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Apple reportedly testing foldable iPhone, but don’t expect it soon

iPhone Flip foldable iPhone
(Image credit: #iOS Beta News/YouTube)

Update: The foldable iPhone could launch next year.

While Samsung used CES 2022 as an opportunity to showcase the future of expandable screens with a selection of folding and scrolling prototypes, Apple’s long-rumored iPhone Flip/Fold remains purely theoretical. And although various sources have suggested a folding iPhone could be on the cards for 2023, the leaker Dylandkt (opens in new tab) has said that Apple is adopting a "wait and see approach" as it tinkers with possible designs.

“Apple is definitely working and testing multiple prototypes that contain foldable displays,” tweeted (opens in new tab) the leaker, who boasts a solid 77.5% accuracy rating on AppleTrack (opens in new tab). “Too many compromises still exist with foldable display technology though,” he added. 

He didn’t specify what compromises Apple may be unsatisfied with, but take your pick from unsightly creases, easily scratchable surfaces and a finite number of guaranteed folds (200,000 (opens in new tab) in the case of the latest Samsung Galaxy foldables — or 100 folds per day for five years).  

But on top of this, the leaker adds that there’s concern that foldable phones may simply be a passing fad — and one that’s finished by the time Apple joins the race. “Therefore, Apple is intent on carefully observing the market and improving upon the mistakes of their competitors,” he wrote (opens in new tab)

“While other manufactures are iterating on products that are seemingly in beta, Apple is keen on making sure that the design is not a regression from the current form factor of the iPhone,” he continued (opens in new tab). “They are interested in playing the long game to see how the technology progresses.”

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Sensibly cautious?

On one hand, this sounds like typical Apple (assuming the leaks are accurate, of course). Even the company’s biggest defenders won’t argue that it’s the first to embrace exciting new technological trends, instead typically waiting for innovations to mature before adopting them. This results in polished products, and while you can argue that the iPhone was too slow in adopting wireless charging or OLED panels, Face ID was undoubtedly a big improvement on the early facial recognition hardware trail blazed by the Android trendsetters.

But pausing to wait and see is risky in this case. While sales undoubtedly picked up in 2021, thanks in part to Samsung’s aggressive price cutting with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, foldables remain a niche product. Logically, that’s a good reason for Apple to stay out, but counterintuitively it could also be the strongest argument for it to step in. Apple, after all, has a unique ability to sell new concepts even if the price is high and the form factor is off the wall, as it did with the initially ridiculed AirPods (opens in new tab)

For Apple, it doesn’t matter whether foldables fail if it hasn’t spent serious money on the genre, of course. But anyone who wants foldables to go mainstream should be hoping Apple joins the race — and perversely, that should include its arch rivals Samsung. 

While we wait for an Apple foldable phone, the Honor Magic V could be one to look out for. 

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.