After launching perhaps its most innovative product since the iPhone 1, Apple is reportedly working on not just one but two foldable iPhone models along with a foldable iPad, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The report, released by TheInformation, cites an unnamed source within Apple and says that the company has developed prototype foldable iPhones in two different sizes that fold vertically like a clamshell design. This would make them similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip phones rather than the Galaxy Z Fold models that open horizontally like a book.

samsung's galaxy flip 5
Samsung’s Galaxy Flip 5

The project underscores Apple’s desire to eventually offer consumers an iPhone with a folding display amid increasing competition in this niche from the likes of Samsung, OnePlus, Google, and others.

Why is Apple Pursuing Foldable iPhones?

While still a relatively small segment, the foldable smartphone market has been steadily growing as manufacturers improve durability (especially at the hinges) and address issues like screen creasing and poor dust resistance.

According to IDC estimates, global foldable phone shipments are expected to reach about 21 million units in 2023, and that figure could top 48 million by 2027. These projections have created a sense that Apple may be lagging behind its rivals by not offering a foldable iPhone option yet for those interested in that kind of phone.

It helps that the new technology can be sold at greater margins than other, more competitive types of phones. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy Flip 5 and Galaxy Fold 5 retail for $1,000 and $1,800 respectively.

Samsung currently dominates the niche with an estimated 68% market share. Its recent moves to replace the Galaxy Note line with foldables for its line of premium offerings underscores the increasing mainstream appeal that the South Korean company has identified in the segment.

foldable phone market share graph

By launching foldable iPhone models, Apple likely aims to attract existing customers who want more screen space in a compact and novel design. A foldable iPhone could also help spur upgrades by giving users a radically different option beyond the standard candy bar-shaped smartphones.

Report Claims That Durability is a Challenge for Ultra-Thin Design

While Apple has reportedly made foldable iPhone prototypes, it has run into issues meeting its durability standards, especially for the ultrathin form factor it envisions.

The Information’s source says that Apple is aiming for its foldable iPhones to be significantly thinner than current models when folded. The company also wants to add a small display on the device’s exterior that would allow it to show basic information while closed, similar to the Flip 5.

Achieving both goals has proven challenging thus far. At one point in 2020, Apple even put development on hold to shift resources toward a folding iPad, the report highlights.

Nonetheless, Apple’s pursuit of two differently sized foldable iPhone options suggests it remains committed to cracking the technical challenges involved in releasing compelling products in this category.

2025-2026 Launch Possible If Technical Issues Are Resolved

The well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted back in 2021 that a foldable iPhone could launch in 2023 at the earliest. However, other rumors suggested that 2025 was more likely, and that seems even more plausible based on recent reports of ongoing development hiccups.

Of course, target timelines could be further delayed if issues like bulkiness or screen durability cannot be resolved or fail to meet Apple’s high standards.

When asked for comment by The Information, Apple declined to confirm or deny plans for a foldable iPhone. However, given the intensive R&D underway, 2025 or 2026 seems to be the earliest that consumers may get their hands on one.

In typical Apple (AAPL) fashion, the company is not willing to launch a foldable iPhone until it feels the technology and user experience match the level that people expect from the iPhone brand.

What to Expect from a Foldable iPhone?

foldable iphone images

If and when one does arrive, what could users expect from a foldable iPhone? According to The Information and other sources, here are some of the most likely specs and features that may come with this phone:

Clamshell Design Similar to Galaxy Z Flip: Apple is said to prefer the vertically folding clamshell style rather than a horizontal book-like fold. When closed, this layout permits a more pocketable phone while opening into a mini tablet display. It also harkens back to the flip phones of old, like the Motorola Razor.

Two Size Options: Apple is purportedly developing foldable iPhone prototypes in two different sizes. The exact dimensions are unclear, although one is expected to feature an 8-inch display, similar in size to an iPad Mini when unfolded.

Emphasis on Slim Profile: As noted, Apple is supposedly aiming for a thinner, folded form. The degree to which the firm can make the device thinner remains to be seen, as it is contingent on overcoming durability hurdles.

Exterior/Cover Display: A key differentiator for clamshell foldables is having a small external display for quick glances of alerts and other info without unfolding the phone. Apple’s version is expected to follow suit.

Premium Price Tag: Given the technical complexity involved and Apple’s track record, a foldable iPhone would almost certainly be pitched as a luxury, halo product with a premium price, likely in the $1,500 range based on rival offerings.

Implications to the Foldable Smartphone Market

While other phone manufacturers have enjoyed steady foldable smartphone growth in recent years, analysts believe that Apple’s arrival in the segment could be a watershed moment in driving more mainstream adoption.

The power of the Apple brand and its loyal customer base gives the company an outsized influence despite not being first to new mobile categories historically. The original iPhone dramatically accelerated the takeover of the cell phone market by smartphones. The Apple Watch has become the world’s top-selling smartwatch despite its initial slow growth. At the same time, AirPods have dominated the true wireless earbuds space for years now.

Similarly, analysts expect that foldable iPhones would rapidly legitimize this type of display and shape in consumers’ eyes and boost interest and sales. Even based on rumors of Apple’s potential foldable iPhone plans, other brands may rethink the timelines and designs for their future devices.

For Samsung and others enjoying first-mover advantages, an Apple foldable could represent a major competitive threat. But it’s also possible that the move would be somewhat positive for Samsung if Apple popularizes the foldable phone. Some prospective buyers may compare Apple’s foldable offerings with Samsung’s and choose the more mature option.

Questions around specifics like launch timing, pricing, and differentiation remain. However, with growing evidence of concrete development plans after years of patents and rumors, Apple appears to be stepping firmly toward making foldable iPhones a reality.

Apple Invests Billions in AI Startups and AR/VR Initiatives, Shuns EV Project

Apple is on a streak of chasing massive innovations in the tech industry. While much attention lately has focused on Apple’s first AR/VR headset, the Vision Pro, and now the foldable iPhones, the company has also been actively, though quietly, making advancements in artificial intelligence.

apple vision pro

Over the past couple of years, Apple has scooped up over 20 AI-focused startups and ramped up its field-related hiring efforts. The goal is to develop new methods for running complex AI algorithms directly on devices like the iPhone rather than relying on cloud servers.

This requires not only reducing the size of massive deep learning models with billions of parameters but also designing tailor-made processors optimized for AI workloads.

Apple has been honing its chip design capabilities for AI alongside software innovations that can unlock new on-device experiences. For example, a breakthrough technique to operate large language models using smartphone storage rather than RAM has reportedly improved local data processing efficiency.

Analysts expect that Apple will reveal more details about its AI strategy at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The upcoming iOS 18 release is expected to be the biggest iOS update ever, likely to introduce AI-powered features like auto-summarization in Notes, intelligent scheduling with Siri, personalized playlists in Apple Music, the ability to side-load apps (at least in the EU), and more.

The overarching goal is to further empower its smart devices by enabling smoother AI experiences on iPhones and iPads without losing focus on the goal of keeping user privacy protected and independent of internet connectivity.

Vision Pro’s Steep Price Likely Limits Consumer Adoption

Meanwhile, the newly launched Vision Pro headset may struggle to find a mass consumer audience in the near term, even though it’s undoubtedly an impressive piece of tech. Priced at a lofty $3,499, the Vision Pro is unlikely to sell in significant volumes despite its advanced capabilities.

Although praised as revolutionary by reviewers, most agree that it seems targeted more toward enthusiast markets for now rather than mainstream buyers. CEO Tim Cook referred to the Vision Pro as a “breakthrough device” that is “years ahead of anything created.”

Still, the hefty price tag means that average consumers will have trouble justifying the purchase, even if they are highly interested in trying out the technology. For context, the original iPhone in 2007 cost $499, almost seven times less.

Analysts theorize that there will eventually be a significantly cheaper Apple AR headset (potentially called the “Vision”), but this has yet to be confirmed and would likely be years away.

Apple Car Project Faces Delays, Strategy Shifts

On the automotive front, Apple’s on-again, off-again self-driving car endeavor has reportedly faced fresh setbacks. Despite kicking off development work in 2014, struggles with complexity have plagued the Apple Car project.

As a result, Bloomberg reports that Apple has pushed back its plans for a release to 2028 instead of 2026. It has also scaled back its ambitions from a fully autonomous vehicle to one with more basic driver assistance capabilities.

This underscores how challenging and capital-intensive building a car from scratch can be, even for the world’s biggest tech firm. There have been numerous leadership changes, layoffs, and strategy shifts around the Apple Car over the past eight years.

Still, Apple reportedly envisions the electric car as a potential long-term opportunity to revive growth amid a maturing smartphone market. It aims to differentiate with sleek design and unique user interfaces.

Talks with manufacturing partners are apparently underway. However, internal skepticism regarding the feasibility of the project and a complicated timeline remains.

Between significant hurdles facing the Vision Pro’s early success and setbacks plaguing the Apple Car, the company’s next major growth catalyst beyond iterative iPhone upgrades remains unclear for now. At this point, artificial intelligence advancements seem to be the most promising developments happening under the radar, but a foldable iPhone and iPad may be coming sooner than you expect.