Apple is reportedly developing a folding iPhone that flips open and shut

A folding iPhone concept (Apple iPhone)
A folding iPhone concept (Apple iPhone)

If you keep drooling over foldables, but can’t tear yourself away from your iPhone, you may be in luck.

A new report claims Apple has been quietly working on a folding iPhone since 2018, and has already produced at least two prototypes. Both models flip open and shut like a clamshell, a trait we’ve already seen on the Samsung Galaxy Flip 5.

Apple is in early development on the foldable iPhone, per The Information, so a release could still be far off. It’s also said to be tinkering away on a folding iPad with a larger size, having faced obstacles with the folding iPhone project.

If true, the news would signal a massive design shift for Apple, which is the only major phone manufacturer that hasn’t embraced bendy phones. Samsung kicked off the trend with its Fold range back in 2019, followed by Motorola, Oppo, and Google.

Flip phones tend to be cheaper than larger foldables that open like a book. The Google Pixel Fold, for instance, costs £1,749, compared to £1,049 for the Flip 5. When folded, they are also smaller and can take photos without the need for a stand at a 90-degree angle.

Apple is said to have discussed parts orders from manufacturers in Asia for a foldable iPhone in two sizes. But it may yet scrap the project if the product doesn’t meet its design standards.

A folding iPhone made by YouTubers in 2022 (Technology Aesthetics / YouTube)
A folding iPhone made by YouTubers in 2022 (Technology Aesthetics / YouTube)

The main technical barrier appears to be with the device’s size. Specifically, Apple is reportedly trying to build a phone that is half as thin as current iPhone models, so that it isn’t too thick when folded.

To give you an idea of how chunky foldables are, Samsung has trimmed down the Flip 5 to a thickness of 15.1 mm when shut. By comparison, the flat iPhone 15 range has a depth of 8.25 mm.

Apple is also apparently working on ways to reduce the permanent crease in the middle of the display that can appear after too many folds. Phone makers typically test the durability of their foldables using special equipment in lab conditions.

A recent third-party test in real life showed that the Galaxy Z Flip 5 could withstand 400,000 folds. Samsung used a new hinge on the phone, with fewer moving parts, that enables it to close completely without the wedge-shaped gap found on its predecessors.

For its part, Apple reportedly wants the device to lie completely flat when unfolded, enabling users to touch and draw on the screen using their hands or a stylus like the Apple Pencil.

Reports of a folding iPhone and iPad have been around for years. In 2020, Apple filed a patent for foldable displays designed with durability in mind, and as recently as last year, a patent was filed for flexible displays. There’s even one that talks about a foldable that can close itself when dropped to prevent serious damage. But, seeing as Apple files thousands of patents in any given year, there’s no certainty that they’ll result in a commercially available product.

Apple’s diehard fans are certainly clamouring for a foldable. Tired of waiting for the real thing, a team of hobbyists made a folding iPhone by piecing together parts from an iPhone X and a Motorola Razr. As it turns out, their frankenphone may not have been that far off the mark.