From www.cnet.com

Samsung, Motorola and even Google have released their own foldable phones, like the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Motorola Razr Plus reboot and Pixel Fold, respectively. As the niche fills with Android folding phones, Apple still hasn’t introduced its own foldable, despite evidence mounting for years that the company is seemingly tinkering with not just a folding device but a name: the iPhone Flip. 

September 2023 came and went with the launch of the iPhone 15 series but no hints at a foldable phone. Instead, Apple seems to have been focusing on its AR/VR headset, the Apple Vision Pro, which launched in early 2024. It’s not clear whether the company will switch to focus on bringing an iPhone Flip to market, but rumors suggest it’s put years of research into folding handset tech.

The newest rumors suggest Apple has been working on iPhone Flip models in two different sizes, though there have been difficulties in making the devices to Apple’s demanding standards. The company may also be working on a folding tablet with a screen around the size of an iPad Mini. 

Prior rumors said Apple may not launch its own flexible screen device until 2025, and Samsung hasn’t let phone fans forget it by releasing an app that will let Apple phone owners experience a Z Fold-esque experience by placing two iPhones side-by-side.

Years ago in 2017, folks predicted that a foldable iPhone could launch in the then-near future of 2020 — which didn’t happen. Analysts and leakers have been kicking the release date down the road ever since, and rumors and wish lists have hung around as phone fans keep their hopes up. Absent any confirmed details from Apple, here’s everything we know so far about the company’s future foray into foldables.

Read more: I Visited Samsung’s Home Turf to See if Foldable Phones Are Really the Future

iPhone Flip: Everything We Know About Apple’s Foldable Plans

Watch this: Apple’s foldable may be coming later than expected

Two foldable iPhone Flips?

Foldable iPhone hopefuls will at least be encouraged that Apple seemingly continues to tinker with an iPhone Flip design. The company is said to be working on two sizes of folding iPhones, according to a report by The Information, which align with prior rumors in suggesting the phones will be in the clamshell format like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 or Motorola Razr Plus. 

But it sounds like Apple’s been struggling to meet its high expectations: The company’s design team wants the iPhone Flip to be half as thin as current iPhone models and to have displays on the outside that are visible when the device is folded shut, according to the report.

Development on the iPhone Flip was halted around 2020, the report noted, in order to focus on a new project, a folding iPad. This device would have an 8-inch display to be around the size of the iPad Mini. The foldable tablet supposedly had less strict durability and thickness requirements, as it wouldn’t need to fit in pockets like an iPhone Flip. Apple was still working on ways to reduce the crease in the middle of the folding display and get the iPad to lie fully flat. 

Release date: The iPhone Flip launch could be in 2025

It seems to be an open secret that Apple is working toward a foldable iPhone. The company has been registering patents for foldable technologies for almost a decade now, and while there’s no guarantee that one will come out even after all that research (remember AirPower?), there’s still been buzz and possible release dates floated for years — though still not one solid enough to get excited about. 

Early rumors pointed to 2021 as a potential target date, but the year passed with no foldable iPhone in sight. A March 2021 report from longtime Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) suggested 2023 might be more realistic (though that possibility is dwindling as the year runs out). According to Kuo, Apple still needs to figure out technology and mass production issues before bringing a device like this to market, hence the wait. Speculation later in 2021 from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman aligned with Kuo’s predictions: In his Power On Newsletter, Gurman said that the foldable iPhone may not arrive for another two to three years.

But since then, new rumors have pointed to an even later release. Reliable display analyst Ross Young said in February that the foldable iPhone has been pushed back to 2025, and Kuo reaffirmed his predicted release window in a tweet in April 2022.

“Apple may launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, which may be a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad and iPhone,” Kuo wrote in the tweet.

The rumor mill has quieted down since then, and it still doesn’t look like we’ll get an iPhone foldable in 2024, especially as a report in early 2024 by The Information suggests that schedule could have been pushed back. That still leaves one year before Kuo’s prediction could possibly become reality.

Assuming development is on schedule. Another rumor in February by Weibo-based blogger Fixed Focus Digital as first noticed by MacRumors suggests that the foldable iPhone project is delayed for the foreseeable future. The problem? Apple, which is rumored to be using Samsung folding panels for its iPhone Flip’s display, was dissatisfied with the performance of the screens after they broke down a few days into testing.

Read more: Top Foldable Phones for 2024

iPhone Flip: Everything We Know About Apple’s Foldable Plans

Watch this: Foldable Phones May Be the Future. In South Korea, They’re the Present

Design: What will the foldable iPhone look like?

A 2021 report from Bloomberg indicated Apple already had a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display. While it’s not yet a working model, it’s a step up from a patent — which, until then, was all we had seen. 

foldableiphone.png

This illustration, according to Apple’s patent filing, shows a “device that bends along a flexible portion such as a flexible seam associated with a hinge.”

Apple/US Patent and Trademark Office

Apple seems to have taken out every patent under the sun when it comes to foldable displays, including an origami-style folding display, a flip-up display and even a wraparound display. And while we don’t know which one will make the final cut, both Kuo and Bloomberg seem to agree that the current prototype is more of a traditional fold-out design.

Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Duo, which has hinges on the exterior, Apple’s would have one continuous display with a hidden hinge mechanism like the Galaxy Fold. 

However, Apple leaker Jon Prosser reported in early 2021 that the iPhone Flip will likely use a clamshell design and come in several “fun colors.” Between the bright pastels of the iPhone 15 and Plus and the sleeker deep blue of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, an array of fun colors for Apple’s first foldable device is definitely a possibility.

YouTuber ConceptsiPhone also gave us a glimpse into what the iPhone Flip could look with concept art of the foldable iPhone in the colors blue, red, gold and green.

Roadblocks: What still stands in Apple’s way? 

corning-final-cut1
CNET

While Samsung and others have been testing the waters, Apple has been learning from the pain points of their foldable devices and figuring out how they’d be used.

One of these pain points: the crease. A lot of the current cover materials, including the glass and plastic mix that Samsung uses for the Z Fold and Z Flip, show a visible crease when folded out to full screen. To avoid it, Apple would likely have to wait for Corning, Apple’s glass provider, to create some kind of bendable version of its Ceramic Shield screen. The company is already working on a bendable glass but hasn’t announced a launch date for it. 

Kuo tweeted in April 2022 that Apple was testing a foldable OLED screen. Korean tech news site The Elec also reported that Apple was working with LG to develop a foldable OLED panel. 

Cost: Foldable phones don’t come cheap

Price is another major problem for these types of devices. Although Samsung still has the most affordable folding phone with the clamshell Z Flip 5 at $999, most others in the category are book-style foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Pixel Fold, which are around twice the price of most flagship phones. We wouldn’t expect a foldable iPhone to be cheaper than its rivals. Apple’s foldable needs to be in line with current foldable and nonfoldable models to be able to compete against other brands and entice iPhone users to ditch their single-screen devices and pay more for a foldable.

A report last year found that half of American consumers are interested in buying a foldable phone, though Apple customers are slightly less willing to make the leap than Samsung or LG users. But perhaps the “Apple effect” will change those stats if and when a foldable iPhone ever becomes reality.

For more, check out all of the models in the iPhone 15 line. You can also see the most exciting phones to look out for in 2024

[ For more curated Apple news, check out the main news page here]

The post iPhone Flip: Everything We Know About Apple’s Foldable Plans first appeared on www.cnet.com

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