Where’s Apple’s foldable iPhone?

On Tuesday, South Korean dishwasher maker Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Z Flip, a new $1,400 phone that unfolds into a full-size display, or into a split-screen dual display with a visible seam when open down the fold, prompting some to ask, “Where’s Apple’s foldable iPhone?” The convicted Apple patent infringer is no doubt hopeful that the Z Flip will be more successful than the faulty, easily-breakable Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Fold 2, which it released last year to remarkably horrible reviews as the junky, poorly-designed products tended to break within days, if not hours, of real-world use.

Annie Guas for TheStreet:

Peter Jarich of GSMA Intelligence… noted that among network operators he’s heard from, a strong majority expect that folding phones will be offered through their channels. It’s less clear when, or if, folding phones will go mainstream among smartphone vendors.

As for Apple, Samsung’s chief rival, a collection of patent filings spurred speculation that the iPhone giant could someday release a foldable device of its own.

In early February, as spotted by AppleInsider, Apple filed a patent for a folding mechanism that doesn’t leave a crease. And last year, analysts at UBS analyzed intellectual property filings by Apple and predicted that it could release a folding device — likely a tablet, rather than a phone — by 2021. The UBS analysts also conducted a survey indicating “generally higher interest among Apple buyers for foldable products.”

Foldable iPhone? Apple U.S. Patent application illustration "Electronic devices with flexible displays and hinges"
Apple U.S. Patent application illustration “Electronic devices with flexible displays and hinges”

MacDailyNews Take: Is that a Galaxy Z Flip in your pocket or a hockey puck? “Too thick when folded” is why it makes perfect sense for Apple to do a foldable display first with iPad, a device that is not carried in pockets and where thickness when folded is therefore not an issue.

29 Comments

  1. Samsung is a massive conglomerate. They make dishwashers, TV’s, phones, etc… In other words, they can throw mud at the wall and see if something sticks. They can afford to climb a mountain simply because it is there and see what that achieves for them.

    Apple? Not so much. The company is massively dependent on iPhone sales and the ecosystem it spawns. Period. Throwing mud and watching failures massively damages Apple’s brand – massively so. So yes, Apple is more risk averse because one failure and they are jumped on as falling apart. No one else is viewed this way, which can be a cage, but also a testament to Apple’s amazing success rate and brand.

    Apple innovates, but only with items they believe will be massively useful and adopted by the majority. Rarely is the public guinea-pig’d by Apple.

    Now, let’s then look at the technology in question here. A flip phone w/full screen.

    Why did the market initially have flip phone technology? It was small, it protected the keys and only a small display was required to show number and lists of names and numbers.

    Why did the market migrate to larger and larger displays? Apple removed the need for a physical keyboard, and brought the internet (thank you Apple for webkit – why you gave that up for everyone to use I have NO IDEA!!!), and apps. These all lended themselves to larger and larger displays.

    To use a narrow full screen within a design intended for a keyboard and display to show names and phone numbers only?

    This is technology in search of a need, rather than a need addressed with a technology solution.

    Samsung does it because Apple is not. Because Samsung has the flexible display technology (however reliable it is or is not…), and thus, if they can try to differentiate whether useful or not, they are going to do it.

    I never liked my flip phone. I never liked my Nokia phones, and I hated my Blackberry’s as they did NOTHING internet – but load unusable crap.

    Once I saw Jobs launch the iPhone, I looked at my BlackBerry and said to myself “This is Fisher Price, My First Smartphone.” Got an iPhone and threw away the crap-berry. Never looked back.

    There is no “need” or clamoring for a full-screen flip phone. If the market decides beyond a niche how useful it is, Apple will arrive late, but will arrive with a svelte, mature solution that “just works” and that niche will want.

    Until then, Apple sits back and has all it’s prototypes in their labs, and that’s likely where they will stay.

  2. Folding a phone is stupid, at the size of current smartphones. It was fine, back when mobiles phones were small, with tiny screen occupying one side and numeric keypad the other. Now, it just makes the folding phone as wide as an iPhone, and more than twice as thick. And user needs to unfold phone every time, or phone needs a separate screen for quick access (making it even thicker and heavier).

    I think Apple’s long-term approach will be to provide a relatively small and contact (but powerful) “hub” device, and allow users to interface with it in ways that suit the users’ individual needs and preferences. An audio interface with future smart(er) AirPods. Apple Watch Series 10. AR glasses. Larger screen/keyboard/trackpad combo. This is already here with the excellent interaction between iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It’ll just become better optimized, with greater expansion into future wearables. It’s Apple expanding its already highly advantageous ecosystem.

    Call that future central device “iPod” maybe… 😉

    1. Folding a phone is stupid, at the size of current smartphones. It was fine, back when mobiles phones were small…

      That’s true when you are thinking about the behemoth iPhone 11 Pro Max, but for many of us, that device is just ludicrously, unusually gigantic. I for one don’t want to buy special pants with clown pockets just to carry a phone. But imagine if you could have the Pro Max’s massive 6.5″ screen size on a device smaller than a first-generation iPhone.

      Even if that doesn’t appeal to you personally, it would sell by the gazillions.

      1. Width and thickness are what make a phone seem small (or large). An iPhone Pro Max that folds in half is just as wide, and at least twice as thick. And the mechanism for folding makes it even larger and heavier. My imagination says it’s NOT smaller than original iPhone, not even close… 🙄 It’s an poorly conceived gimmick, like a lot of what Samsung tries, when not copying Apple.

        1. I left work’s for other’s t’o wor’ks out an’d l’uckily y’ou wo’n the pri’ze of an un’necessary a’postrophe – con’grautulation’s!’

  3. For those that don’t want one, including me, great. Don’t get it. A great benefit of Android is choice within the ecosystem, the competition within the ecosystem, and the economies of scale within the ecosystem.

    1. “economies of scale within the ecosystem”

      Hmm, you don’t seem to understand how economies of scale work. It is when a company recognizes a cost savings due to increased production. The problem in Android world is that no single company or model sells in high enough quantities to realize true economies of scale. Apple has real economies of scale. I can’t think of any company in Android world that does. Maybe Samsung because they are so large but again no model they sell is popular enough to realize cost savings in production because they make so many of the same exact parts. You get a little bit of economies of scale in the shared parts between Android devices across manufacturers but not even close to the level Apple enjoys.

        1. Ummm, I said this already, or can’t you read? “You get a little bit of economies of scale in the shared parts between Android devices across manufacturers”

          What you are describing is referred to as external economies of scale so as not to confuse it with what economies of scale normally references which is internal production scale in a single company.

          You are confused about what economies of scale really means. You’re not completely wrong, just mostly wrong.

            1. “Truth be told, I didn’t read past midway since you were one sided in your interpretation.”

              Ummm, yes, there is only one interpretation of what economies of scale actually means and it isn’t what you said.

              Your other comment about Android having a four to one installed base over Apple isn’t relevant to your misunderstanding of economies of scale. It really isn’t. The four to one ratio is also flat out wrong.

              “Ever try to buy Apple RAM for PCs, imagine what you must be paying in your phone.”

              Samsung is charging around $300 extra on their flagship models as you increase RAM. From what little data there is it does appear Apple is charging less than that. What was that you were saying? I’m really trying not to laugh at you right now.

          1. Pssttt… Top Secret Economics lesson Android has possibly a 4:1 multiple in installed base over Apple. Yes Apple has single company purchasing power, but Android is bigger. Ever try to buy Apple RAM for PCs, imagine what you must be paying in your phone.

            Remember it’s secret, so don’t tell anybody.

  4. Let the others play around with foldable phone screens. Apple will monitor the market and determine if a compelling design is possible. Then they will wipe the floor with their version.

  5. Apple doesn’t need a foldable phone. So that they have the same headaches as the others. Who will buy a phone that is more than $2000.00. The sales on the current iPhone is very good. If it isn’t broke leave it alone.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.