While the rumor mill is abuzz with Apple's inevitable iPhone 14, a mysterious foldable iPhone may be in the works — or a foldable something, at the very least.
With competitors such as Samsung gaining plenty of admiration from foldable fans with its Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Z Fold series, and Google tipped to be chipping away at its own Pixel Fold, it makes sense that the Cupertino giant is hopping on the foldable bandwagon and working on a device that folds in half as well. The thing is, it may not arrive until 2025.
That said, whispers of a foldable iPhone have been lurking about for well over a year, and they've now expanded to not just a foldable phone, but a potential foldable iPhone/iPad hybrid.
Many believe Apple has something interesting up its sleeve, and we've rummaged around the internet to scope out the latest leaks and rumors to find out more about the foldable iPhone — along with other potential Apple foldables.
Foldable iPhone release date
One thing's for sure, we don't expect to see a foldable iPhone anytime soon. Last year, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo made some stirring predictions about a possible 8-inch foldable iPhone to start shipping in 2023. In fact, Kuo claimed Apple was hoping to ship 15 to 20 million foldable iPhones, with Samsung set to supply the foldable OLED displays.
Before that, Chinese investment research firm EqualOcean reported Apple may launch a 7.3- to 7.6-inch foldable OLED smartphone in 2023, as predicted by global communications and digital media research organization Omdia. They even stated it would come with a new "activity pen."
While 2023 is still a ways off, many rumors have recently shifted this alleged foldable iPhone's trajectory to something very different. Now, Kuo predicts the Cupertino tech giant's first foldable product will launch in 2025 "at the earliest," as the product was apparently delayed. What's more, he states we may not be seeing a foldable iPhone, but rather a foldable iPad with a 9-inch OLED display, or a combination of the two popular devices. This could be similar in size to the 8.3-inch iPad mini, but with the folding ability of the Samsung Galaxy Fold 3.
I think the priority order of sizes of Apple foldable product development is medium, large, & small. Apple is actively testing foldable OLED about 9" (PPI between iPhone & iPad, adoption of TDDI). The test is to verify key technologies and may not be the final product spec. https://t.co/phbdIhFO3CApril 1, 2022
Back in February, oft-reliable Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) CEO Ross Young claimed we could see something entirely different: a 20-inch all-screen foldable MacBook. While the product might be different, Young also states a foldable device will likely come later than 2025.
Foldable iPhone design
"What will a foldable iPhone look like?" is a question no one can answer at the moment. Seemingly not even Apple, as rumors of a final design are scattered.
A leak from business news outlet Business Korea suggests Apple is working on both a clamshell design and an inward-folding smartphone to rival Samsung's top-of-the-line Galaxy Z phones. This was back when the first foldable iPhone was expected to launch in 2023, with the report stating that Apple's clamshell iPhone would be the first foldable to launch, boasting a 7.5-inch display panel. That report also stated that Apple is working with LG Display to develop the foldable, OLED panel.
Previously, we also reported that the US Patent & Trademark Office granted a patent to Apple, which it originally applied for back in 2019. It shows a clamshell flip phone design, except unlike the other foldable iPhone rumors, it describes "various types of physical buttons." An iPhone with physical buttons? Unlikely. But it could be taking design cues from the patent instead.
More recently, Kuo points out Apple is "actively testing" a foldable, nine-inch OLED device with pixel per inch (PPI) between an iPhone and iPad. However, since the device is still in its testing stages, the display size may not be what's seen in the final product, predicted to come out in 2025 or later.
According to a patent filed in 2020 (via MacRumors), Apple is working on a protective layer for a foldable iPhone so it won't crack. The patent filing shows a clamshell foldable phone, giving us an idea that Apple may be taking the Galaxy Z Flip route, a potential small phone replacement following the rumored demise of the iPhone mini line with the iPhone 13 mini.
According to Young, the Cupertino tech giant is reportedly in discussion to deliver foldable notebooks with display sizes reaching 20 inches — a design similar to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. The foldable notebook would introduce a new product category that functions like a MacBook with an on-screen keyboard when folded, but when unfolded, it's more like an iMac monitor with external peripherals. Apparently, the foldable product would also come with a 4K or higher resolution.
iOS Beta News made concept designs to give us an idea of what a foldable iPhone could look like, but it's speculative based on the varied existing rumors so it could be far off the final result.
While the new form factor is intriguing, we may not see it until after the now-delayed foldable iPhone, as Young states it will likely come later than 2025. Perhaps Apple is turning a slew of its products into foldable tech. This would certainly fit Apple's traditional model of allowing new technology to mature before venturing in.
Foldable iPhone display
As previously mentioned, the foldable iPhone's display was expected to be an OLED panel between 7.3 to 7.6 inches, but now many rumors suggest we could see an 8-inch OLED display. The common factor? OLED. And these displays are expected to be from LG.
Of course, this is still all up in the air. But one interesting tidbit of display information we've seen is what the front display may use: e-ink display technology.
Apple is testing E Ink's Electronic Paper Display (EPD) for future foldable device's cover screen & tablet-like applications. The color EPD has the potential to become a mainstream solution for foldable devices' must-have cover/second screen thanks to its excellent power-saving.May 17, 2022
According to Kuo, Apple is already testing color e-ink display technology to be used as a "future foldable device's cover screen and tablet-like applications." This strays from the design used in Android foldables, such as Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip's AMOLED cover display. However, using an e-ink display will consume less power, meaning Apple's foldable devices could offer extended battery life compared to its competitors.
It's unclear if e-ink's Electronic Paper Display (EPD) will be used as a smaller cover display on a foldable iPhone or as a full second screen. However, this foldable nine-inch OLED device between an iPhone and iPad could use a combination of an OLED display and a second color e-ink display. Using this kind of display tech would be an interesting twist for Apple's foldable. The traditional difficulty with color e-ink panels is the refresh rate, which lends them more to a secondary role or reading applications, but like foldable displays, the technology is advancing rapidly.
Foldable iPhone specs
So far, information about the foldable iPhone's power under the hood is scarce. However, knowing that it is predicted to arrive sometime around 2025 means that it isn't likely to use the iPhone 13's A15 Bionic, or even the iPhone 14's rumored A16 chip.
Apple's foldable will no doubt be a powerhouse, considering every new iPhone offers the best performance in the smartphone market. Like Android foldables, we expect Apple to use the same chips it uses in its mainline iPhone/iPad devices, although we may see a new OS launch to meet the device's unique needs. The differences between iOS and iPadOS are minimal, yet they're distinct operating systems. With this in mind, there's reason to believe Apple may bring out a new fork of its mobile OS for its foldable lineup.
Of course, this is all speculation. We'll be sure to update you with the latest when we catch wind of new developments.
Apple will never officially release information about its products unless they're ready to be unleashed into the wild, but that's what rumors and leaks are for. It may be a while before we see a foldable iPhone — or a foldable Apple device for that matter — but given the wealth of leaks and rumors, we know something is seemingly in the works, even if it's never released.
Are we getting a clamshell-style foldable iPhone or an 8-inch iPhone/iPad hybrid with an OLED display and e-ink tech on the second screen? Only time will tell, but there's clearly a desire for Apple to dabble in the foldable market.
As for the foldable phones of the (potential) foreseeable future, check out everything we know so far about the Google Pixel Fold, Galaxy Z Flip 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. If you think foldable phones aren't catching on, check out what these phone experts had to say.