Why a folding iPhone is probably just 2 years away

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Why a folding iPhone is probably just 2 years away
A 2023 iPhone could look like this, letting users put an 8-inch screen in their pocket.
Concept: Ran Avni

There’s plenty of proof that Apple has had a folding iPhone on the drawing board for years. But the company held off until flexible displays are past the prototype phase. The latest foldables from Samsung show that the technology has finally matured to the point where an iPhone Fold could become a mass-market success.

This surely hasn’t escaped Apple’s attention, which is why a folding iPhone is probably coming in 2023.

Foldable phones move past prototype stage

Samsung fanboys are quick to point out that folding phones have been on the market for years. What they don’t point out is that these were utter crap. Not surprising for Samsung, a company with a history of flaming failure.

That said, the idea was good. Flexible displays just weren’t ready, despite Samsung’s willingness to charge people almost $2,000 for deeply flawed prototype models.

But the South Korean company kept plugging away. And years later, there’s the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which started reaching customers in late August. Cnet calls it “the first foldable you may actually want to buy.” CNN said it’s “a normal smartphone that just happens to fold.”

That said, all the wrinkles haven’t been ironed out. Literally — there’s a crease where the display folds. But Tom’s Guide said, “The visible crease is by no means a deal-breaker.” Other reviewers made similar comments. So the people who’ve actually used a Z Flip 3 aren‘t all that critical.

While there are other problems with handset, those are the result of mistakes Samsung designers made with the camera and batteries. Apple will surely do a better job.

Folding iPhone makes sense to Apple

It’s impossible to argue that Apple isn’t investigating a folding iPhone. It’s been awarded patent after patent directly related to flexible handsets.

Still, Cupertino hasn’t turned all that research into a shipping device with a bendable screen. Anyone looking at Samsung’s early, craptastic offerings in this category can easily see why. But the latest foldable displays show an iPhone Fold has become more practical.

And Apple is supposedly getting ready to move. Respected TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — who has numerous sources in Apple’s component supply chain — predicts that an 8-inch folding iPhone could launch in 2023. And Kuo is bullish on the device, saying Apple might ship 15 million to 20 million units that year.

Two years will bring even more improvements to the tech. And the extra time won’t give Samsung an unassailable lead. (That’s an argument people tried to make about Samsung’s early lead in 5G. Fast-forward a few years and now Apple dominates the 5G market.)

Check out the iPhone Flip

As a foretaste of what might be coming, look no further than the iPhone Flip. This is a concept from Ran Avni for an iOS model with a flip phone design, somewhat like the classic Motorola Razr. Tipster Jon Prosser says this is the basic design Apple favors.

Those who question the need for a folding iPhone should consider that Motorola sold more than 50 million Razr phones. And when the initial iPhone came out in 2007, there were many questions why anyone would want a flat phone when they could get one that folded up to protect its breakable screen, like the Razr did.

iPhone helped kill the Razr, but Apple is now going to revisit the design with a vastly more advanced device. Even so, there are no suggestions from anyone that Apple is going to stop making flatscreen iPhones in the foreseeable future. The folding iPhone is expected to be an option for those who want an iOS handset with an 8-inch display that fits in their pocket.

And that’s going to be possible in 2023, now that flexible phones have stopped being novelties and become practical.