Apple is working on at least two folding iPhone prototypes

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 7

A new report says Apple is the process of building prototypes for an iPhone Fold, but is rumored to be having difficulties with durability and screen creasing.

The 'iPhone Fold' is expected to take design cues from existing Apple products
The 'iPhone Fold' is expected to take design cues from existing Apple products



Rumors about Apple making a folding iPhone have circulated for years, and a fan actually engineered one. Most recently, rumors have shifted to a presumption that such a device will be a foldable iPad, but a new report says Apple is still investigating the iPhone fold.

According to The Information, that investigation has reached the stage were two or more prototypes are being developed. Citing only an unnamed source "with direct knowledge," the publication says that there won't be an iPhone fold in either 2024 or 2025.

That is because the prototypes are in early development. However, the publication claims that Apple has approached at least one manufacturer concerning components related to two foldable iPhones of different sizes.

The source also says that Apple could yet cancel the projects if they do not meet its standards.

Those standards are reportedly concerned with the durability of a foldable iPhone's display, particularly around the crease in it.

According to The Information, Tim Cook first asked about the possibility of an iPhone fold in 2018. Reportedly, Cook responded positively to a demonstration that year of a foldable 7-inch display.

Three other unnamed sources told the publication that another issue is cost and desirability. A folding iPhone would necessarily be more expensive, and reportedly Apple has yet to find further features that would compel users to upgrade.

The same issues would presumably apply to any folding iPad. However, the most recent rumors concerning Apple's folding device plans have said that there could be a folding iPad mini in 2026.

Apple has years of research on how to make a folding iPhone



These latest reported prototypes are far from Apple's first ventures into a foldable device. While Apple has never commented publicly on the topic, its research has led to multiple patents that describe it.

Detail from one of many Apple patents regarding foldable devices.
Detail from one of many Apple patents regarding foldable devices.



Such patents show that Apple expects to overcome these reported screen issues with complex hinges, new display technology, and hybrid OLED that doesn't crease.

We expect Apple's foldable to open and close without a crease or seam in the display. Fully closed the thickness of the device should be only slightly thicker than current iPhones, while open it should be similar to the size of the iPad mini.

It's also expected that the "iPhone Fold" would have a USB-C port, and support MagSafe. Apple could use Face ID, but placement of such a biometric sensor would be complicated on a product that can be used open or shut.

Nonetheless, it remains that the screen is the key challenge. Apple isn't likely to ever release a foldable if it has such fundamental problems with the display.

An external display would act as a fully functional iPhone running iOS
An external display would act as a fully functional iPhone running iOS



It isn't yet clear how Apple will optimize iOS or iPadOS for the folding device. Little may have to change if the display only works in a fully open position. There is a chance that Apple could allow a three-quarters open or half-open mode for gaming or chat apps as well.

The "iPhone Fold" has been long-rumored to launch in 2025, with continuing rumors -- including this latest one from The Information -- suggesting a shift to later. There's also a chance this device will only ever exist internally at Apple and never see the light of day.

Rumor Score: Possible

Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    My engineering brain says that the hinged area is always going to be a problem.  A buddy has a samsung fold something.  He loves it, but I never can get any info from him regarding what it does that is special.  He is in the "anybody but apple" ideology.

    I always question if the world will buy a more expensive iPhone, and each year I am proven wrong, so I'll bet that there is someone out there that will buy it in quantity.  I bought a top of the line iPhone 15 pro max, so I know I am one of the suckers.
    9secondkox2beowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 36
    igorskyigorsky Posts: 754member
    wallym said:
    My engineering brain says that the hinged area is always going to be a problem.  A buddy has a samsung fold something.  He loves it, but I never can get any info from him regarding what it does that is special.  He is in the "anybody but apple" ideology.

    I always question if the world will buy a more expensive iPhone, and each year I am proven wrong, so I'll bet that there is someone out there that will buy it in quantity.  I bought a top of the line iPhone 15 pro max, so I know I am one of the suckers.
    These are definitely solutions looking for a problem. Recently I was on a commute standing next to someone using one of the Samsung clam shells, and this person kept folding and unfolding the phone every 10 seconds to check whatever they were looking at.  Seems like a step down in functionality to me. 
    edited February 7 M68000danoxwilliamlondontmaySpitbathForumPostJohnnyJackhammerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 36
    wallym said:
    My engineering brain says that the hinged area is always going to be a problem.  A buddy has a samsung fold something.  He loves it, but I never can get any info from him regarding what it does that is special.  He is in the "anybody but apple" ideology.

    I always question if the world will buy a more expensive iPhone, and each year I am proven wrong, so I'll bet that there is someone out there that will buy it in quantity.  I bought a top of the line iPhone 15 pro max, so I know I am one of the suckers.
    You’re not a sucker. You know what you like, need and will use. You appreciate the Apple ecosystem, value, engineering and workmanship that goes into Apple devices,
    williamlondonSpitbath9secondkox2ForumPostwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 36
     :/ I have followed this issue for a few years and have seen the non-Apple foldables.
    I have yet to figure out WHY anyone wants or needs a foldable phone.  Maybe a foldable iPad (?), but I do not see the need for a foldable phone.
    I came from the flip-phone generation and do not wish to go back.

    SpitbathForumPostJohnnyJackhammerlongpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 36
    While I could see the possible utility of some things that can be checked without unfolding it (perhaps a partial screen on one half of the outside & MagSafe on the other half of the outside) as a means of achieving the small pocket size that the minis and models prior to the 6 had, while allowing more screen when desired. That being said, it seems to me that in addition to the mechanical weak point a hinge introduces, there’s the difficulty of keeping hermetic seals on a design that folds 180 degrees. The limited water resistance of current models isn’t a feature I’d be amenable to losing. Indeed, I hope Apple will continue to improve upon existing water resistance.
    edited February 7 ForumPostwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 36
    M68000M68000 Posts: 723member
    AJ MAC25 said:
     :/ I have followed this issue for a few years and have seen the non-Apple foldables.
    I have yet to figure out WHY anyone wants or needs a foldable phone.  Maybe a foldable iPad (?), but I do not see the need for a foldable phone.
    I came from the flip-phone generation and do not wish to go back.

    Foldable phone may have one feature.  The ability of not having something get pressed unintentionally.   Other than that, i think i like the current slab or “candy bar” style we have better.
    longpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 36
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,207member
    AJ MAC25 said:
     :/ I have followed this issue for a few years and have seen the non-Apple foldables.
    I have yet to figure out WHY anyone wants or needs a foldable phone.  Maybe a foldable iPad (?), but I do not see the need for a foldable phone.
    I came from the flip-phone generation and do not wish to go back.

    I loved the simplicity of the flip phones, the Motorola Startac in particular. Not saying I'd go back to doing without some of the applications we have now, but that old Moto stiil carries fond memories.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 8 of 36
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,834member
    Every year people say Apple should offer a cheap iPhone when they do, most people end up buying the upper end iPhones. The hinge is a no go, work on getting rid of the notch Apple.....
    longpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 36
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,002member
    This won’t happen. It serves no purpose beyond novelty, while adding expense, decreasing durability, increasing warranty claims, and lowering customer satisfaction ratings. 
    williamlondonSpitbathForumPostwood1208watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 36
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,357member
    If it's assumed that a folding phone that's not a "flip phone" offers no increased real estate, then I'd question the reason for one existing. I'd assume the reason anyone would want a folding phone is for increased real estate.

    "a folding iPad" but not a folding phone? WTF. I prefer a smaller phone while many want a "phablet". I've seen people, mostly women using some model of huge phone. That's not for me but there are times when I'd appreciate a bigger screen but not at the expense of a new wardrobe to carry it.

    Opening a phone to have more real estate interests me. A smaller screen visible when closed could display caller information and notifications. Reliability of the hinged portion is a concern. 


    williamlondonbonobobmuthuk_vanalingamlongpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 36
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,653member
    Some random observations.

    No one has to buy a folding phone so I find it hard to understand why some people are against Apple making one. It would only be for those who actually want one and I'm sure some Apple users would want one. That's why Apple is probably working on one.

    No phone needs to be waterproof. Splashproof is more than enough. I've only ever met two people in my life who have suffered immersion damage and one of those was a feature phone. The other accidentally ended up in the washing machine.

    Some folding phones are already on par with regular iPhone. 

    There are more mechanical parts. There is more bend stress on the screen. It's a tradeoff on being able to fold the phone. 

    Is that a problem? Millions of folding phones have shipped but the sky hasn't fallen in under problems of durability. 

    And with every generation, they are getting better than they already were. 

    Yes, prices can be higher but they are coming down as sales increase. 

    The 'problem waiting for a solution' makes no sense. Large screen. Small screen. Main camera for selfies. Portrait subjects can see themselves on the screen. Multitasking multiple apps with real screen space.

    It's all about preference. An Apple folding phone would be a great option for those who want one. The alternative is an Android folding phone. 
    muthuk_vanalingamMplsP
  • Reply 12 of 36
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,302member
    The article makes me realize how much I miss the Motorola Razr from the 90’s. An iPhone Fold will sell big time, especially knowing that Apple will do it right.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 36
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,002member
    avon b7 said:
    Some random observations.

    No one has to buy a folding phone so I find it hard to understand why some people are against Apple making one. It would only be for those who actually want one and I'm sure some Apple users would want one. That's why Apple is probably working on one.

    No phone needs to be waterproof. Splashproof is more than enough. I've only ever met two people in my life who have suffered immersion damage and one of those was a feature phone. The other accidentally ended up in the washing machine.

    Some folding phones are already on par with regular iPhone. 

    There are more mechanical parts. There is more bend stress on the screen. It's a tradeoff on being able to fold the phone. 

    Is that a problem? Millions of folding phones have shipped but the sky hasn't fallen in under problems of durability. 

    And with every generation, they are getting better than they already were. 

    Yes, prices can be higher but they are coming down as sales increase. 

    The 'problem waiting for a solution' makes no sense. Large screen. Small screen. Main camera for selfies. Portrait subjects can see themselves on the screen. Multitasking multiple apps with real screen space.

    It's all about preference. An Apple folding phone would be a great option for those who want one. The alternative is an Android folding phone. 
    No one has to buy one, nor does Apple have to make one. Apple has been pretty consistent in not chasing trends to add bells, whistles and novelty features.

    One reason you haven't met many people who have "suffered immersion damage" is because, for the last several years, an iPhone dropped in water don't get damaged. Apple isn't likely to trade that feature in for a novelty phone that folds.

    Your trade-off for foldability comes with higher warranty claim rates. Apple doesn't want that.

    The "millions of folding phones" that have shipped weren't made by Apple. Quality failures for other brands don't make news like they would if it were Apple.

    Every generation of device is getting better, so why would Apple want to reverse that trend by making a novelty phone that breaks easily?

    You've reversed the concept. A folding-screen phone is a solution looking for a problem, not a problem looking for a solution.

    There are lots of features and devices that other companies make that Apple won't be making, because Apple doesn't chase after every bell and whistle just in case somebody wants one.
    williamlondonSpitbathlongpathtmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 36
    Of course they are. They need to stay abreast of competitors and possibilities. 

    What doesn’t make sense now just might a decade later. 

    Then again, nothing may come of it, but things learned during this process may prove to be helpful with something else. 


    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 36
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,269member
    If I could have the West World style foldable tablet that would be cool. 

    BUT.... 

    I'm not willing to pay much more for it and I'm not willing to accept any tradeoffs in terms of durability/usability. In other words, this is the sort of thing that is a small benefit, and so the cost better be very small, too. 

    Of course, here in the real world, the cost is pretty high. 

    So..... yeah. Unless there's a technical breakthrough, I don't see this making sense. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 36
    M68000M68000 Posts: 723member
    AppleZulu said:
    This won’t happen. It serves no purpose beyond novelty, while adding expense, decreasing durability, increasing warranty claims, and lowering customer satisfaction ratings. 
    But some people must want them.  It seems Samsung is selling a lot of them.  
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 36
    lol curious how many folks who see foldable phones as pointless, got excited about the Apple AR googles…
    9secondkox2muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 36
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,288member
    M68000 said:
    AppleZulu said:
    This won’t happen. It serves no purpose beyond novelty, while adding expense, decreasing durability, increasing warranty claims, and lowering customer satisfaction ratings. 
    But some people must want them.  It seems Samsung is selling a lot of them.  
    This is a huge misconception driven by advertising. The last time I checked, about 1 percent of Samsung’s smartphone sales were foldables.

    If you limit yourself to just their premium smartphones, it’s still under ten percent. They are hideously expensive given their shorter shelf-life.

    I’m by no means anti-foldable, but I do hate a crease on screen so I won’t personally be buying one, even an Apple one, unless that problem can be overcome.
    9secondkox2williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 36
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,269member
    vukasika said:
    lol curious how many folks who see foldable phones as pointless, got excited about the Apple AR googles…
    Why are you curious about that? 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 36
    chasm said:
    M68000 said:
    AppleZulu said:
    This won’t happen. It serves no purpose beyond novelty, while adding expense, decreasing durability, increasing warranty claims, and lowering customer satisfaction ratings. 
    But some people must want them.  It seems Samsung is selling a lot of them.  
    This is a huge misconception driven by advertising. The last time I checked, about 1 percent of Samsung’s smartphone sales were foldables.

    If you limit yourself to just their premium smartphones, it’s still under ten percent. They are hideously expensive given their shorter shelf-life.

    I’m by no means anti-foldable, but I do hate a crease on screen so I won’t personally be buying one, even an Apple one, unless that problem can be overcome.
    The crease on screen problem is prominent ONLY in Samsung foldables. It is not as prominent in the foldables from other Chinese OEMs (Huawei, BBK subsidiaries Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Xioami).
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