Why on Earth would Apple make a folding phone?

From Mark Gurman’s “Apple Considers Foldable iPhone; Minor Changes Planned for 2021 Models” posted Friday by Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has begun early work on an iPhone with a foldable screen, a potential rival to similar devices from Samsung Electronics Co. and others, though it’s planning only minor changes for this year’s iPhone line.

The Cupertino, California-based company has developed prototype foldable screens for internal testing, but hasn’t solidified plans to actually launch a foldable iPhone. The development work hasn’t expanded beyond a display, meaning Apple doesn’t yet have full handset prototypes in its labs, according to a person familiar with the work, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

Like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, the Motorola Razr reboot and other offerings from Chinese companies including Huawei Technologies Co., a foldable iPhone would let Apple make a device with a larger screen in a more pocketable package. Apple has internally discussed a number of foldable screen sizes, including one that unfolds to a similar size as the 6.7-inch display on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Current foldable phones have screens that are from 6 and 8 inches unfolded.

My take: I’m trying to imagine how a folding iPhone might make a dent in the universe or change just one person’s life for the better.

13 Comments

  1. Michael Goldfeder said:
    The only reason is that there is a market for such devices. Much like Lamborghini, Porsche, and Ferrari coming out with an SUV.

    0
    January 15, 2021
  2. Aaron Belich said:
    Dumb.

    There’s no value gained in a folding smartphone. Not when the value in a smartphone is what is on the display. Adding a hinge and constantly flexing the display, decreases the life of the device, depending on use. Apple wants devices to last as long as possible – get through the day on a single charge, and maintain that for the life of the battery. Then replace the battery or swap the phone (the battery is going to be swapped by someone if the rest of the phone is in good shape).

    1
    January 15, 2021
  3. Dave Ryder said:
    Apple tests lots of things that never make it to the market. It makes sense that they’d want to understand foldable technologies.

    6
    January 15, 2021
  4. Duane Bemister said:
    What I covet is a watch that works with the new, yet to be launched 5G iPad mini and no phone.

    1
    January 15, 2021
  5. Fred Stein said:
    The beauty of Android. Folks can try out ideas, including bad ones, like foldables.

    Remember Essential, a lego version of Android?

    Joanna Stern just tweeted another find from Inputmag. UK-based Planet Computers will launch its Astro Slide 5G Transformer, successor to the Cosmo Communicator and Gemini PDA. It has a slide-out QWERTY smartphone and 5G. Available on Indiegogo??

    I did not make this up. Astro Slide? Oh well.

    1
    January 15, 2021
  6. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. Other companies, including Microsoft Corp., have recently launched devices with visible hinges separating two distinct panels.”

    I feel 99.9% certainty that Apple will never release a foldable phone with “visible hinges.” Anyone who has studied Apple design culture and know of the intensity that went into so many of its areas of design targeted to a single piece know unequivocally that hinges are out. Think of Steve’s work with designers on the lower corners of the earlier iMacs enclosure where the front met the sides. The original iMac had three separate pieces of molded plastic that came together at this juncture with a thin line visible between those pieces. Steve had the new version designed with those corners as a single piece with no joints at all. As Ken Segall stated, “… No customer on earth would have noticed that improvement. But (Steve) told the story as if he were describing how Michelangelo had painted one section of the Sistine Chapel.” The iPhone had no buttons, except the Home button due to Apple’s devotion to simplicity. Think of the glass used in the design of the Apple campus.

    Summary: No device with a visible hinge from Apple.

    2
    January 15, 2021
  7. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. My take: I’m trying to imagine how a folding iPhone might make a dent in the universe or change just one person’s life for the better.”

    There are many folk who prefer larger screens. Being able to place successfully a larger screen in a smaller premium build, functional and reliable device would be innovative, impressive and exceptional for daily activities of living and work. There is an aging population who would love larger screens in smaller devices. Developing countries use larger screens as their tablets, their desktops and entertainment devices. If Apple comes through with a premium foldable phone with a much larger screen then you will see those devices flying off the shelves. It will be a huge Apple hit product.

    1
    January 15, 2021
  8. Dan Scropos said:
    The answer is simple—defense. Apple will defend her shareholders, and be caught flat footed, in the event such a phone/device takes off. When you look at iPhone’s revenue, you can’t help but protect that business segment against all ideas and concepts, even if they’re not your own. Mind you, Apple generally perfects existing concepts, or scraps them, so this seems inline with their approach toward competition.

    2
    January 16, 2021
  9. David Drinkwater said:
    Imagine if you will, a fold-able iPhone 12S Pro. A 6.1″ screen on one side. A fully developed iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera system with LIDAR etc., etc., on the other side. And then you unfold it to reveal an iPad Mini screen!

    You may not use this iPad Mini screen all the time. You may get enough basic information from the 6.1″ screen to satisfy most of your needs, but you appreciate the larger screen for occasional reads or writes. When when you fold that screen out, you get a 7.54″ screen, and if you figure the fold is actually active liquid polymer display, you can easily match the screen area of an iPad Mini at 7.9″!

    This is not at all inconceivable: Check Pythagorean theorem, square pixel counts in X and Y directions to get the 6.1″ screen of the iPhone 12 Pro. Double the X (short) dimension, redo the math. You get 7.54″ diagonal.

    If it’s thin enough, perhaps all battery and camera on one side, all touch screen and processors on the other … I’d be excited for it. Especially if it had under-screen TouchID to go along with FaceID..

    2
    January 16, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      I can imagine it, but not for less than $2,000.

      I wouldn’t buy one.

      1
      January 16, 2021
  10. James Dean said:
    Foldable iPhone not going to happen…

    iPad Mini 6 with 5G, yes please.

    16” MacBook Pro with M1X, and a 5G sim slot, June 9, 2021, maybe June 8, yes please.

    0
    January 16, 2021
  11. Gregg Thurman said:
    Got a call today from a friend, a retired professional photographer, that he bought the iPhone 12 Max last Monday.

    He was planning on buying a new standalone digital but after looking at the 12 went with the iPhone instead. After a week of taking photos with the 12 he is VERY happy with it, and it cost him less than the Canon he was looking at.

    Now he wants to get the new MacBook Pro with an M1 processor. Previously he was a non-Apple User.

    4
    January 16, 2021
  12. Michael Goldfeder said:
    @Gregg: Another example of the innovative and tremendous products provided by Apple.

    1
    January 17, 2021

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