Is Apple Still Working on a Foldable iPhone?

Recent leaks suggest Apple might be planning a foldable smartphone for 2024, again! Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about forthcoming products, but very regular with its release schedules. The latest iPhones are unveiled every September, and we’ve no reason to believe this will change any time soon, but how they will differ from the current iPhone range is a matter for speculation.

Stop us if you have heard this before! Yet according to the Apple rumour mill, a forthcoming top-of-the range iPhone might feature a foldable screen, as seen in current competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate Xs, but not until 2024 at the earliest; we’re unlikely to get a folding iPhone with the 2024 refresh. 

The forthcoming foldable iPhone is said to be called the iPhone Flip, and will feature a flexible version of the new ceramic shield display that debuted with the iPhone 12. It’s said to feature a single foldable screen rather than two individual displays like the ZTE Axon M or the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen. Whether the iPhone Flip’s screen folds horizontally or vertically isn’t known for sure, but its name would suggest the latter.

An Apple patent titled ‘Hybrid coverlay/window structure for flexible display applications’ suggests the foldable screen will have four-layers; a cover layer, a hardcoat layer, an inner surface and a transparent support layer. The website Economic Daily News claims the screens are already being tested at Foxconn in Taiwan, a key Apple manufacturing supplier. These tests are said to involve opening and closing the phone over 100,000 times, making sure the screen doesn’t crease or distort with continual use. Another leak, this time from supply chain sources in Asia, claim that two prototypes have now passed this strenuous test.

Which way the folding iPhone opens isn’t yet known. The name ‘iPhone Flip’ would suggest a clamshell design with a horizontal fold across the screen, but this is far from final. Rumour has it that one of the two prototypes under consideration has a clamshell form factor, while the other opens like a book, with the fold dividing the screen vertically. A clamshell iPhone would offer a screen of a similar size and dimensions as a regular iPhone, but would fold down to a smaller size to better fit the handbag or pocket. A book-type fold would suggest the phone would be a similar size to a standard model when folded, but offer a bigger screen when open. This is all speculation, of course, but it will be interesting to see which Apple goes for.

It’s rumoured that Samsung – whose folding display for the first-generation Galaxy Fold proved notoriously unreliable – is to make the screens for Apple, and is involved with the prototype tests. This isn’t as unlikely as it sounds, as Samsung often makes displays for other mobile phone manufacturers.

The screen technology for the folding iPhone is likely to be either OLED, as used in the 12-series iPhones, or mini LED, which is rumoured to debut with some of this year’s mobile devices. We assume both are being tested, with a decision to be made on which to use made after their performance has been assessed.

The Android foldable smartphones available today aren’t cheap, and Apple’s rumoured release is likely no exception. Could it be the first iPhone to top the £2000 price point? Perhaps we’ll find out in the Autumn of 2024. Or perhaps not? So which of these rumours and leaks will prove accurate, and which are just idle speculation? As always, we’ll have to wait and see.

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