Samsung, Motorola and even Google have introduced foldable phones like the Galaxy Z Fold 4, Motorola Razr reboot and Pixel Fold, respectively. As the niche becomes increasingly crowded with Android folding phones, Apple still hasn’t come out with its own foldable, despite evidence mounting for years that the company seems to be tinkering with one, possibly called the iPhone Flip. But rumors say Apple may not launch its own flexible screen device until 2025.
Years ago in 2017, folks predicted that a foldable iPhone could launch in the near future of 2020 — which didn’t happen. Analysts and leakers have been kicking the release date down the road ever since, and rumors and wish lists have hung around as phone fans keep their hopes up. Absent any confirmed details from Apple, here’s everything we know so far about the company’s future foray into foldables.
Watch this: Apple’s foldable may be coming later than expected
Release date: The iPhone Flip launch could be in 2025
It seems to be an open secret that
is working toward a foldable iPhone. The company has been registering patents for foldable technologies for almost a decade now, and while there’s no guarantee that one will come out even after all that research (remember AirPower?), there’s still been buzz and possible release dates floated for years — though still not one solid enough to get excited about.
Early rumors pointed to 2021 as a potential target date, but the year passed with no foldable iPhone in sight. A March 2021 report from longtime Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) suggested 2023 might be more realistic, if it ever happens. According to Kuo, Apple still needs to figure out technology and mass production issues before bringing a device like this to market, hence the wait. Speculation later in 2021 from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman aligned with Kuo’s predictions: In his Power On Newsletter, Gurman said that the foldable iPhone may not arrive for another two to three years.
But since then, new rumors have pointed to an even later release. Reliable display analyst Ross Young said in February that the foldable iPhone has been pushed back to 2025, and Kuo revised his predictions to 2025 in a tweet on Friday.
“Apple may launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, which may be a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad & iPhone,” Kuo wrote in the tweet.
The rumor mill quieted down since then, and it doesn’t look like we’ll get an iPhone foldable to arrive this year alongside the iPhone 15 expected to launch later this year. But that still leaves two years before Kuo’s prediction could possibly become reality.
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Design: What will the foldable iPhone look like?
A 2021 report from Bloomberg indicated Apple already has a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display. While it’s not yet a working model, it’s a step up from a patent — which, until then, was all we had seen.
Apple seems to have taken out every patent under the sun when it comes to foldable displays, including an origami-style folding display, a flip-up display and even a wraparound display. And while we don’t know which one will make the final cut, both Kuo and Bloomberg seem to agree that the current prototype is more of a traditional fold-out design.
Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Duo, which has the hinges on the exterior, Apple’s would have one continuous display with a hidden hinge mechanism like the Galaxy Fold.
However, Apple leaker Jon Prosser reported in early 2021 that the iPhone Flip will likely use a clamshell design and come in several “fun colors.” Between the flashy purple iPhone 12, and the new blue and pink options for the iPhone 13, an array of fun colors for Apple’s first foldable device is definitely a possibility.
YouTuber ConceptsiPhone also gave us a glimpse into what the iPhone Flip could look with concept art of the foldable iPhone in the colors blue, red, gold and green.
Roadblocks: What still stands in Apple’s way?
While Samsung and others have been testing the waters, Apple has been learning from the pain points of their foldable devices and figuring out how they’d be used.
One of these pain points: the crease. A lot of the current cover materials, including the glass and plastic mix that Samsung uses for the Z Fold and Z Flip, show a visible crease when folded out to full screen. To avoid it, Apple would likely have to wait for
, Apple’s glass provider, to create some kind of bendable version of its Ceramic Shield screen. The company is already working on a bendable glass, but hasn’t announced a launch date for it.
Kuo tweeted in April 2022 that Apple was testing a foldable OLED screen. Korean tech news site The Elec also reported that Apple was working with LG to develop a foldable OLED panel.
Cost: Foldable phones don’t come cheap
Price is another major problem for these types of devices. Although Samsung still has the most affordable folding phone with the clamshell Z Flip 4 at $999, most others in the category are book-style foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Pixel Fold which are around twice the price of most flagship phones. We wouldn’t expect a foldable iPhone to be cheaper than its rivals. Apple’s foldable needs to be in line with current foldable and nonfoldable models to be able to compete against other brands and entice iPhone users to ditch their single-screen devices and pay more for a foldable.
A report last year found that half of American consumers are interested in buying a foldable phone, though Apple customers are slightly less willing to make the leap than Samsung or LG users. But perhaps the “Apple effect” will change those stats if and when a foldable iPhone ever becomes reality.
For more, check out everything we’ve heard about the iPhone 15. You can also see the most exciting phones to look out for in 2023.