Does Apple iPhone’s Future Include a Foldable Model?

While rumors are afloat that the electronics maker may develop foldable portable electronics devices, there’s no indication such products are on the way anytime soon.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

June 5, 2024

3 Min Read
Apple iPhone 15
Apple's iPhones now all have the familiar brick form factor, but industry insiders speculate that foldable iPhones may eventually come.Apple

At a Glance

  • Industry analysts say that a foldable form factor for Apple's iPhone is at least a few years away.

With Apple’s annual developers conference coming next week and iPhone product introductions slated for the Fall, rumors indicate that the iconic electronics maker is looking at a foldable iPhone to compete with products from Samsung and other electronics suppliers. However, analysts say such a product is several years away.

David Hsieh, Senior Director of Display Research for market intelligence firm Omdia, noted in a recent report that while most major smartphone brands and OEMs have launched foldable smartphones, there is still no news of when Apple will launch its own foldable smart handheld devices. According to market data from Omdia, the foldable OLED market is expected to grow substantially from 23.1 million units in 2023 to 32.9 million units in 2024, with all the shipments expected to be used for smartphone applications. From 2024, some display manufacturers have been aiming to ship foldable mobile PC displays in the 13- to 17-inch range. 

Likewise, Tomsguide #noted in a report from TrendForce that a foldable iPhone won’t arrive until 2027 at the earliest. The report further noted Apple is only in the early developmental stages of a foldable phone and needs to establish stringent standards for the foldable phone crease and reliability before production becomes a reality.

Related:Inside Google’s Foldable Phone

Omdia suggests that Apple may be considering a new foldable PC with a large 20.3-inch OLED display that has an RGB tandem stack structure and LTPO TFT backplane. The goal is to meet the needs of users who require a larger screen than a MacBook but a smaller screen than an all-in-one (AIO) PC. At the same time, Apple is also aiming to meet portability needs while ensuring low power consumption.

For smartphones, Omdia believes Apple could develop a foldable iPhone having a book-type inward form factor with two displays. The firm expects the cover subdisplay could measure 6.1 to 6.3 in., while the main display, would measure 7.7 to 7.9 in. Omdia estimates that Apple will define the device as a transformable device between a smartphone and tablet PC.

According to Omdia, Apple may not consider the traditional clamshell form factor present in other foldable smartphones, such as those from Samsung, because they would compete with Apple’s current 6.1 to 6.9-in. iPhone products.

Omdia analyst David Hsieh suggests that Apple’s foray into foldable displays, when it does happen, could go beyond the smartphone to also include mobile PCs. He suggests that Apple may be considering a new foldable PC with a large 20.3-inch OLED display that has an RGB tandem stack structure and LTPO TFT backplane. Hsieh said Apple’s goal is to meet the needs of users who require a larger screen than a MacBook but a smaller screen than an all-in-one (AIO) PC.

Related:Dust Blemishes Samsung’s New Foldable Smartphone

Dream Lineup for Apple

Hsieh envisions that if Apple were to launch both foldable smartphones and foldable mobile PCs, they would have a complete range of mobile devices with display sizes ranging from 6 inches to 24 inches.

Figure: Potential Apple’s product lineup (from smartphones to mobile PCs and desktop PCs)

Omdia expects that as specifications, performance, manufacturing scale, reliability, and costs continue to improve, more smartphone users are paying attention to foldable handhelds with the foldable display market expected to grow to over 120 million units per year by 2030. However, Omdia expects the foldable sector to remain a small portion of the total smartphone display market, over 1.5 billion units.

Stiff Competition

Even if Apple moves forward on foldable smartphones, it will be tasked with playing catch-up in a market dominated by its major smartphone rival, Samsung.

The Korean electronics company has offered foldable smartphones since 2019, although the earliest versions experienced quality control issues such a broken screens. Other companies offering foldable smartphones include Huawei, Google, and OnePlus.

Related:Breaking Screens Force Samsung to Delay the Galaxy Fold

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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