Will Apple release a foldable iPhone?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Will Apple release a foldable iPhone?
Samsung and Huawei recently made big headlines with the official announcements of their first foldable phones: the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X. The upcoming phones were introduced to an enthusiastic reception – both fans and media alike are visibly excited by the news that the long-awaited technology of foldable OLED panels is finally ready for commercial use. Sure, the massive price tags both companies announced were quick to extinguish some of the flames, but people remain nonetheless excited that the technology is here. And if 2019 isn't the year that foldable phones truly propagate the market, then maybe next year will prove to be much more fruitful.

So, let's address the elephant in the room, shall we? Will, or maybe we should rather say how likely is Apple to release a foldable iPhone?

While we certainly can't be sure what Apple's currently working on in the labs, there are many reasons why Apple wouldn't want to release a foldable iPhone at this point. It might want to do so in the near future, but at least for the time being, Cupertino seems to be in a good spot and doesn't need to address this new niche right away. Why? Well, here's why...

Despite the Fold and the Mate X, the technology is not ready yet

We all know that neither the Fold, nor the Mate X will be massive commercial hits – they aren't meant to be. These are near-experimental, generation-zero foldable smartphones that will serve to pave the way at best. And judging by the state of their production that we saw at MWC, it's quite possible that there are currently serious production issues with yield rates, not to mention the other design problems such as the uneven screens that we noticed in both the Samsung and the Huawei.

At this point, it's evident why Apple wouldn't rush to announce a foldable phone – the technology is way too young and immature for Apple to produce a proper consumer product. For this to happen, many problems will need to be sorted out, like the display bumps in the middle, the durability of the panels, long-term reliability, elegance of the design, etc. Both the Fold and the Mate X are impressive, but look like prototype technology. Apple can't release such a product on the market.

Another issue is scale. When Apple does launch a foldable iPhone, it'll need to be able to produce those babies at scale. Right now, it's not clear if that's even possible, but the prohibitively high prices of the Galaxy Fold and Mate X suggest it's not. No one will be happy with an iPhone that takes forever to arrive, be it a foldable one.

Apple will have to figure out what to do with the iPad business

Apple also has its iPad business to consider. Wouldn't a foldable iPhone cannibalize that? Suddenly, users may be OK with just buying a foldable iPhone, instead of an iPhone + iPad combo. We always talk how tablet sales as a whole are dwindling, but the volume of iPads Apple sells is still considerable. The number of iPads Apple moves each quarter is roughly equal to the number of Galaxy S phones Samsung manages to sell each quarter, so it's actually not small at all (about 10 million units).

This is also the place to mention that Apple generally doesn't like products that compromise with the core experience. If it's a phone, it needs to be slim and light. If it's a tablet, it needs to be big and powerful. A foldable iPhone right now will most certainly have to be quite thick and heavy. Samsung's and Huawei's foldables come in at roughly 300 grams – would you like carry this amount of weight in your pocket? Not only would this be a compromise with the good smartphone experience, but it'd also not be a real tablet experience, because the screen would still not be too big, and it's uncertain if many iPad features would be possible to implement at least initially, such as Apple Pencil support, a faster/hotter processor, more powerful speakers, etc.

Apple doesn't like moving parts

It's a simple thing but it's true: hard drives got replaced by SSDs, sliders and clamshells gave way to the solid candybar, numpad and QWERTY keyboards got replaced by touchscreen ones, and so on and so forth. There's been a few bezel-less slider phones in the last year, but those won't stick around much longer. The reliability and effortlessness of the simple slate are way too good to give up.

So how would all that fit in with the idea of Apple making a foldable iPhone? Well, that's not to say that it's out of the question, but it'll surely take some time before the technology is mature enough for Apple to give it a go. Those hinges need to be very sturdy and reliable, and the same goes for the bendable displays. Who knows how much time it'll take before those components meet the requirements to be in a real consumer product that is both dope and practical. Still, the next big step in personal computing will likely be AR, and by the looks of it, this will take quite a while, so maybe there's going to be a good window in-between for us to see foldable phones truly have a moment. If that's the case, Apple will probably want to be part of it.

It's good times for Apple right now, and there is no rush to create a foldable iPhone

As Apple is starting to run out of competition in the high end (Galaxy S9 sales were disappointing and there's no reason to believe the S10 family will do much better), things are shaping up pretty good for the iPhone this year (and the next). With the unsatisfactory results of Samsung's mobile division, it won't be shocking to see the Korean company decide to focus more of its attention on its foldable efforts in hopes of making something happen. This will leave even more room for Apple to make a killing in the $1000 price range (as much as the current market climate allows it).

In this scenario, it would make absolutely no sense for Apple to be in a hurry to release a foldable iPhone. They'd much rather take advantage of the moment, at least for a year, but maybe even two, depending on how quickly the foldable tech seems to mature, and then enter the new niche with a product that is polished, and right on time to capitalize on the surging awareness and interest in foldable phones.

+ A foldable iPhone will be a nice excuse for Apple to add a higher price tier

Here's one reason why, despite the above points, Apple might be looking forward to designing its own folding phone. With the introduction of the iPhone X and the new iPad Pro, Apple unleashed its new strategy for growth: namely to find reasons to push its ASP (average selling price) higher, as an answer to more conservative demand for high-end phones.

A foldable iPhone at around $1500 would fit right in with this strategy, allowing Apple to add yet another price tier on top of what it currently has. However, this is one more reason why the time for a foldable iPhone is definitely not now – the prices of components will have to go down so that Apple may produce a commercially viable product. This would require a price considerably lower than the $2000 Samsung and Huawei are planning to charge for their foldables.

It's early to say with any degree of certainty whether there's going to be a foldable iPhone or not. We know there are some Apple patents dealing with related technologies, but then again – all companies have patents for everything, so these patents are in no way proof that a real product is coming. Depending on how things pan out with the first foldables (after all we're yet to see one reach the market), it could make sense for Apple to release a foldable iPhone at some point in the future, but definitely not right now. How far ahead? Maybe one year, maybe two years; three would probably be too late, but at least for the time being, we don't see the computing giant lose sleep over this emerging technology.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you think Apple should be in a hurry to produce an answer to Huawei's and Samsung's foldable devices, or do you think they should keep focusing on phones with standard form-factor for the time being? Let us know what you think in the comments!



1. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Not should but compel to. Just matter of time.

15. sgodsell

Posts: 7574; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Apple can't right now, especially when every iPhone currently out there has NO split screen multitasking. So it would be an even bigger iPhone. But if Apple were to make one like Samsung's or Huawei's foldable device size. Then it is definitely in the iPad territory. So would it be running iPhone apps, or iPad apps, or maybe both types of apps? If it's folded up would it only run iPhone apps? If it's unfolded then will you be running iPad apps? What happens when you switch between the different folding modes? It would be stupid to say the least to rerun apps when the user switches modes. Yep, Apple has some major issues to fix with iOS, first. I definitely don't see Apple releasing a foldable iPhone this year. I will put a guarantee on that one. Actually I don't see Apple releasing one next year as well.

32. mackan84

Posts: 631; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

The situation with apps is probably a couple of lines with code from Apple away. iPhone apps runs just fine on iPad already. The biggest problem is the things the author said, plastic screens. No pencil, no premium feel when touching, creases. When Samsung fix those problems Apple will release a bendable iPhone. Four years maybe?

36. sgodsell

Posts: 7574; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

It's definitely more than a few lines of code. Also if you run an iPad app, and then fold it, will the app stay the same, or will it scale? Or do you run only iPad apps when it's unfolded? What about the multitasking? These changes are bigger than you think.

43. mackan84

Posts: 631; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

If they wanted to go the easy route they’ll just fit both apps into one. I promise you android has a long route ahead for these foldables. They have demoed like 4-5 apps that works in both ways. Apple is known to handle transitions like this pretty good. iPad already use real multitasking so that’s solved.

47. sgodsell

Posts: 7574; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

"I promise you Android has a long route ahead for these foldables.". Clearly you are showing the world how ignorant you really are. Which OS supports real multitasking and split screen multitasking for its smartphones today, and for many years now? Which OS supports a Multi-window lifecycle for its apps? Which OS supports resizeableActivity? All of its Android baby. Not one iPhone today supports any of that. I actually laughed at the part where you said "They have demoed like 4-5 apps that works in both ways. Now I can promise you that it's already thousands, upon thousands of apps that will work on foldable Android smartphones. "Apple is known to handle transitions like this pretty good.". Another good laugh. So where is the their foldable iPhone/iPad. Also Apple has separate apps for iPads and iPhones. So once again you don't know what you are talking about. Multitasking on iPad is not multitasking on iPhone, and if you have iPhone and iPad apps. Then it becomes a sticky situation, especially when you have separate apps for phones and tablets. If you were a developer, then you would have know that from day one. Android encouraged it's developers to make one app that would work with smartphones and tablets. Not so for iOS. That is why there is lots separate apps for iPads. But clearly your not a developer. Oh, and I can promise you that Apple is the one that has a major problem with foldable iPhones/iPads. I can put a guarantee on that one. It isn't Android that has the problem.

45. BlackhawkFlys

Posts: 930; Member since: May 07, 2014

Apps should be responsive just like modern day websites. They should adapt to any screen size.

2. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 622; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

"A foldable iPhone at around $1500 would fit right in with this strategy, allowing Apple to add yet another price tier on top of what it currently has." Even if components prices drop Apple WILL NOT release a foldable phone for $1500. If you think that you delusional.

21. almostdone

Posts: 449; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

If you add in Apple tax then we are talking at the very least $2500.

3. User123456789

Posts: 1149; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

No, they do not want to " replace" ipad

4. drunkenjay

Posts: 1700; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

i feel like by the time the foldable phones take off (id give it 2 years), apple will make a phone by then. if they do it well for a first gen tech then they are doing it right.

22. miketer

Posts: 541; Member since: Apr 02, 2015

They'll, with the tag line 'the best iPhone yet'

5. JRPG_Guy

Posts: 150; Member since: Jan 13, 2019

Probably but not anytime soon

6. darkkjedii

Posts: 31598; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

If Apple does, it’ll be atleast a couple years. Apple isn’t in a hurry to do it, and will wait to see how well received they are. I can’t blame them either, since their financial position is so strong.

7. Khyron

Posts: 400; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

Maybe an ipad fold

8. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Apple wouldn't know how to produce a foldable phone, just like they don't know how to produce an OLED display. They would have to go begging to Samsung for the technology.

12. Vokilam

Posts: 1369; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

You really have no idea how the corporate world works, do you? Samsung fights other manufacturers for apples business. It does help them that their factories can produce enough to fill apples demand which others can’t. But to say that Apple is “begging” for Samsung’s tech is juvenile. I’d wait till you got to grade school first and let grownups talk.

13. Vokilam

Posts: 1369; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

you also probably don t know this but Samsung Mobile also hires Samsung semiconductor for their parts just like Apple (and others). If you learn more about your allah-the-Samsung, you’ll know that Samsung semiconductor and Samsung Mobile are as different companies as Apple and LG. And there are times Samsung semiconductor favors Apple over Samsung Mobile because Apple has better demand.

19. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

"Samsung semiconductor and Samsung Mobile are as different companies as Apple and LG." -Vokilam Completely wrong, but okay. Delusional iFans are everywhere.

23. User123456789

Posts: 1149; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

They both belong to Samsung, but are separated business.

18. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

"You really have no idea how the corporate world works, do you?" -Vokilam Of course I do: I own one. Please go away and continue being the Apple shill that you are somewhere else.

29. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

You own a corporate world???

40. shm224

Posts: 303; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

> Samsung fights other manufacturers for apples business That may be true for commodified components like DRAM, SSD, etc.. but we are talking Samsung's mobile display tech which isn't available elsewhere. This isn't just a matter of not having enough capacity to meet Apple's quantity demand.

48. shm224

Posts: 303; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

Do you also think it's a pure coincidence that Samsung Mobile is Samsung Display's largest and longest customer of their AMOLED display? or foldable display?

25. BuffaloSouce unregistered

I've done my research, that means reading through multiple sources, and Samsung are the ones approaching Apple about foldable displays

9. briankeithmays

Posts: 36; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

Of course Apple will copy. The tell the sheep they did it first.

14. chris2k5

Posts: 291; Member since: Nov 17, 2012

Why not? Samsung and Huawei got away with it so Apple can too.

10. xeroxchap

Posts: 68; Member since: Oct 11, 2016

"As Apple is starting to run out of competition in the high end (Galaxy S9 sales were disappointing and there's no reason to believe the S10 family will do much better)"..... I felt like some FanBoy wrote this...... :D

27. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Agreed. This author is somehow dismissing the fact that the S9 was not much different from the S8. But sales of the S8 was good. The S10 will also be good because it looks like an e tirely different phone and doesnt have that giant notch.

11. Vokilam

Posts: 1369; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Will Apple release a foldable phone? Well, what problem will a foldable phone solve? You answer my question - and I’ll answer yours.

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