Even as Samsung and Motorola have introduced foldable Android phones such as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Motorola Razr reboot, Apple hasn’t come out with a foldable of its own. For years, we’ve been following reports of a foldable iPhone, possibly called the iPhone Flip. But the latest rumors say Apple might not enter the foldable ring until 2025.
Way back in 2017, it was predicted that a foldable iPhone could be coming in the futuristic-sounding 2020. (That didn’t happen.) Analysts and leakers have been kicking the release date down the road ever since, and rumors and wish lists have simmered. Here’s everything we know so far.
Release date: The iPhone Flip launch is a moving target
It seems to be an open secret that Apple has its sights set on a foldable iPhone. The company has been registering patents for foldable mechanisms and devices for almost a decade now with no launch date in sight. The question is whether any of them will ever see the light of day, and if so, when?
Early rumors pointed to 2021 as a potential target date, but the year passed with no foldable iPhone in sight. A March 2021 report from longtime Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) suggested 2023 might be more realistic, if it ever happens. According to Kuo, Apple still needs to figure out technology and mass production issues before bringing a device like this to market, hence the wait. Speculation later in 2021 from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman aligned with Kuo’s predictions: In his Power On Newsletter, Gurman said that the foldable iPhone may not arrive for another two to three years.
But since then, new rumors have pointed to an even later release. Reliable display analyst Ross Young said in February that the foldable iPhone has been pushed back to 2025, and Kuo revised his predictions to 2025 in a tweet on Friday.
“Apple may launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, which may be a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad & iPhone,” Kuo wrote in the tweet.
Design: What will the foldable iPhone look like?
A report from Bloomberg last year indicated Apple already has a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display. While it’s not yet a working model, it’s a step up from a patent — which, until then, was all we had seen.
This illustration, according to Apple’s patent filing, shows a “device that bends along a flexible portion such as a flexible seam associated with a hinge.”
Apple/US Patent and Trademark Office
Apple seems to have taken out every patent under the sun when it comes to foldable displays, including an origami-style folding display, a flip-up display and even a wraparound display. And while we don’t know which one will make the final cut, both Kuo and Bloomberg seem to agree that the current prototype is more of a traditional fold-out design.
Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Duo, which has the hinges on the exterior, Apple’s would have one continuous display with a hidden hinge mechanism like the Galaxy Fold.
However, Apple leaker Jon Prosser reported in early 2021 that the iPhone Flip will likely use a clamshell design and come in several “fun colors.” Between the flashy purple iPhone 12, and the new blue and pink options for the iPhone 13, an array of fun colors for Apple’s first foldable device is definitely a possibility.
YouTuber ConceptsiPhone also gave us a glimpse into what the iPhone Flip could look with concept art of the foldable iPhone in the colors blue, red, gold and green.
Roadblocks: What still stands in Apple’s way?
Corning is working on bendable glass for foldable phones.
While Samsung and others have been testing the waters, Apple has been learning from the pain points of their foldable devices and figuring out how they’d be used.
One of these pain points: the crease. A lot of the current cover materials, including the glass and plastic mix that Samsung uses for the Z Fold and Z Flip, show a visible crease when folded out to full screen. To avoid it, Apple would likely have to wait for Corning, Apple’s glass provider, to create some kind of bendable version of its Ceramic Shield screen. The company is already working on a bendable glass, but hasn’t announced a launch date for it.
Kuo tweeted on Friday that Apple is testing a foldable OLED screen. Korean tech news site The Elec also said Friday that Apple is working with LG to develop a foldable OLED panel.
Cost: Foldable phones don’t come cheap
Price is another major problem for these types of devices. Although Samsung lowered the price for its most recent foldable phones, its previous model, the Fold 2, cost $2,000, which is over twice the price of Samsung’s other flagship phones. And, a foldable iPhone wouldn’t be any cheaper. Apple’s foldable needs to be in line with current foldable and nonfoldable models to be able to compete against other brands and entice iPhone users to ditch their single-screen devices and pay more for a foldable.
A report last year found that half of American consumers are interested in buying a foldable phone, though Apple customers are slightly less willing to make the leap than Samsung or LG users. But perhaps the “Apple effect” will change those stats if and when a foldable iPhone ever becomes reality.
For more, check out everything we’ve heard about the iPhone 14. You can also see the most exciting phones to look out for in 2022.
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