A new report Wednesday has revealed Apple is building prototypes of "at least two iPhones that fold widthwise like a clamshell," pointing to a future release of a device that could compete with popular rival Android devices.
In a new report from The Information, Wayne Ma (who accurately leaked Apple Vision Pro years ahead of the release), says "If Apple ends up launching a foldable iPhone, it would be one of the biggest hardware design changes in the product’s history."
According to Ma, Apple's foldable iPhones are " in early development and aren't on the company’s mass production plans for 2024 or 2025." That means we definitely won't see a folding iPhone alongside the iPhone 16 or iPhone 16 Pro, and we won't get one next year either. The report claims Apple has "recently approached at least one manufacturer in Asia for components related to two foldable iPhones of different sizes," but that both products "could be canceled if they don’t meet Apple’s standards."
iPhone fold on the way?
Ma says that Apple "has explored foldable products for more than a decade" but that enthusiasm for them within the company's top brass has been up and down. Tim Cook reportedly asked engineers about a foldable iPhone as early as 2018, and "reacted positively to a demonstration by Apple’s designers and engineers of a 7-inch foldable display" in the same year.
Apple is reportedly facing two major problems in developing a folding iPhone, "the technical challenges of building such a device" and generating "compelling features that would make consumers want one," which seems like quite a big deal. A third factor is price, the latter problem being amplified by the fact foldable phones are generally very expensive.
Ma cites former Apple employees who said Apple's first foldable product would be an iPad used to help test the waters of consumer interest in such a device.
According to Ma, Apple wants a foldable iPhone "whose displays face the outside when the phone is shut," but these devices are prone to breaking. Apple is also apparently targeting a foldable iPhone that is half as thick as current iPhone models such as Apple's best iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The report claims Apple "paused" its work on foldable iPhones around 2020, instead focusing on an "inward folding iPad" similar to the size of an iPad mini. Such a device could be thicker and less drop-proof because customers wouldn't carry it in their pockets. Apple is also reportedly heavily focused on the Achilles heel of foldable devices, the crease in the middle of the display. Apple's engineers are "trying to eliminate the crease in the middle of the display that forms after repeated folds" and are designing "a hinge that will allow the display to lie completely flat as opposed to having a small bump or dip in the middle."
This isn't the first we've heard of a foldable iPhone in the works, and it certainly won't be the last.
Back in February 2021, Jon Prosser reported that Apple was fully focused on a clamshell foldable iPhone, just like Ma reiterates here. According to Prosser's info, Apple was previously focused on offering a foldable iPhone with "fun" colors rather than the serious, polished tones of the "Pro" iPhone lineup. If these latest reports are to be believed, a foldable iPhone could still be two or more years away. Before then the aforementioned foldable iPad will probably arrive, possibly as early as this year.
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9