Editorial: Apple's waiting game on foldable iPhones is no surprise

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 27
Apple didn't invent the smartphone, the tablet, the mouse, the CD-ROM, Wi-Fi, laptops, personal computers, or smart watches. Apple has always known that being first isn't what counts, and it certainly knows that about folding phones.




Media the world around is now wondering where Apple's foldable phone is. Samsung comes out with one, and about twenty minutes later so does Huawei. Apple's had days now and there's no sign -- okay, little sign -- of a foldable iPhone, so that's it, Apple's over, says the reports.

Perhaps one day, but this is not that day. Apple will tumble, or fade, or be beaten and since price wars haven't done that yet, it's a reasonable bet that it will be some other firm's better design that does the job.

We do have some skin in the game from all our years and money invested in Apple's gear, but we chose to invest in that hardware because it's been the best option for us. We'd switch to something else, if we found a better way to do our work.

Samsung's Galaxy Fold
Samsung's Galaxy Fold


That won't happen over either Samsung's or Hauwei's foldable phones.

Apple does now have some of the benefits of the monoliths like IBM and Microsoft that it unseated, it does have sheer scale on its side. Yet it's also got what it's always had, which is a really fine eye for both software and hardware working together.

You can well argue that Android has the same features as iOS, for instance, but then bicycles have the same wheel-based idea as cars. It's the implementation that matters. On the other hand, you could argue that Samsung's Galaxy Fold is far too thick and expensive to be useful, with an awkward hinge gap -- but it'll get thinner and cheaper.

There's a little more doubt over whether it will be actually useful. In theory, foldable phones have a lot going for them, but we won't know how they fare until they've left the labs and the assembly room floor. We won't know until millions of users have been using them in anger and proved that they're worth having.

We would've put money on that happening, on foldable phones being useful instead of gimmicks. Except we've instead put our money on Apple waiting for the same thing.

Huawei's foldable phone
Huawei's foldable phone


We do already know that Apple has been looking at foldable designs, so it's not as if the company is completely going to wait until every Christmas tree has a foldable phone under it. What Apple is surely going to do is refuse to tell us anything until it's ready.

That will mean waiting to see what happens with what's out, and it will also mean waiting to see what Apple can do that others have missed -- because that is how Apple has always worked. You can't presume that what's worked before will work again, but the company has an extremely hot track record for doing precisely the same thing and becoming hyper successful because of it.

It's easy to see that the Apple Watch came years after other smart watches. Go ask Samsung how the Wear family is doing. It's equally easy to see that the iPad followed years of tablets and the iPhone followed a decade or more of cellphones. Ask Microsoft how that initiative that Bill Gates started at the turn of the century fared.

In each case, Apple was so late to the market that they were derided for it -- and in each case Apple still beat everyone else. It isn't because of the long-time devout, as the iPhone is relatively new to the fold, and is the ultimate consumer computing device.

Go back further, though. PowerBooks weren't the first laptops. Apple is famous for the mouse and the graphical interface that we all use every day, but it wasn't even close to the first with either.

And go back right to the start. The Apple I wasn't the first personal computer.

Apple is never first but at least it's got, er, great design. (Source: Wikipedia)
Apple is never first but at least it's got, er, great design. (Source: Wikipedia)


Apple didn't invent Wi-Fi but we all have it now specifically because it was added to the iBook. Hopefully it would've come around anyway, but tablets had a decade-start on the iPad and still haven't succeeded. Smartphones had at least a few years on the iPhone and every single one was consigned to history when Apple showed them how it should be done. It's more than possible to prefer Android to iPhone, yet nobody but the board of Blackberry has any wish to go back to how phones used to be.

Similarly, the PowerBook introduced the idea of moving the keyboard to the back and leaving the front for palm rests and a pointing device. That's like the way that straps are attached to the Apple Watch. It's a very simple idea that absolutely no one had thought of before and in the case of the laptops, absolutely everyone has done since. There are no laptops that don't use Apple's idea and there haven't been since the PowerBooks came out.

There may not be any watches that haven't copied Apple but that's harder to tell as who buys anything but Apple Watches to find out?

There are just some things Apple does like this that are truly brilliant. Samsung's been called innovative over its foldable screen and yes, it is, yet it doesn't feel the same. You might well look at this new phone and want one, you might very well admire it and wish you had the cash. However, you don't look at it and know, instinctively and completely know, that this is truly the way all phones should always have been made and will be from now on.

If it sticks to form, Apple is going to try doing that again. It won't be this year, it might not be next, but if Apple can find something useful that everyone else has missed, that's when it will release a foldable phone.

Apple will be derided for it. Samsung will run ads mocking it. And if Apple gets it wrong, someone else will get it right.

Unfailingly, Apple is always either late or incredibly late to the party. In every single case, though, Apple is better. That's a subjective opinion, of course, but enough people hold it that Apple has become a bit of a success and enough people hold it that again and again, other companies copy it.

There is value in being first, but the most of that value is generally for those that come after. Samsung has an impressive idea with the Galaxy Fold, but rather than first and impressive, we'll always take late and brilliant instead. Just as we always have.



Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
patchythepiratelolliver
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    imatimat Posts: 154member
    I have seen the pictures under the artificial lights and the screen isn't really "flat" when unfolded. I bet this is one of the reasons Apple has not released anything foldable for the moment. That and their "monolithic" design ethos (hinges and folding mechanisms don't appeal to the design team at Apple). I think it is a matter of time before something comes out and maybe it will be in an AppleWatch at first. Apple will eventually do a foldable display when it feels it can do it properly and without the current offering's evident shortcomings.
    redgeminipaberndogjbdragonlolliverAnilu_777watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 63
    "Unfailingly, Apple is always either late or incredibly late to the party. In every single case, though, Apple is better."

    That is an old paradigm.  Things have changed.  Apple isn't the disruptor it used to be.  They were late to music streaming and after 4yrs  Spotify is still #1.  Their big hope is to try and bleed Spotify out of cash, as opposed to having a better service that everyone wants.  4 yrs into the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, they were the dominate player.  They were late the smart speaker market and got crushed by Amazon and Google.  They're late to the video streaming space and that looks like a major uphill fight.  They completely missed out on web services that turned Microsoft and Amazon into behemoths.

    Even on the products that they were early on, they're struggling.  Siri is way behind the other assistants and Apple TV became a high priced streaming box with minimal market share.

    I don't know if folding phones are the future.  I do know that Apple isn't competing against the likes of RIM,Nokia, and FitBit anymore.  They need to get faster at getting new products to market as well as faster at updating already existing products.  The game has changed, they need to evolve with it.


    anantksundaramgutengel80s_Apple_Guykestralbluefire1
  • Reply 3 of 63
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,803member
    5G gets hyped and we get an AI article about the reasons Apple will wait. Foldable phones make their debut and we get an AI article about the reasons Apple will wait again. These articles almost sound like excuses but I think they are directed at the constant drone of negativity that now permeates these forums. Well guess what? Nothing will placate the critics and trolls. They have latched onto the narrative and will milk it for all it’s worth. Explaining how Apple brings products to market over and over again just sounds defensive. If you have followed Apple for some time you already know how it goes about doing things. There will always be something negative for the critics to feast on. Same goes for financial analysts. 
    racerhomie3MacPromarsorrysmiffy31cornchipAnilu_777jony0
  • Reply 4 of 63
    The Samsung & Huawei devices are truly useless. 
    I rather get an iPhone XS Max & iPad Pro
    SoundJudgmentracoleman29lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,289member
    The Samsung & Huawei devices are truly useless. 
    I rather get an iPhone XS Max & iPad Pro
    A bit early with your opinion on usefulness isn't it since no consumers have them yet, unless it's just because it's not an Apple device and therefore useless to YOU personally  which is certainly understandable.

    FWIW there's going to be plenty of time between now and when Apple releases their own version to complain about how horrid a couple of unreleased devices you wouldn't use anyway are because, well "Android". 
     :) 
    edited February 27 GeorgeBMacrattlhed
  • Reply 6 of 63
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,779member
    I wonder if Apple were to launch a foldable iPhone, if the unfolded mode would use iOS as if it were an iPad (probably an iPad Mini), or if it would have a special bigger iPhone version of iOS.  Not that it matters all that much, but a distinctive difference between iOS for iPhone and iPad is the Phone app, which a foldable iPhone would want.  I've always wondered why it wasn't possible to put a regular phone SIM into an iPad and use it as a big phone (with headphones of course).  Niche, for sure.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 63
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,480member
    I agree that we will have to wait and see how the folding phones hold up in the real world both in terms of usability and durability. Then we will know if they can become a segment in their own right. Today, I firmly believe they will - as long as durability is proven and the prices come down.

    If prices remain astronomical I can see people opting for a single larger phone.

    However, in order to achieve the goal of establishing a new product category, first generations are a must. I think Samsung and Huawei have done a commendable job here.

    The first generation MacBook Air  for example had some issues that were pretty important at the time.

    In other cases, it isn't so much Apple waiting to get things right but simply not doing so (battery tech, camera tech, modems etc).

    Perhaps in a unexpected way, the grip on the Mate X acts as a real ergonomic assistance while providing 11mm of depth for the camera array. We already know it houses a camera that wasn't announced officially on Sunday because that camera is rumoured to be the same one as on the upcoming P30 Pro. There is no camera bump either.
    edited February 27 kestralAnilu_777
  • Reply 8 of 63
    Good article and I am totally with it. The waiting game for Apple will rip rewards at the end. It's been like this throughout Apple history. Huawei's and Samsung's folding phones will be the perfect guinea pigs for use in Apple's lab. Apple will take them apart, improve upon it and knock their socks off with Apple version of folding iPhone.
    racoleman29lolliverAnilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 63
    Off Topic: Nokia beats Samsung with 5 camera lens on their phone (https://mashable.com/article/nokia-9-five-camera-smartphone-mwc-2019/#R_6A9hCYNZqp). I think it looks really silly. I looks like your phone is growing acne.
    Anilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 63
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,993member
    "Unfailingly, Apple is always either late or incredibly late to the party. In every single case, though, Apple is better."

    That is an old paradigm.  Things have changed.  Apple isn't the disruptor it used to be.  They were late to music streaming and after 4yrs  Spotify is still #1.  Their big hope is to try and bleed Spotify out of cash, as opposed to having a better service that everyone wants.  4 yrs into the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, they were the dominate player.  They were late the smart speaker market and got crushed by Amazon and Google.  They're late to the video streaming space and that looks like a major uphill fight.  They completely missed out on web services that turned Microsoft and Amazon into behemoths.

    Even on the products that they were early on, they're struggling.  Siri is way behind the other assistants and Apple TV became a high priced streaming box with minimal market share.

    I don't know if folding phones are the future.  I do know that Apple isn't competing against the likes of RIM,Nokia, and FitBit anymore.  They need to get faster at getting new products to market as well as faster at updating already existing products.  The game has changed, they need to evolve with it.


    What is an old paradigm is assuming that everything in business, or in life, is a zero sum game. Apple defines their own game and plays by its own rules based on what has been successful for Apple over the long run, not to fit some narrative that other people try to spin for Apple. Apple doesn't have to be "#1" on any scorecard that other people, mostly those who aren't even in the same business or driven by the same priorities or understanding of customers, have created for their own personal reasons and self amusement.

    The last thing Apple should ever want to do is to "evolve" to fit someone else's narrative for what matters and what is important to the future of their business. If business and life were as simple and formulaic as chasing what pundits decide are "emerging trends" and executing on feel-good business BS phases like "go fast and break things" we'd all be billionaires and self-fulfilled geniuses. Nothing in business or in life is that simple. Using retrospective arguments for what Apple "should have" or "could have" done to see the success that other companies have enjoyed in areas of technology that Apple did not invest in is totally irrelevant for what matters today or in the future. That's looking backward, not forward.

    The reality is that Apple has set their own course and played by their own rules. In doing so they have made and enormous mountain of cash, amassed a loyal customer base that is the envy of nearly every company on earth, and built themselves into one of the world's most valuable and valued companies. I know a lot of pundits and business analysts who live in a world of gloom and doom don't like it and get-off on spinning tales of nightmares to come for Apple if Apple doesn't adhere to their advice. People say they like winners, but the truth is that nobody really does, unless the "winner" is the person they're looking at in the mirror.  It's just human nature.
    guscattmayradarthekatcharlesgreskiltedgreenbluefire1lolliverAnilu_777kevin keewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,289member
    Good article and I am totally with it. The waiting game for Apple will rip rewards at the end. It's been like this throughout Apple history. Huawei's and Samsung's folding phones will be the perfect guinea pigs for use in Apple's lab. Apple will take them apart, improve upon it and knock their socks off with Apple version of folding iPhone.
    Somebody has to go first....
    radarthekatmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 63
    Who cares about a foldable phone. If like the ones announce they are ~twice as thick (and heavy?) If like the Huawei's foldable phone I'd imagine using the camera while open will be awkward at best.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 63
    "Unfailingly, Apple is always either late or incredibly late to the party. In every single case, though, Apple is better."

    That is an old paradigm.  Things have changed.  Apple isn't the disruptor it used to be.  They were late to music streaming and after 4yrs  Spotify is still #1.  Their big hope is to try and bleed Spotify out of cash, as opposed to having a better service that everyone wants.  4 yrs into the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, they were the dominate player.  They were late the smart speaker market and got crushed by Amazon and Google.  They're late to the video streaming space and that looks like a major uphill fight.  They completely missed out on web services that turned Microsoft and Amazon into behemoths.

    Even on the products that they were early on, they're struggling.  Siri is way behind the other assistants and Apple TV became a high priced streaming box with minimal market share.

    I don't know if folding phones are the future.  I do know that Apple isn't competing against the likes of RIM,Nokia, and FitBit anymore.  They need to get faster at getting new products to market as well as faster at updating already existing products.  The game has changed, they need to evolve with it.


    The services business is something that for the most part is outside of Appel's set of strengths, and with the glaring exception of iTunes and its close sibling the App Store, I have trouble thinking of anywhere Apple has done really well, At the same time, apparently Apple is making a huge amount of money off their services. As for Apple TV, the devices that have done really well overall are very cheap ones, and so it's not like Apple has really missed out on anything. The home speaker market is a problem for Apple, but they aren't going to succeed at everything. As for Siri, Apple's privacy safeguards have hampered it, and I'd rather have a privacy minded Apple with a weaker Siri than the Android offerings.
    80s_Apple_Guyradarthekat
  • Reply 14 of 63
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,346administrator
    "Unfailingly, Apple is always either late or incredibly late to the party. In every single case, though, Apple is better."

    That is an old paradigm.  Things have changed.  Apple isn't the disruptor it used to be.  They were late to music streaming and after 4yrs  Spotify is still #1.  Their big hope is to try and bleed Spotify out of cash, as opposed to having a better service that everyone wants.  4 yrs into the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, they were the dominate player.  They were late the smart speaker market and got crushed by Amazon and Google.  They're late to the video streaming space and that looks like a major uphill fight.  They completely missed out on web services that turned Microsoft and Amazon into behemoths.

    Even on the products that they were early on, they're struggling.  Siri is way behind the other assistants and Apple TV became a high priced streaming box with minimal market share.

    I don't know if folding phones are the future.  I do know that Apple isn't competing against the likes of RIM,Nokia, and FitBit anymore.  They need to get faster at getting new products to market as well as faster at updating already existing products.  The game has changed, they need to evolve with it.


    It appears that you left off the second part of the paragraph that discusses your concerns.

    Anyway, no company has to dominate a market overall to be successful in the consumers they target. It's great that Amazon and Google have the low-end of smart speakers saturated, but that domination doesn't extend to the high-end. Spotify has more consumers worldwide, but it looks like in the US, Apple Music has more users than they do.
    edited February 27 lolliverStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 63
    Apple has patents related to a folding phone going back nearly 8 years now. Shamdung and Howeee aren’t very innovative, as it’s pretty easy to scour Apple’s patents for ideas, as Shamdung has proven they do quite often for years now. The Galaxy Edge design was something Apple had patents on for about 5 years before Shammy did it, and the active edge turned out to be totally useless. Microsoft even copies Apple’s patents, as the Studio folding hinge desktop closely matches a patent Apple has had for years for a similar iMac design. PatentlyApple.com covers all this stuff. 

    Apple is working on a liquid metal based glass substance. If it can be pulled off, that’s when Apple will make a folding iPhone, as Apple would never ship something with a wavy plastic screen. 
    radarthekatlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 63
    lkrupp said:
    5G gets hyped and we get an AI article about the reasons Apple will wait. Foldable phones make their debut and we get an AI article about the reasons Apple will wait again. These articles almost sound like excuses but I think they are directed at the constant drone of negativity that now permeates these forums. Well guess what? Nothing will placate the critics and trolls. They have latched onto the narrative and will milk it for all it’s worth. Explaining how Apple brings products to market over and over again just sounds defensive. If you have followed Apple for some time you already know how it goes about doing things. There will always be something negative for the critics to feast on. Same goes for financial analysts. 
    Couldn't agree more. The writers shouldn't waste time and effort defending Apple's lack of participation in a new field, they'll be fine. However, this is an Apple focused site and the writers need content for their audience, so I really don't blame them for their opinion piece...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,289member
    Apple has patents related to a folding phone going back nearly 8 years now. Shamdung and Howeee aren’t very innovative, as it’s pretty easy to scour Apple’s patents for ideas, as Shamdung has proven they do quite often for years now. The Galaxy Edge design was something Apple had patents on for about 5 years before Shammy did it, and the active edge turned out to be totally useless. Microsoft even copies Apple’s patents, as the Studio folding hinge desktop closely matches a patent Apple has had for years for a similar iMac design. PatentlyApple.com covers all this stuff. 

    Apple is working on a liquid metal based glass substance. If it can be pulled off, that’s when Apple will make a folding iPhone, as Apple would never ship something with a wavy plastic screen. 
    You're assuming no one was researching "folding displays" years ago and filing for patents related to them besides Apple, which isn't true at all. For instance Qualcomm filed one a decade ago. 
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US20110115713A1/en?q=folding&q=smartphone&q=display&oq=folding+smartphone+display

    Same with Samsung:
    https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2207076A2/en?q=folding&q=smartphone&q=display&assignee=Samsung

    You could probably go back even years earlier. They weren't copying Apple. 
    avon b7muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 63
    It’s amusing to me that just because a few companies have released folding phones that everyone expects Apple to rush out and be a part of this too. Apple has patents for folding phones dating back quit a ways. They obviously have been working on this in the lab for quite some time and it’s probably very obvious to them that the tech hasn’t caught up with their ideas of how a folding phone should be and/or that it can’t be quickly mass produced in the millions. 

    Honestly by looking at the folding phones that have been demoed so far, it has obviously been a rush to be first and little thought has been put into the software or hardware for that matter. Both are clunky and look very fragile. Just the aspect ratios alone when folded out to tablet modes make me cringe. There is so little thought of the user experience that if Apple releases something they are probably going to steamroll everyone because that is one thing they get right for the most part. The user experience. 
    ravnorodomlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 63
    guscat said:
    "Unfailingly, Apple is always either late or incredibly late to the party. In every single case, though, Apple is better."

    That is an old paradigm.  Things have changed.  Apple isn't the disruptor it used to be.  They were late to music streaming and after 4yrs  Spotify is still #1.  Their big hope is to try and bleed Spotify out of cash, as opposed to having a better service that everyone wants.  4 yrs into the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, they were the dominate player.  They were late the smart speaker market and got crushed by Amazon and Google.  They're late to the video streaming space and that looks like a major uphill fight.  They completely missed out on web services that turned Microsoft and Amazon into behemoths.

    Even on the products that they were early on, they're struggling.  Siri is way behind the other assistants and Apple TV became a high priced streaming box with minimal market share.

    I don't know if folding phones are the future.  I do know that Apple isn't competing against the likes of RIM,Nokia, and FitBit anymore.  They need to get faster at getting new products to market as well as faster at updating already existing products.  The game has changed, they need to evolve with it.


    The services business is something that for the most part is outside of Appel's set of strengths, and with the glaring exception of iTunes and its close sibling the App Store, I have trouble thinking of anywhere Apple has done really well, At the same time, apparently Apple is making a huge amount of money off their services. As for Apple TV, the devices that have done really well overall are very cheap ones, and so it's not like Apple has really missed out on anything. The home speaker market is a problem for Apple, but they aren't going to succeed at everything. As for Siri, Apple's privacy safeguards have hampered it, and I'd rather have a privacy minded Apple with a weaker Siri than the Android offerings.
    As Apple refocuses on being more service oriented, those low cost devices are more important.  As they launch a video service, you want Apple TV's in everyone's hands.  With Apple Music, you want a speaker, that you own, delivering it to the home.  Same thing with Siri.  The assistant is hub for the home.  Apple has focused on the phone, but has given up the home in the mean time.  Amazon and Google don't care if they make $ on the device.  They want the customer who is going to spend $ every month using that device.
  • Reply 20 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,289member

    Honestly by looking at the folding phones that have been demoed so far, it has obviously been a rush to be first and little thought has been put into the software or hardware for that matter. 
    Tough to comment when you haven't seen any of them yet, and certainly don't know how "usable" buyers find them. There's no reason to rush to judgment or assume that if it didn't come from Apple it must of course be useless.  They'll be in consumer's within a few months, and comments from them will actually mean something.  
    muthuk_vanalingam
Sign In or Register to comment.