Even though the iPhone 15 isn't due out for several months, we already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Apple's next generation of smartphones. There's more than a strong chance we'll see four models (iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max), we should see USB-C across the board, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max will reportedly get a periscope zoom camera.
However, none of the rumors thus far point to what I think Apple needs to do with the iPhone 15: Make a foldable model.
iPhone Flip: Price concerns
Yes, I know that the iPhone Flip (or whatever it's going to be called — I like iPhone Ultra) won't come until 2024 at the earliest (one analyst even says we'll have to wait until 2025 for a foldable iPhone). But hear me out.
We're now entering the fifth generation of foldable phones with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 rumored to launch at Samsung Unpacked in late July. Apple has rarely been first to market, but its rivals are starting to iron out many of the kinks — both literally and figuratively — when it comes to foldable phones.
At the same time, there isn't much competition out there, either (just take a look at our best foldable phones page). Aside from Samsung, there aren't many options right now, but the Motorola Razr+ and Google Pixel Fold are coming soon. The OnePlus V Fold will be launching later this year.
Making its next smartphone a foldable one would also make it easier to swallow the rumored iPhone price hikes. Granted, the expected starting price of the iPhone 15 Pro Max ($1,199) is still far below the $1,799 asking price of the Pixel Fold and the Galaxy Z Fold 5. But, the new Motorola Razr+ will cost $999 and and the Galaxy Z Flip likely will, too, which may beg shoppers to ask why Apple is charging $200 more for a phone that doesn't fold in half.
What's a foldable phone good for?
If anything, I would imagine Apple would release a foldable phone in 2024, so I'm not betting one one for this year.
Ultimately, what Apple needs to do is sell the world that a foldable phone is a necessity. There's no killer app yet that has convinced me — or many — to sacrifice more pocket space and money for a device with a screen that folds in half. It's likely Apple doesn't know, either.
However, Apple could help solve some of the trade-offs we've seen with foldable phones with its first entry, whether it's the display crease or relatively short battery life on the flip-style models.
"I am absolutely convinced that there is a lab somewhere in Apple Park where designers have considered folding iPhones (or iPads) with various hinge designs, display technology, and form factors, says Avi Greengart, founder of Techsponential. "I have no idea if Apple is preparing to actually launch such a product. We can have fun speculating whether a fold-smaller iPhone would run WatchOS on the exterior display or new iOS widgets. But if Apple did launch a foldable, it would immediately stand out because it’s an iPhone that runs iOS, has Apple Silicon, and plugs into Apple’s ecosystem."
Then again, the mere fact of Apple releasing a foldable phone will probably raise interest among consumers at large. I'll be waiting to see if the company will get me to flip over it.