Apple is reportedly working on a very different kind of foldable iPhone

iPhone Flip concept
(Image credit: #iOS Beta News/YouTube/Tom's Guide)

The foldable phones market saw a much-needed resurgence last year, driven partly by increased competition. As a result, we're starting to see a few more affordably priced models. 

But with Samsung, Google, Motorola and OnePlus all offering foldables, one prominent phone manufacturer has yet to come out with a foldable phone of its own — Apple. For a good while now, rumors have suggested Apple is working on a foldable iPhone concept, but a new report indicates that it might be longer before we get one.

That report in The Information indicates that Apple’s reportedly working on not one, but two foldable devices, citing a source who has direct knowledge of the situation. According to The Information's source, the foldables are in “early development and aren't on the company’s mass production plans for 2024 or 2025.” 

One manufacturer in Asia was reportedly approached for components related to these foldable Apple devices. However, the products could end up being canceled if they don’t meet the quality assurance standards of Apple.

Apple’s legacy is built on taking existing products already on the market and making them better. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, and now Apple Vision Pro are all proof of this. Rival phone makers like Samsung and Motorola have been releasing foldable phones for years now, but Apple has chosen to keep out of the foldable space.

Designing a foldable iPhone has its own complications, but if the recent release of the Apple Vision Pro is any indication, it could be that Apple’s simply waiting to perfect its foldables before mass production.

Here’s what we know so far about Apple’s plans on a foldable iPhone.

A foldable iPhone with its displays on the outside

iphone flip concept

(Image credit: Technizo Concept/LetsGoDigital)

What’s most interesting about The Information's report is the idea that Apple could be working on a very different kind of foldable iPhone. Indeed, it appears as though it’ll follow a flip phone style design similar to the Motorola Razr+ and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5. Rather than folding the iPhone so that its screen is tucked away, though, the device could fold the other way so that its display faces the outside when it’s shut.

This could be interpreted in two ways: either we're talking about a phone with the usual flip phone design with an outer screen (think Galaxy Z Flip 5), or an unorthodox approach with the entire screen on the outside of the phone. Considering it would be stored in your pocket and elsewhere, the latter design would inherently expose the display to more abrasions. The last thing you’d want to find is a scratched up display after taking it out of your bag or backpack.

Durability issues with foldable designs

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 versus Motorola Razr+ faceoff comparison.

(Image credit: Future)

Chiefly at top of Apple’s list is overcoming the technical challenges of designing a foldable iPhone that could withstand usual wear and tear. We’ve seen how foldable displays have evolved since the first batch of foldable phones hit the market with devices like the original Samsung Galaxy Fold, but it soon became apparent that foldable screens are more fragile.

Secondly, Apple’s design team would have to work around limitations such as battery sizes and display components to fit inside of a foldable iPhone. There’s obviously a balance between form and functionality with foldable phones, so Apple wants a foldable iPhone that would be half as thin as current iPhone models — just so that it wouldn’t be as thick when closed.

And of course, these components don’t come cheaply, which means more emphasis would be required to make them durable. Apple recently dropped stainless steel in favor of a titanium alloy trim with its iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max models. That not not only added extra strength and durability to their frames, but it also contributed to their lighter packages.

We could end up getting a foldable iPad first

iPhone Flip Concept

(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

The second foldable device Apple’s reportedly working on is not an iPhone, but rather, a foldable iPad that could be a testing ground to gauge consumer response. For years now, it’s been reported that Apple’s working with LG and Samsung on making foldable displays for its iPad prototypes, which would roughly have an 8-inch screen.

Since an iPad won’t be carried around much like an iPhone stuffed in a pocket, it wouldn’t have to adhere to the same strict design standards as a foldable iPhone. Apple’s attention to design would focus mainly on eliminating the crease that usually crops up in the middle of the display, resulting in a more seamless look.

Additionally, Apple wants to employ the same gapless hinge design we’ve been seeing of late in other foldable phones — but for iPad screen size. The reason for focusing on the hinge and crease relates to how people would use the Apple Pencil with a foldable iPad. A display with a crease would affect the performance of the stylus.

Diversifying Apple's portfolio

All iPhone 15 models shown together.

(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s 2024 release calendar is shaping out to be a stacked lineup of new iPhones. Not only are we expecting the iPhone 16 series for later in the year, and perhaps with an iPhone 16 Ultra, but we could also see an announcement for an iPhone SE 4 before that. (More recent rumors suggest the new SE model may have to wait until next year.)

That’s probably why we won’t see an actual foldable iPhone for a while, as indicated by the report. But waiting could be a wise move on Apple’s part because it could end up being the most ambitious foldable phone ever to be released. Apple shouldn't just reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of foldable phones to choose from right now at varying prices, but a foldable iPhone will no doubt be a changing of the guard of sorts for phones.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.