The foldable iPhone might launch in the next 3 years, or never see the light of the day

A week back, Apple had planned to introduce a foldable iPhone to the market, but a new report from South Korean publication The Elec states otherwise. With many manufacturers going foldable like Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei, Apple too wanted to join the league. Apple has been working on at least two different foldable iPhone prototypes or concepts with a view to potentially bringing one of the designs to market. However, a new report suggests that the company is only lukewarm on the idea and it is still some years away from being launched, if at all.

Apple could ditch the foldable for good due to lukewarm response on Samsung’s foldables

The Elec believes that Apple is unsure about the foldable iPhone launch, most likely because Samsung doesn’t appear to be selling a high volume of foldable models, despite having the biggest market share. One could argue that customers aren’t too keen on picking up these devices thanks to their high prices and lack of durability compared to ‘candy-bar’ smartphones. Apple is likely monitoring Samsung’s progress in the market, and based on the Korean giant’s success, it might make a decision.

2019 was once heralded as the “Year of the Foldable” with the launch of devices from Royole, Samsung, Huawei and Motorola, but none of the devices really took off for a variety of reasons. The most spectacular misstep came from Samsung whose first generation Galaxy Fold launch spectacularly imploded when multiple reviewers developed display issues with their review units. Ultimately, however, pricing and ongoing durability concerns have consigned them to the periphery of the smartphone market even if they do pose an attractive proposition.

This has not been lost on Apple, it seems, who despite investigating and testing various components including foldable displays needed for a foldable iPhone, doesn’t appear to be anywhere near ready to release a foldable device. The Elec states that Apple has yet to ready its supply chain for such a launch and this would typically happen at least two to three years from launch. Even if Apple did get the stage where it sets up its partners for a foldable launch by the end of 2021, the earliest we would see such a device on the market would be 2024.

The Elec also stated that Samsung, which has been by far the most successful foldable smartphone OEM to date, sold 2.5 million Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Fold2 devices in 2020, which was short of its own 4.5 million unit target. Not only are durability concerns a major issue for Apple, the profitability of such a device is tempering its enthusiasm for the project. Of the two designs Apple was testing, a flip-type design is the one that it is said to have decided to investigate further. At this stage, however, it is far from guaranteed that Apple will bring it to market.

Apple would need to pick up the slack if they want a foldable iPhone before 2024

According to a recent report, Apple is working with LG on a foldable panel and an earlier leak had alleged that the company has ordered samples from Samsung. These two South Korean companies already supply OLED panels for the iPhone 12 series.
They would need to start making the necessary investments in early 2022 if Apple intends to launch the device in 2023.
Apple is currently transitioning from LCD panels to OLED units and this could affect its margins. By the second half of 2022, it’s forecasted to have more OLED iPhones than LCD iPhones in its portfolio. The report says that Apple requires time to evaluate its position before launching a foldable iPhone.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Apple also has mini-projects related to foldable displays but they add that the company is currently not too keen on launching a bendable device.

For now, a 2023 launch timeframe doesn’t seem likely, and if the company starts setting up a supply chain towards the end of this year, we will see a foldable iPhone in 2024 at the earliest.

Kiran Fernandes

Kiran is your friendly neighbourhood tech enthusiast who's passionate about all kinds of tech, goes crazy over 4G and 5G networks, and has recently sparked an interest in sci-fi and cosmology.

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