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Apple is working on at least two folding iPhone prototypes

The 'iPhone Fold' is expected to take design cues from existing Apple products

Last updated

A new report says Apple is the process of building prototypes for an iPhone Fold, but is rumored to be having difficulties with durability and screen creasing.

Rumors about Apple making a folding iPhone have circulated for years, and a fan actually engineered one. Most recently, rumors have shifted to a presumption that such a device will be a foldable iPad, but a new report says Apple is still investigating the iPhone fold.

According to The Information, that investigation has reached the stage were two or more prototypes are being developed. Citing only an unnamed source "with direct knowledge," the publication says that there won't be an iPhone fold in either 2024 or 2025.

That is because the prototypes are in early development. However, the publication claims that Apple has approached at least one manufacturer concerning components related to two foldable iPhones of different sizes.

The source also says that Apple could yet cancel the projects if they do not meet its standards.

Those standards are reportedly concerned with the durability of a foldable iPhone's display, particularly around the crease in it.

According to The Information, Tim Cook first asked about the possibility of an iPhone fold in 2018. Reportedly, Cook responded positively to a demonstration that year of a foldable 7-inch display.

Three other unnamed sources told the publication that another issue is cost and desirability. A folding iPhone would necessarily be more expensive, and reportedly Apple has yet to find further features that would compel users to upgrade.

The same issues would presumably apply to any folding iPad. However, the most recent rumors concerning Apple's folding device plans have said that there could be a folding iPad mini in 2026.

Apple has years of research on how to make a folding iPhone

These latest reported prototypes are far from Apple's first ventures into a foldable device. While Apple has never commented publicly on the topic, its research has led to multiple patents that describe it.

Detail from one of many Apple patents regarding foldable devices.
Detail from one of many Apple patents regarding foldable devices.

Such patents show that Apple expects to overcome these reported screen issues with complex hinges, new display technology, and hybrid OLED that doesn't crease.

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.

It's also expected that the "iPhone Fold" would have a USB-C port, and support MagSafe. 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.

Nonetheless, it remains that the screen is the key challenge. Apple isn't likely to ever release a foldable if it has such fundamental problems with the display.

An external display would act as a fully functional iPhone running iOS
An external display would act as a fully functional iPhone running iOS

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.

The "iPhone Fold" has been long-rumored to launch in 2025, with continuing rumors — including this latest one from The Information — suggesting a shift to later. There's also a chance this device will only ever exist internally at Apple and never see the light of day.