Advertisement
Engadget has been testing and reviewing consumer tech since 2004. Our stories may include affiliate links; if you buy something through a link, we may earn a commission. Read more about how we evaluate products.

Apple has reportedly made foldable iPhone prototypes

A foldable iPad may make it into the wild first, however.

Photo by Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Given how the smartphone market has evolved over the last few years, it’s little surprise that Apple is looking into the possibility of making foldable iPhones. The company surely has all kinds of weird and wacky devices in its research lab, but a new report has shed some light on what Apple’s doing with foldables there.

According to The Information, Apple has created two clamshell-style foldable iPhone prototypes, though its work on the form factor is in the early stages of development. If Apple were to move forward with foldable iPhones, they likely wouldn't come to market until at least 2026 — seven years after the Galaxy Fold debuted.

There are two main issues that could prevent Apple from selling foldable iPhones, according to the report. First, its engineers have so far been unable to address the technical issues of foldable smartphones. For what it's worth, the first Samsung Fold notoriously had a gap between the two halves of the screen into which debris could enter. Second, Apple's designers are said to have found it tough to create features for a foldable iPhone that would make it a compelling enough option for consumers. That's critical, given the higher prices of foldables compared with phones that have a more traditional form factor.

Another concern for engineers is that they are said to have wanted to make each side half as thin as a regular iPhone so it would be roughly the same thickness when folded. But the tech isn't quite there yet, given battery sizes and display constraints.

Apple has been tinkering with making a foldable smartphone for several years. It seems more likely that Apple's first foldable device, should it choose to release one, would be an iPad. That would carry less risk for the company than making a foldable version of its most important product first. Apple wouldn't need to be as concerned about the thickness of a foldable iPad. Nor would the tablet need to meet as high standards in drop tests. Apple is said to have been developing a foldable iPad since at least 2020.

There are still some challenges when it comes to a foldable iPad, however. Engineers are said to be working on a solution for the crease that emerges in the center of the display after repeated folds. Apple is also reportedly trying to make sure the screen is totally flat when it's opened and that there's no bump in the middle. It took Samsung several years and multiple iterations of foldables to develop a hinge that gets rid of the gap between the two halves of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5.