Could your next iPhone come with a folding screen?

Smartphone: Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi? / Apple TV+, Ted Lasso)

The list of products Apple has been rumoured to be working on over the years includes everything from televisions to cars, but the latest one feels much more plausible: a folding iPhone.

According to The Information, the R&D lab at Apple HQ in Cupertino has been working hard on two folding iPhone prototypes with horizontal hinges across the middle, similar to Samsung’s clamshell Galaxy Z Fold 5 or the Motorola RAZR 40 Ultra. The report claims that "a person with direct knowledge of the situation" says the phones are in the very early stages of development, with neither expected to be available any time soon. 

It’s not unusual for R&D projects and patents to never see the light of day at all, but Apple has a history of letting other manufacturers prepare the ground when it comes to launching new product types, and then swooping in with something more polished. The iPhone was not the first smartphone, the iPad was not the first tablet, and the Apple Watch was not the first smartwatch, but all three have gone on to become leaders in their respective fields. 

Folding smartphones have enjoyed limited success so far. Early models were too bulky and breakable, and while more recent devices have certainly slimmed down – the Honor Magic V2 is barely thicker than a standard smartphone when folded up – their price tags remain prohibitively high for many. 

According to data and analytics company Kantar, foldable phones account for just 1% of total smartphones owned across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the US, and Australia in 2023. Apple would back itself to change that, and International Data Corporation forecasts significant growth by 2027, by which time Tim Cook and co might have joined the party. 

This is not the first time Apple has been rumoured to be working on a foldable iPhone either. The idea has been around since 2016 and refuses to go away, with analysts suggesting that a folding iPad is more likely to see the light of day first, which would be a boon for those who like to watch movies on the move. 

These latest rumours suggest a different kind of device though; something that’s designed to become more pocketable rather than unfolding book-style to reveal a larger screen inside.

Those who pay attention to Apple’s inventory may have noticed that there hasn’t been a new iPad Mini since 2021. Could some sort of folding device be its successor? Could we see a foldable iPhone 16 later in the year? It's probably unlikely, but we'll bring you more information if it becomes available.


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Tom Wiggins

Tom Wiggins is a freelance writer and editor. A lifelong fan of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C., his words have graced a variety of respected sporting outlets including FourFourTwo, Inside Sport, Yahoo Sport UK and In Bed With Maradona. He also specialises in the latest technology and has contributed articles to the likes of TechRadar, TrustedReviews, ShortList, Wareable, Stuff, Metro, and The Ambient.