A Foldable iPhone: The Next Big Thing?
Here’s all we know about what Apple has in the works for iPhone.
While cellphones once raced to take up as little room in your pocket as possible — the best example possibly being the Motorola Razr — the smartphone has grown to almost unreasonable proportions. The solution? Foldable smartphones: all the screen area without the large footprint. The idea for foldable smartphones has been around for years, and we’re long overdue for a shakeup from the slab-of-glass design set forth by the iPhone in 2007. Apple is not the first to think of that shakeup. Samsung and Lenovo have been promising flexible displays, too. Lenovo’s CPlus will be able to be worn like a watch. But Apple — which just became the first trillion-dollar public U.S. company — may have the ability to mainstream the concept a bit sooner.
But what would a functional, foldable smartphone even look like? Would it be bulky? Would it fold on the long edge like a book, or the short edge like a notepad? Thanks to design patents filed by Apple — who is notoriously tight-lipped about upcoming projects — we have our first glimpse of what a bendable iPhone might look like. Here’s everything we know so far.
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ZTE already released a foldable smartphone with its Axon M, which features two screens connected by a hinge. It’s intriguing, but it’s boxy and relatively thick, and that makes it feel dated in spite of its innovation.
Apple doesn’t bother with a design if it isn’t sleek. Its patent shows a single, bendable screen, not something with hinges down the middle. Samsung is rumored to roll out a version of the single, bendable screen first with its Galaxy X, which could surface as soon as next year.
If this happens, Samsung will get the kudos for achieving it first, but also the unpleasant task of working out the issues — will a bendable screen crack more easily? Will it overheat easily because it’s powering a larger screen overall? Will the additional memory and storage necessary to power it make the price tag skyrocket? So many questions. If you’re curious, you can see Apple’s full patent here.
It will be able to bend two different ways.
In one mode, it would open and close the phone like a book. In a second mode, designed for stationary use, it would open like a notepad. In the latter scenario, one half of the phone could fold to prop up the other half of the phone, so you could view the display on a flat table.
It will use an OLED screen.
Previously, iPhones have used LED screens, until the iPhone X employed OLED. OLED screens, unlike LED, don’t rely on a backlight, giving them the ability to be more flexible. The iPhone X screen already curves slightly at the edges, so this is a logical next step.
Apple may team up with LG to make it happen.
Samsung is at the forefront of flexible OLED. Apple uses them for its iPhone X screens, but LG made all the LCD screens for Apple until they pivoted to Samsung for the more modern OLED.
It’s significant that LG’s UltraFine 5K Display is one of the few non-Apple products you can buy in Apple stores, but Samsung has been working on flexible screens since 2010. LG and Samsung are really the only two contenders here, and both are likely vying for the partnership, so this one remains to be seen.
It’s going to be expensive.
The baseline price for the newest iPhone jumped from $640 to $1,000 largely because of that OLED screen. Throw in the folding capability, extra processing power and heftier battery life to power it all, and the price will probably head to heights that will give you a nosebleed. We have to admit, though, we’re curious to give it a try.
It’s at least two years away.
Apple is said to be working with suppliers in Asia on a foldable phone that could potentially double as a tablet for launch in 2020, according to a Merrill Lynch analyst. While they don’t want to jump into the game too late, they’ll also want to avoid the bottleneck of demand for a foldable phone exceeding their supply. Apple has not commented officially.