Apple's first foldable device could replace the iPad mini and come as soon as 2026

Foldable iPhone concept
(Image credit: Future)

As companies like Samsung and Google lean into the foldable phone market hard, Apple is yet to get involved which means that its iPhone has remained stubbornly rigid. It's likely to remain that way for some time as well, especially if the recent reports of Apple's foldable plans are any indication.

While we never expected the upcoming iPhone 16 or iPhone 16 Pro to bend in the middle, a new report suggests that the first foldable with an Apple logo on the back won't actually be an iPhone at all. Instead, it could be a replacement for Apple's smallest iPad.

That's according to a new report which suggests that the 8.3-inch iPad mini could be the device that sees its days numbered. Apple is reportedly working on a foldable device that could take its place in the lineup, however there is some confusion around that claim. We are told that the device will have a display of between seven and eight inches, a size that would make it perfectly suited to eating the iPad mini's lunch.

Bendy iPad incoming

The report, coming via the Korean website The Elec, claims that Apple will have the new foldable tablet ready for market around 2026 or 2027 which suggests that we might not have to wait all that much longer before we get to see what Apple's first foldable device will look like.

"Apple is reviewing the launch of a late 7-inch to early 8-inch foldable device. The product launch is expected to be around 2026-2027," the Korean report says via Apple's machine translation. "The product, which is likely to be Apple's first foldable device, is also expected to replace the tablet's 8.3-inch iPad mini model."

However, there's a wrinkle to be considered here. The report also notes that Apple continues to work on a new OLED iPad mini alongside the foldable device, a move that suggests Apple is yet to fully commit to its plans for the product.

The Elec's report goes on to say that both Samsung Display and LG Display are the two companies providing prototypes that could be used in a future foldable tablet device in the six and seven-inch size range.

The iPad mini isn't the only tablet going OLED of course. Apple is already strongly expected to launch new OLED iPad Pro tablets in two different sizes this year. Reports have so far suggested that the new tablets could arrive before the end of April.

Back in the world of foldables, The Elec also notes that Apple continues to work on a 20.5-inch foldable device, a product that has been the subject of rumors for a good long while at this point. The device is thought to potentially be a foldable MacBook, but it's still unconfirmed.

Apple's late entry into the foldable device market isn't all that surprising when you consider its history. The iPhone wasn't the first smartphone and the Apple Watch wasn't the first smartwatch. But Apple tends to wait until it believes that it can produce a product that won't suffer from the issues facing companies that beat it to the punch. In the case of foldable devices, the crease that is so familiar to foldable phone owners could well be something Apple has been trying to eradicate before entering the fray itself.

Before any of that happens of course we can look forward to plenty of new products including the aforementioned iPhones. But with the Vision Pro now on sale and the Apple Car project continuing to stall, Apple may now be able to focus on getting a foldable device into its stores sooner rather than later.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • FFR
    Apple isn’t making a foldable.

    No idea why they repost the same tired rumor Every year for the past six years.

    Samsung mobile is having trouble getting consumers to switch to a foldable form factor, even with the 50% firesale. This has lead to a decline in marketshare, revenue, and profit.

  • Wotchered
    I hope they can find a new material/s, that don’t leave a crease, and don’t break when you look at them ! And I still won’t want one !!