Friday, February 23, 2024

Apple’s mythical folding iPhone might soon become a reality

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Concept render of foldable iPhone.Tech Aesthetics / YouTube

It looks like Apple is finally shifting its foldable iPhone project into the next gear. “Apple is building prototypes of at least two iPhones that fold widthwise like a clamshell,” according to a report by The Information that cites an unnamed internal source.

But before you get your hopes up, do keep in mind that a clamshell-style foldable iPhone won’t arrive until 2025 based on the earliest estimates. Meanwhile, three other insiders confided to the publication that there’s a bit of a snag when it comes to the price tag and allure for potential buyers.

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Apparently, a foldable iPhone would come with a heftier cost, and, in a plot twist, Apple is still scratching its head as it tries to figure out what magical features could possibly convince consumers to open their wallets for this expensive novelty.

Maybe a foldable iPhone with two distinct halves on the screen will finally convince Apple to allow split-screen multitasking. But this is a project still in development, which means it could meet the same fate as the never-released AirPower charging mat. The insider source also hinted that Apple might just scrap the whole endeavor if it fails to live up to its sky-high quality standards.

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The report suggests that Apple’s industrial design squad aimed for the stars, envisioning a device so slim that it makes the current iPhone look almost chunky by comparison. They dreamt of a gadget that, even when folded, wouldn’t feel like carrying a brick. They reportedly toyed with the idea of outward-facing screens for easy peeks without the hassle of opening the device.

Yet, the mundane reality of pesky components like batteries and screens has somewhat clipped the wings of these grand designs. On the positive side, Apple has reportedly approached at least one supply chain partner to source components for the foldable iPhone project.

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Apple is apparently on a quest to conquer the infamous folding-screen crease, aspiring to a seamless display that doesn’t pucker up after a bit of bending. Apple is after that perfect, flat surface where users can scribble away with an Apple Pencil without navigating a mini valley in the middle of the screen.

Achieving that crease-free foldable screen nirvana won’t be an easy task. It took Samsung a few product generations before it could find a balance between durability and flexibility for the inner foldable panel thanks to its ultrathin glass (UTG) tech. Instead of plastic, this solution sides with a very thin layer of flexible glass and can now be found inside devices such as the Galaxy Z Flip 5.

In 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that the foldable iPhone could have a roughly 8-inch screen, but that doesn’t seem to be particularly palm-friendly for a clamshell-style foldable. Kuo also had predicted that a foldable could arrive by 2023, but that didn’t happen, of course.

Tech Aesthetics / YouTube

Display supply-chain analysis firm DSCC also predicted that a foldable iPhone could arrive in 2023 or 2024, but those claims also appear to be hollow at this stage. Interestingly, stylus support could be a part of the package. However, if your imagination is content with rumors and you want to see a foldable iPhone really badly, the folks over at Tech Aesthetics created a rather tantalizing foldable iPhone concept with a flexible OLED panel.

But do keep in mind that these are insider reports discussing an in-development project, which means the goalposts can be shifted to a much more relaxed road map or the project could even be canceled in its entirety in the months to come. It’s an exciting step closer to the folding iPhone future, but we aren’t fully there quite yet.

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