iPhone Flip rumors: Everything we know about Apple’s foldable iPhone

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Rumors of a foldable iPhone have been swirling for years, but so far Apple hasn’t delivered.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Apple is set to release the iPhone 13 (or iPhone 12S?) this fall, if release date rumors are to be believed. And while the iPhone 13 is not expected to diverge much from last year’s flagship in design or price (here’s how we expect the iPhone 13 to compare to the iPhone 12), Apple does apparently have some interesting plans afoot: Enter the iPhone Flip, the foldable Apple phone that the internet loves to gossip about.

While competitors have released various foldable handsets one by one — Samsung’s bendy Galaxy Fold and Z Fold 2 and clamshell Galaxy Z Flip, and the reboot of the Motorola Razr, to name a few — Apple has been slower to market. This may be a smart move, since existing foldables have been met with mixed reviews.

We’ve been following reports of a foldable iPhone for years. Way back in 2017, it was predicted that a foldable iPhone could be coming in the futuristic-sounding year 2020. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Analysts and leakers have kicked the release date down the road ever since, and rumors and wish lists have simmered ever since. Here’s everything we know so far.

Read more: Samsung’s foldable phones compared

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Apple’s foldable may be coming later than expected



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Release date: The iPhone Flip launch is a moving target

It’s no secret Apple has its sights set on a foldable iPhone. The company has been registering patents for foldable mechanisms and devices for almost a decade now with no launch date in sight. The question is whether any of them will ever see the light of day, and if so, when?  

Early rumors pointed to 2021 as a potential target date, but a recent report from longtime Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) suggests 2023 might be more realistic, if it ever happens. According to Kuo, Apple still needs to figure out technology and mass production issues before bringing a device like this to market, hence the two-year wait. 

Read more: Top foldable phones for 2021

Design: What will the foldable iPhone look like?

The 2023 timeline would match up with a report from Bloomberg earlier this year that indicated Apple already has a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display. While it’s not yet a working model, it’s a step up from a patent which, until then, was all we had seen. 

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This illustration, according to Apple’s patent filing, shows a “device that bends along a flexible portion such as a flexible seam associated with a hinge.”


Apple/US Patent and Trademark Office

Apple seems to have taken out every patent under the sun when it comes to foldable displays, including an origami-style folding display, a flip-up display and even a wraparound display. And while we don’t know which one will make the final cut, both Kuo and Bloomberg seem to agree that the current prototype is more of a traditional foldout design that would open up to a 7.5- or 8-inch main display

Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Duo, which has the hinges on the exterior, Apple’s would have one continuous display with a hidden hinge mechanism like the Galaxy Fold. 

However, Apple leaker Jon Prosser reported in early 2021 that the iPhone flip will likely use a clamshell design and come in several “fun colors.” Between the flashy purple iPhone 12 and the rumored (or just longed-for) pink iPhone 13, an array of fun colors for Apple’s first foldable device is definitely a possibility.

Roadblocks: What still stands in Apple’s way? 

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Corning is working on bendable glass for foldable phones. 


Richard Peterson/CNET

While Samsung and others have been testing the waters, Apple has been learning from the pain points of their foldable devices and figuring out how they’d be used.

One of these pain points: the crease. A lot of the current cover materials, including the glass and plastic mix that Samsung uses for the Z Fold and Z Flip, show a visible crease when folded out to full screen. To avoid it, Apple would likely have to wait for Corning, Apple’s glass provider, to create some kind of bendable version of its Ceramic Shield screen. The company is already working on a bendable glass, but hasn’t announced a launch date for it. 

Cost: Foldable phones don’t come cheap

Price is another major problem for these types of devices. At $2,000, the Fold 2 is over twice the price of Samsung’s other flagship phones and a foldable iPhone wouldn’t be any cheaper. Apple’s foldable needs to be in line with current foldable and nonfoldable models to be able to compete against other brands and entice iPhone users to ditch their single-screen devices and pay more for a foldable.

A report in April found that half of American consumers are interested in buying a foldable phone, though Apple customers are slightly less willing to make the leap than Samsung or LG users. But perhaps the “Apple effect” will change those stats if and when a foldable iPhone ever becomes reality. 

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