How To: iPhone Fold or Flip? Here's Everything We Know About Apple's Upcoming Foldable Smartphone

iPhone Fold or Flip? Here's Everything We Know About Apple's Upcoming Foldable Smartphone

Now that Vision Pro, Apple's mixed reality headset, has been announced, Apple can free up some R&D resources to commit to its upcoming foldable iPhone, which has been rumored for just as long as Vision Pro has. Will it be a flip-style or a larger foldable? Let's see what all the industry experts and Apple leakers have to say.

Over the years, rumors have said that Apple has worked on an iPhone Flip design similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip models, an iPhone Fold look similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold models and Google Pixel Fold, a slideable iPad prototype, and other designs, so it's safe to say that no one can predict which will materialize with 100% certainty at this point.

But with all the other major smartphone makers releasing foldable smartphones and tablets, we can say with 100% that Apple will have a foldable on the market in the coming years. Check out the rumors below to see what we know so far.

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Rumored Release Date

According to renowned analyst of Apple products Ming-Chi Kuo and other industry insiders, Apple is working hard to develop its first foldable mobile device by 2025. An official release date, however, remains uncertain.

Apple is known for its meticulous attention to detail and commitment to delivering exceptional user experiences, translating to a longer development timeline. That's why competitors like Samsung (Galaxy Z Fold/Flip series), Google (Pixel Fold), and Oppo (Find N series) have already released foldable smartphones.

Rumored Pricing

As for pricing, foldable smartphones typically carry a premium price tag due to their cutting-edge technology. Considering Apple's brand reputation and the high cost associated with developing foldable displays, it's reasonable to expect that a foldable iPhone will be priced at a premium compared to traditional iPhone models. It may end up being just above or below the $2,000 price range.

That price range makes more sense considering its two main competitors as of now are similarly priced near the $2,000 mark. Google's Pixel Fold goes for $1,799–$1,919, and Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold4 retails for $1,799.99–$2,159.99. It likely won't exceed that price range given Apple's mixed reality headset, Vision Pro, which had a very long development cycle and needed to be built from the ground up, will cost $3,499.

Rumored Display Technology

Apple could go the way of the Oppo Find N2 Flip, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, Motorola Razr 2022, and other folding devices that fold a regularly sized smartphone into a smaller, portable version. But we could also see an iPhone fold out into an iPad-like tablet. Apple could even release both as Samsung does, but it's more likely to focus on one for market introduction.

Apple does hold a patent on old-style flip phone technology with a physical keypad, but a newer patent shows a hinged device that folds a flexible display like what we've seen elsewhere on the market.

Various views of the folding mechanism in US-2023-0079485-A1.

Another Apple patent shows a similar design but with a wraparound display instead of a display just on the inside or outside.

Another foldable display possibility from US-11579722-B2.

Another possible way to go is a scrolling display, which would only make sense on an iPad to expand its screen space. Samsung showed off a slideable prototype of such a display last fall, which started as a tablet-sized device and expanded into a monitor-sized display.

The scrolling tablet from Apple's patent in US-2023-0161383-A1.

Apple will almost certainly use cutting-edge OLED or microLED technology to create a high-resolution, bright display that can resist repeated folding and unfolding. Whether Apple designs it in-house or outsources it through Samsung (which delivers many of its iPhone and iPad displays) or another display manufacturer remains to be seen.

However, Kuo has suggested that Apple may use e-ink technology for the device's exterior display to keep battery consumption low. No other foldable phone on the market currently uses e-ink displays.

Rumored Display Size

It's still unclear whether Apple's foldable mobile device will be an iPhone, iPad, or a hybrid of these two products. However, its size will likely fall somewhere between the current largest iPhone and the smallest iPad, which will expand to a larger screen. Kuo has said that he believes Apple is working on an iPhone with an 8-inch and/or 9-inch display unfolded, but he also speculates that an iPad-sized foldable will come out first.

Rumored Durability

One of the key challenges in developing a foldable iPhone lies in ensuring durability and reliability. The display and hinge mechanisms must withstand constant folding and unfolding without compromising performance or longevity. Apple's renowned engineering expertise will likely be put to the test to address these challenges and deliver a robust foldable device.

In one patent, Apple describes a "self-retracting display device" with "techniques for protecting [the] screen using drop detection." When the device is accidentally dropped during use, Apple could utilize on-device sensors to detect the acceleration and motion of the fall and bend the foldable device from the flat position so it lands on reinforced bezels instead of the display itself.

A folding device seen falling in US-2023-0079485-A1.

Foldable displays are generally harder to protect from drops and other damage, so a mechanism like this could prevent cracked displays. But Apple may also be incorporating a strong Ceramic Shield over the display technology to further protect the screen from fracturing.

A bendable display with a hardened top coat in US-2020-0097044-A1.

Rumored Operating System

Apple is expected to introduce software optimizations and enhancements tailored for a foldable iPhone or iPad to accommodate the unique form factor. With an early 2025 release, it may be a modified version of iOS 18 or iPadOS 18, while a release later in 2025 would bring us to iOS 19 or iPadOS 19. The adaptations may include multitasking capabilities, improved app continuity, and enhanced user interactions to fully exploit the device's flexible display.

Would a Foldable iPhone Be Worth It?

A foldable iPhone has the potential to offer users a more versatile and immersive experience, seamlessly transitioning between smartphone and tablet modes. The larger display area in the unfolded state could enhance productivity, gaming, and media consumption, while the compact folded form could add convenience and portability.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover photo by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks; screenshots by Jovana Naumovski/Gadget Hacks

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