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Apple is expected to announce an "iPhone Fold" with a flexible OLED display by 2024. Here's what the rumor mill predicts for the device and what it may look like.
Rumors and patents show that Apple has been working on a folding iPhone design for years. However, the technology required for such a device is still being developed, and it isn't clear what form the device may take.
Unlike Apple, Samsung has been developing its folding technology in public with the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Samsung Galaxy Flip. Apple is testing both form factors for its first foldable, but may be leaning towards the flip design.
Even as flagship Android devices pioneer folding technology, Apple is content biding its time while the technology matures. Devices being released to the public have encountered issues from poor software optimization to creased displays.
Patents show that Apple expects to overcome these issues with complex hinges and display technology. Apple isn't likely to ever release a foldable if it has such fundamental problems with the display.
Since the "iPhone 14" is expected to look similar to the iPhone 13, it seems Apple won't be introducing any radical redesign soon. We've based the renders on existing iPhone camera bumps, the rumored pill and hole punch cutout, and Apple's flat-sided industrial design.
The "iPhone Fold" would likely have a USB-C port, support MagSafe, and at the least use Touch ID. Apple could use Face ID, but placement of such a biometric sensor would be complicated on a product that can be used open or shut. We've opted to show the Face ID sensor internally, but the external power button could be used for Touch ID instead.
We expect Apple's foldable to open and close without a crease or seam in the display. Fully closed the thickness of the device should be only slightly thicker than current iPhones, while open it should be similar to the size of the iPad mini.
The external display would be thinner and taller than the usual iPhone, but it would still likely run a full version of iOS. Like Samsung's foldable, Apple will likely want the device to work like an iPhone when closed so apps can still be used normally.
It isn't yet clear how Apple will optimize iOS or iPadOS for the folding device. Little may have to change if the display only works in a fully open position. There is a chance that Apple could allow a three-quarters open or half-open mode for gaming or chat apps as well.
Some folding Android devices have multiple positions for operation and even an external display for use when the main display is closed. While such operations would be a big departure from Apple's design philosophy, it is still possible Apple could adopt them.
For Apple's first foldable, expect it to be an iPhone that can simply fold open and shut. Beyond that, Apple may not want to sour the experience with experimental features or hardware additions.
The "iPhone Fold" is rumored to launch sometime in 2023 or 2024. There's also a chance this device will only ever exist internally at Apple and never see the light of day.