Apple is said to be actively exploring a foldable iPhone with at least two prototype designs that fold widthwise like a clamshell, according to a new report by The Information.
Despite Apple’s inroads with its foldable iPhone project, the undertaking seems to still be in an early development stage with a prospective launch still a few years away. According to the report, Apple’s engineers and industrial designers hope to have the clamshell foldable iPhone be half as thin as current conventional iPhones when unfolded. This approach would ensure that a foldable iPhone isn’t too thick when folded and closed.
Apple is also exploring an outward screen to display information on a foldable iPhone when it’s closed, an approach that is taken by most Android OEMs who have released foldable devices. The company has also begun discussions with supply chain partners in Asia to discuss component orders for at least two foldable iPhone sizes if and when the project is approved for mass production. A folding iPhone is not expected to launch till 2026 at the earliest since it’s not on the company’s production plans for 2024 or 2025, the report adds.
However, the company has run into multiple hurdles with making certain components like batteries and displays slimmer to achieve its thinness goal and has opted to instead focus on a foldable iPad-like device for the time being. The foldable iPhone project was reportedly paused back in 2020, and the company is now focusing its efforts on launching an inward-folding iPad with a display around 8 inches wide when opened. This corroborates an earlier report last week of Apple working on a foldable iPad mini that could launch by 2026.
A foldable iPad appears easier to get to the market than a foldable iPhone due to several factors. Apple doesn’t need to worry too much about the thickness of a foldable iPad since it’s not expected to be carried around in a pocket. In addition, durability demands would be less rigorous compared to a foldable iPhone. However, Apple still has some work to do when it comes to reducing display creases where the hinge is located as the company doesn’t want to compromise on the ability to use drawing tools like the Apple Pencil.
Apple is paying special attention to the hinge mechanism of its foldable prototypes since it wants to offer a completely flat display when unfolded. The company has reportedly tapped LG Display and Samsung Display to help with its foldable display engineering efforts.