The question was never if, but when, and according to noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the long-rumored foldable iPhone is now expected in 2023.
According to note from the analyst seen by MacRumors, Kuo said he predicts Apple’s first foldable iPhone will feature an 8-inch flexible OLED display sourced from Samsung and will go on sale sometime in 2023. Kuo also says that based on estimates and Apple’s “requested capacity plan,” he expects Apple to target sales between 15 and 20 million units, which would present a pretty big jump up from the 2.8 million foldable phones sold industry-wide in 2020—of which nearly 80% were from Samsung.
“At present, the product position of foldable smartphones is mainly to integrate the smartphone and tablet,” Kuo wrote. “But we believe that the foldable smartphone is only one of the applications of the foldable design. We predict that foldable devices will blur the product segmentations between smartphones, tablets, and laptops in the future. With its cross-product ecosystems and hardware design advantages, Apple will be the biggest winner in the new foldable device trend.”
Kuo said he believes Apple will switch over to silver nanowire touch tech—which Apple already uses on the HomePod—for use in future devices with multiple folds or rollable displays, at which point silver nanowire could become a better choice than Samsung Display’s Y-Octa foldable screen tech.
Unfortunately, Kuo didn’t mention an estimated price for Apple’s upcoming foldable iPhone, though given Apple’s estimated lofty sales target, it’s hard to imagine final retail prices anywhere near the $1,800 price tag a new Galaxy Z Fold 2 goes for today.
Another question is whether Apple’s upcoming folding iPhone will run a standard version of iOS, iPad OS, or a hybrid of the two to help Apple’s foldable handset best take advantage of its multi-function design. Either way, the main hurdle Apple will have to clear is to figure out a way to protect the foldable’s iPhone screen, as today’s bendy displays are still quite soft and susceptible to dents and creases. Apple will also need to develop a hinge mechanism that maintains its strength and rigidity without taking up too much space or allowing small particles like dirt to get inside the device.
Samsung has already released two generations of foldable phones, and currently has the most experience creating devices with flexible screens. But Apple’s expertise in taking relatively novel tech and working to iron out flaws and kinks could make it an instant success.
Still, a lot can change between now and 2023, so we’re just going to have to sit tight for the next couple years before we get a better idea of what a foldable iPhone might actually look like.