July 22, 2024


It's the Technology

Foldable iPhone, iPad, or MacBook: What is Apple making?


We’ve been hearing that Apple is developing its own foldable iPhones for several years. The rumors have picked up ever since foldable smartphones started hitting the market. And we saw patents proving that Apple is researching key technologies it will need to manufacture devices with foldable screens. But the latest batch of rumors indicates that Apple might not necessarily want to make a foldable iPhone. Instead, we might first get a foldable iPad or MacBook in the coming years.

Will there be a folding iPhone?

Samsung’s success with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 proves a growing interest in foldable handsets. Samsung is currently the pack leader when it comes to foldable sales. And the Korean giant has certainly made significant advancements concerning foldable screen durability. The Fold 3 is certainly more durable than before, and the Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) supports S Pen interaction.

But other Android vendors are ready to launch their own foldables to take on the Fold 4 this year. We saw a couple of them a few months ago from Oppo and Honor. Vivo will follow with a brand new foldable this spring, and Google could launch a foldable Pixel in the fall.

That doesn’t mean Apple has to follow suit immediately, despite the rumors. Apple might have been sampling foldable displays and developing technology for foldable devices. But the foldable iPhone might be several years away. And if new reports are to be believed, Apple might also be looking at making foldable iPads or MacBooks.

The stunning display on the Apple iPad Mini 2021
The stunning display on the Apple iPad Mini 2021. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

What about a foldable MacBook?

When the iPad mini 6 launched, I said that the new tablet might give us a look at what a foldable iPhone would look like. That’s to say that a foldable iPhone using the Galaxy Fold design would transform into an iPad mini when unfolded.

Put differently, a foldable iPad would also double as a foldable MacBook. You might use it in tablet or laptop mode.

If anything, foldable screen tech would be more beneficial for making laptops more portable. That’s the idea behind the first-generation foldable laptops. We do have such commercial devices, but they’re nowhere near as good-looking as newer foldable phones.

Furthermore, always-on 5G tech could further blur the lines between the MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. Apple could launch a foldable device that works as a phone over cellular. The only question in such a scenario concerns the underlying OS. And Apple isn’t looking to merge iOS and macOS just yet.

However, that’s just speculation. The reality is that we have no idea whether Apple will ever launch foldable devices of any kind.

Unlike other vendors, Apple also has to ensure that it can sell millions of units of any given product. It would have to be able to manufacture millions of foldable displays no matter the size. And the reality is that Apple doesn’t reveal details about products in the early phases of development.

Galaxy Z Fold 3
Galaxy Z Fold 3 announced on August 11th, 2021. Image source: Samsung

Could it be a foldable iPad?

A report from The Elec says that LG Display will supply 17-inch foldable notebook OLED panels to HP for an undisclosed product. LG already made foldable displays for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 foldable a couple of years ago.

The HP panel would measure 17-inch when unfolded and 11-inch when folded. The screen would fold inwards, like the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

It’s in this context that the Korean website dropped an exciting tidbit about foldable Apple devices. It says that LG is collaborating with Apple to develop a second type of foldable OLED panel. LG is making foldable panels that would fit an iPad or MacBook. Moreover, they’d feature ultra-thin glass on top of the OLED layer, not plastic.

That might not seem like a big deal until you remember LG’s recent foldable display innovations. And the previous rumors that said LG has been working with Apple on foldable screens for iPhone for a few years.

That’s not enough to confirm that a foldable MacBook/iPad is in the making. But there’s another twist to The Elec’s story. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reacted to it on Twitter. The well-known insider said that Apple is testing foldable OLED screens of about 9-inch in size.

That means Apple is developing a foldable iPhone/iPad device that would be as big as an iPad mini 6 when unfolded. Kuo also said that a foldable device with a medium screen would be Apple’s top priority.

Furthermore, Kuo added that he had to revise his foldable iPhone release predictions in light of the new developments. He now expects Apple to launch its first foldable product in 2025, a year later than before. The device will be a foldable iPad or a hybrid iPad/iPhone rather than a MacBook.

More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.


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