvdar

—郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) Apr 1, 2022

It is important to remember that 2025 is just the latest estimate in a long history of rumors and predictions. Three years ago, analysts and leakers predicted that a foldable iPhone would arrive in 2021, which would eventually be 2022, and then 2023. Now it’s 2025, but we recommend that you don’t hold your breath that this prediction will be more reliable than the other.

Until now, people have not started to massively abandon the iPhone to move to foldable devices. Apple still sells hundreds of millions of new iPhones every year — often without even trying. Until that slows down or rival devices like the Galaxy Z Flip 4 become overwhelmingly popular, Apple doesn’t have much reason to make an iPhone Flip a priority. Unfortunately, if you’re an iPhone user who really wants a foldable smartphone in the near future, it looks like you’ll have to switch teams.

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