Apple has developed prototypes of at least two new iPhone models that feature a foldable clamshell design, a source familiar with the matter revealed. The move marks a significant transition in the company's approach to smartphone design, potentially leading to one of the most momentous changes since the iPhone's inception.
The Foldable Smartphone Market
Foldable smartphones, considered a luxury due to higher retail prices and perceived fragility, offer the benefits of portability and enhanced usability. Since Samsung debuted the Galaxy Fold in 2019, the foldable phone sector has seen entries from other major manufacturers like Motorola and Google, as well as various Chinese tech companies. These devices have the advantage of taking up less space when not in use and being able to support themselves at varied angles for photography.
Impact on the Industry
Should Apple decide to bring a foldable iPhone to market, the implications for the smartphone industry could be substantial. Apple's reputation for design innovation often sets trends that ripple across the tech landscape. A successful introduction of a foldable iPhone by Apple, known for prioritizing durability and user experience, might spur wider adoption of foldable technology among consumers and push competitors to enhance their own offerings.
Apple is also rumored to be launching a folding iPad this year. Apple reportedly sees the folding market as one for expansion. Even so, the company is happy to let Samsung do all the in-world testing for consumer demand. This is a strategy Apple has taken with previous categories, including MP3 players, tablets, and smartphones.
While sales are rising, the market for these devices remains nascent due to the high cost of the handsets. However, analyst firm IDC predicts that by 2026 the number of folding phone shipments will quadruple. That report from the IDC suggests that Apple could be timing its folding iPhone/iPad devices to coincide with the explosion in demand.