Is Apple Making a Foldable Phone? What We Know About It So Far

We’ve seen a bunch of rumors lately about Apple making a foldable iPhone. This would certainly make sense, following in the footsteps of Huawei, Samsung, and Motorola, who all offer foldable phones.

But when might we see a foldable iPhone? What would it look like? And would it be any good?

Let’s take a look at everything we know about a foldable iPhone right now.

Apple Holds a Foldable iPhone Patent

Let’s start off with something we actually know for sure–Apple holds multiple patents for folding iPhones. In particular, Apple holds a USPTO patent for a foldable iPhone with an “exposed display region”.

A patent from 2016 details an iPhone that folds in half horizontally, using a flexible OLED display and metal hinge. Both halves of the display remain accessible when the phone is shut. Another Apple patent describes two magnetically connected displays that can be used jointly.

This suggests Apple is working on both a clamshell style foldable, like the Galaxy Z Flip, and a larger device like the Galaxy Fold.

What’s more, another Apple patent shows work into a protective screen layer for a foldable ‌iPhone‌, which would resist cracking. According to the patent, the ‌iPhone‌ would feature a hard layer that would fill existing micro-cracks to make it harder for a larger crack to appear.

One positive sign with these patents is that Jon Prosser has been told by sources that prototype devices are being tested. The leaker, with a 74.2 percent accuracy rating according to AppleTrack, explained that prototype shells were being tested, in an episode of Front Page Tech.

It’s worth noting that many smartphone manufacturers, especially Apple, file many patents that never come to fruition. A patent only confirms that a company is working on a product, not that it will actually be released.

How Big Would a Foldable iPhone Be?

A report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a 75 percent accuracy rating on AppleTrack, explains that the foldable iPhone will have a display measuring eight inches. An eight-inch display would be larger than the current iPad mini or Galaxy Fold.

From this report, we can also predict that Apple is working on the Galaxy Fold competitor first. An eight-inch display would have to take a Galaxy Fold style form factor purely because of the size. Also, the lack of leaks surrounding the size of a clamshell foldable iPhone suggests it might be coming later.

A man holding the iPad mini in one hand.

As always, this information remains neither confirmed nor denied by Apple. Reports such as this one often turn out to be correct, but can just as easily be false.

What Features Might a Foldable iPhone Have?

Let’s start with the display. Based on Apple’s patents, it appears as though the foldable iPhone will come with an OLED display. That’s not out of the ordinary for Apple, but nice to have confirmed. Since Apple is expected to introduce 120Hz displays on this year’s iPhones, it would make sense to appear on a foldable display too. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold has a 120Hz display, so we know it’s possible.

Related: The iPhone 13 Is Getting a 120Hz Display, Thanks to Samsung

When it comes to the camera, we’re likely to see similar upgrades. It’s not often that leaks specifically mention changes to the iPhone camera, so this one is a bit more of a guess. It seems likely that a premium foldable iPhone would carry three cameras and a LIDAR sensor, just like the current Pro iPhones.

Going further, a foldable iPhone might reintroduce Touch ID. Many recent reports suggest that Touch ID could return to the iPhone as soon as this year or next. But offering two unlocking options seems rather strange. Perhaps a foldable iPhone would be a more appropriate device to reintroduce Touch ID, with a folding display prohibiting Face ID sensors in the notch.

Related: Another Report Claims Next iPhone Will Boast In-Screen Touch ID

When it comes to other features, there’s nothing else we’ve heard. The fact a foldable iPhone can fold is a pretty big feature in itself. Many other features would likely come with that year’s iOS software update.

What Might a Foldable iPhone Cost?

A foldable iPhone’s price isn’t the easiest element to consider. There are numerous different factors, including when the device is released, which size is released first, and the price of the competition at that time.

The Galaxy Fold 2 currently retails for $1,780, which is just $200 less than the first iteration. Foldables are a relatively new type of device, so are likely to carry a high price anyway.

Combined with expensive research and development, foldable devices aren’t likely to get much cheaper. Even the Galaxy Z Flip goes for $1,380, and that’s the cheapest offering right now.

A close-up of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, similar to reports on Apple's folding iPhone.

If Samsung continues to cut the price of its foldables in future releases, Apple is likely to offer its foldable device at the same benchmark. Apple and Samsung often retail flagship devices at an identical price, so it’s likely this trend will continue.

When Will Apple Release a Foldable iPhone?

In the same report as before, Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the first foldable iPhone will launch in 2023. Another two years is a long time to wait. Apple is already two years behind on foldables, and another two years would put the company even further behind.

A different report, from the publication Digitimes, with a 63.5 percent AppleTrack accuracy rating, suggests a foldable iPhone could arrive a year earlier in 2022. This report actually mentions the clamshell-style device instead of the Galaxy Fold competitor, so provides an entirely different story.

A close-up of different iPhones as the design changed.

Putting leaks and rumors aside for one moment, Apple is due a form factor refresh in 2022. If Apple follows its usual release pattern from the iPhone 6 and iPhone X, 2022 is when we should expect the next major iPhone redesign. Recently, we’ve found out that this year’s iPhone might be called the 12s, further reinforcing this.

We’ve heard lots of rumors about next year’s iPhone, but none about a foldable iPhone coming next year. Could Apple release a foldable iPhone alongside the iPhone 14 (or 13) as it did with the iPhone X alongside the iPhone 8? Or are we a year too soon? Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to wait and see.

Apple Could Make Foldables Mainstream

Although we’ve got a large offering of foldable phones from Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola, Apple could make the product more mainstream. Most people still have a look of surprise on their face when seeing a foldable device, so it’s safe to say they’re not quite mainstream yet.

Foldables account for only eight million of the almost four billion smartphone devices being used. Perhaps Apple will boost those numbers with a foldable iPhone release.

Person holding a foldable phone
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