iPhones are about to get interesting again [Opinion]

By

TCL folding phone designs
These are just some of the possible designs a folding iPhone might use.
Photo: TCL/Cnet

Apple picked a design for the iPhone more than a decade ago and has gradually improved it with each successive model. But that‘s all over and done. We have no idea what the 2020 iPhone will look like. Literally no clue

That’s because the era of foldable displays is about to kick off, and they are going to bring profound changes to phones of all types.

Samsung is going to unveil a flexible phone tomorrow. The exact details of this model don’t really matter because it’s being flung into the market long before it’s actually ready just so Samsung can shout “First!” The only thing that makes this device important is that it’s the harbinger of better phones to follow.

Consider all the possibilities

If you think you already know what all these folding devices will look like then you aren‘t thinking big enough. Five different potential designs for flexible phones dreamed up by TCL were leaked to Cnet, demonstrating some of the range of possibilities.

There are phones that fold with the screen on the outside, others with the screen on the inside. Some have more traditional rectangular displays, but very long ones are a possibility too. A couple of these look like tablets that fold up to be phones, while others look like the return of the flip phone, only grown gigantic. Perhaps most interesting, there’s a phone that wraps around the wrist to become a watch.

And these are just the options dreamed up by a company that specializes in TVs. Imagine what we might see from designers who think about mobile tech every day.

Anticipating the 2020 iPhone

Android makers are rushing to get their first foldable phones to market but Apple doesn’t work that way. It’s going to stand back and observe the initial scrum while it evaluates what is the best option for this new paradigm. This is exactly how the original iPhone was created 10+ years ago.

Early smartphones used many different designs: some were all screen but many included numberpads like the dumbphones that preceded them. There were models with tiny keyboards fixed below their screens while others had larger sliding keyboards that could be hidden behind the display. The 2007 iPhone was a slab with an on-screen keyboard, and before long every rival device was following suit.

The process is almost certainly about to repeat itself because Apple simply can’t ignore the enormous potential of the flexible screen. People want larger displays but we also want devices that fit easily in our pockets. A folding phone is the best way to achieve this.

The iPhone maker will wait until it has found the best design for this new tech. At the same time, iOS will be modified to take full advantage of a bendable display. The culmination of all this work will reach customers’ in 2020. There’ll be some initial pushback because it’s so different from its predecessors, but we’ll all eventually realize it’s a dramatic improvement.

Maybe this will be an iPhone that folds out into an iPad. Or it could be an iPhone that rolls up into an Apple Watch. Maybe it will fold up into a hat. CEO Tim Cook and design guru Jony Ive are surely considering all the possibilities.

Let Samsung and others scramble into the market with half-baked designs. You can be sure Apple’s will be well polished before it’s introduced.