The Foldable iPhone: Price, Release Date, Rumors, Specs, and News

Everything you need to know about the iPhone Flip

Foldable device illustration from patent US9504170B2
Patent US9504170B2.

Merging an iPhone and an iPad is one way Apple could build an iPhone Flip. It’s definitely just a rumor right now, but the expectation of a foldable Apple phone is gaining traction, just don’t expect one this year...and maybe not even in 2022.

When Will the Foldable iPhone Be Released?

We already know that Apple’s next phone is the iPhone 13/12S. Who knows what’s slated for 2022, but Omdia predicts a the foldable iPhone release will be revealed in 2023.

One idea behind a flexible Apple device is an iPad that folds. While that could definitely be its own product in the future, it's possible that rumors surrounding that device are actually about an iPhone/iPad hybrid, possibly called iPhone Flip or iPhone Fold.

Despite no official details from Apple, they've clearly been interested in a folding device of some kind for several years. Patents filed in 2011, 2014, June 2016, August 2016, and 2018 prove this. Of course, this also shows that for whatever reason, they haven't brought a foldable device to market despite obvious interest.

There are various designs in those documents and some of them are wildly different from the others (including a way to fold the device multiple ways). This could mean that they're referring to something totally different like an e-reader or tablet, but they give us a hint at what we could expect with this iPhone.

Foldable device illustration from patent US9504170B2
Patent US9504170B2.
Foldable device illustration from patent US8929085B2
Patent US8929085B2.
Foldable device illustration from patent US9504170B2
Patent US9504170B2.
Foldable device illustration from patent US10020462B1
Patent US10020462B1.
Foldable device illustration from patent US20180217639A1
Patent US20180217639A1.

Another patent filed in 2019 is for a device with a wrap around display:

In the described embodiment, the flexible display assembly is configured to present visual content at any portion of the transparent housing.

Could it be worked into a foldable phone? We are eagerly waiting to see how/if they use these inventions.

Lifewire’s Release Date Estimate

If any company is to perfect the tech behind a foldable phone, it’s Apple. Repeated testing and improving is required, as is fixing what other companies get wrong with foldable tech. This takes time. We don’t expect a foldable iPhone until at least 2022, but probably not until 2023.

Foldable iPhone Price Rumors

It won’t be cheap. Phones are increasingly approaching or even exceeding $1,000. Just look at Apple’s largest iPhone, the 12 Pro Max, which retails for just over a grand. 

What happens when another screen is attached? If the Galaxy Fold is any indication, the price could jump to $2,000. Apple doesn’t have to follow suit, especially if they want to dominate sales for dual-screen lovers. Then again, Apple isn't a cheap brand.

They could shoot for a clean iPhone+iPad mini price by simply adding them together for a $1,400 phone. But considering how new this will be for Apple, they might hike the price a bit and put it closer toward that $2k price tag. Unless, of course, they compromise with less-expensive hardware or fewer advancements other than simply two (or three) screens.

However, if they opt for a clamshell design where the single screen is split in two, we could be looking at a much more affordable phone (but still more pricey than your typical iPhone).

Pre-Order Information

It's way too early to suggest a pre-order date, but we'll keep this updated as the launch nears.

The Latest News About the Foldable iPhone

You can get more smartphone news from Lifewire. Here are some of the latest rumors we've found regarding the possibility of the iPhone Flip:

Foldable iPhone Features

Over the years as phones have gotten larger, we’ve enjoyed more screen real estate for things like reading, watching movies, playing games, and multitasking. That’s what a foldable phone is good for.

That said, Apple is an innovator. Maybe they can make a version that works better than all the rest. Maybe it won’t suffer from a visible crease down the middle where the screens fold over each other. Or, as this patent shows, a foldable Apple phone might use self-heating pixels to help avoid damage when folding. If it has a third screen when folded, maybe the refresh rate could be high enough that it'd be indistinguishable from the primary screens.

iOS, the software that runs the iPhone, could and should be revamped to support multiple displays. Don't expect it to function too differently than your typical, one-screen iPhone. Too much change would pull dedicated customers away. Apps will also need to support multiple screens for them to look great on a dual-screen iPhone, otherwise there's really no point to the larger phone.

Given a larger phone could resemble a tablet, it makes sense the Apple Pencil would be supported. The latest version currently works only on a small selection of iPads, but expect a new version for the foldable iPhone (unless it's more of a flip phone than a tablet).

When it comes down to it, a foldable phone is beneficial purely for its bigger screen. Since this will be Apple’s first attempt at this kind of phone, it’d probably be the only major change to the iPhone that year. Meaning: no stunningly new camera, massive storage capacity boost, etc.

Foldable iPhone Specs and Hardware

So how will the iPhone Flip work? It’s anyone’s guess, but there are a few options: one large, foldable screen like the Galaxy Fold; two separate screens that fold over a purposefully visible hinge like the Surface Duo; or three screens—two regular ones and a third that's used when the device is in its folded position.

Leaker Jon Prosser once suspected that it'll resemble the Duo:

However, since then, based on other leaks and suggestions, it's looking more like we could see a clamshell design. This would mean from a distance the iPhone Flip would look like a typical phone but it folds vertically like old-style flip phones, and could include a small screen on the outside. Maybe similar to the Galaxy Z Flip.

Here's an example of what a clamshell iPhone Flip could look like:

If two full-size screens are used instead, to resemble a tablet when unfolded, whether it will open backward on itself like the Duo is another question. If it does, we can only hope that it’d support running an app on both screens simultaneously. Maybe you could play the same video on both screens to watch a video with someone sitting across from you, or run two separate apps for something like local gameplay.

Here's ConceptsiPhone's rendering of a dual-screen "iPhone Fold":

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks we could see a screen as large as 8 inches. Omdia predicts the iPhone to be OLED and stand at 7.3–7.6” (the larger size would make it the same as the Galaxy Z Fold 2). The iPhone 12 Pro Max is 6.7” and the iPad mini is 7.9”, so it would truly be a phone-tablet mixture; a foldable phablet-style device.

Space Gray, Silver, and Gold are common colors for Apple’s devices. We’ll probably see those same options for the iPhone Flip, and possibly others that other iPhones support, like Graphite, Green, Product Red,  and Pacific Blue.

The current iPhone supports 5G for faster data transfers on mobile connections. Most new phones coming out these days are shipping with built-in support for 5G, so expect that with the foldable iPhone.

Bolstering things like the battery, processing power, and RAM will be a must in order to sustain multiple displays that could all independently multitask. Storage space might not change from the current iPhone lineup.

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