Technology

The wait for Apple’s rumored folding iPhone seems endless.

Apple has never been particularly interested in doing things first, which is unusual for a tech company, especially one valued at trillions of dollars. It likes to do things right. It likes to do things well and when ready.

The original iPhone was an example of this, as much as the company’s cheerleaders might try to retroactively crown it as the world’s first smartphone. In contrast, earlier we had a lot of smartphones; They just weren’t very good. Apple found a market that was ripe for dominance—sitting in that sweet spot where user interest was high and product quality was low—and then crashed like a multitouch cannonball with a phone that executed the concept properly.

Apple

But the foldable iPhone, which is something we talk about incessantly rather than something that exists in any verifiable form, has followed a different path. In theory, Apple is playing its usual long game, watching, waiting and going behind the scenes while Samsung, Motorola, Oppo and the rest roll out their hyped products to heat up the market. But with Samsung unveiling the fourth generation of its Galaxy Fold phone, the market has been pretty warm for a while now, and there’s no sign of a headline from Cupertino.

The Fold, getting old

As you’d expect with a new form factor, the Fold struggled in its early days. The original Fold was plagued by terrible reviews, delays, screen errors and software bugs and was, quite frankly, a mess. But by the time the Galaxy Z Fold 3 rolled around, we’d seen Samsung settle down. Instead of solving major problems, it was fine-tuning the design and lowering the price. This week’s Z Fold 4, meanwhile, offers a faster processor, an improved camera and a thinner chassis. You’d expect these kinds of upgrades with a mature device, not something that’s new and risky.

Granted, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (which you can pre-order here ) doesn’t look terribly different from the original Galaxy Fold. It’s a little thinner, a little more practical, and a little cheaper, but Samsung is sticking with the original vision of a super skinny and thick phone that opens up into a big tablet. Samsung says it has sold about 10 million foldable devices over the past three years, including the less expensive Galaxy Flip, but there is a sense that the market is still too uncertain and uncertain.

In some ways this is a difficult position for Samsung, which now has to come up with convincing reasons for customers to upgrade from the previous generation and for new customers who might be skeptical. But it also gives the company some rest. With virtually no competition, Samsung’s innovation with the Fold has stagnated: There’s still a crease in the middle of the screen, there’s still no slot for the S Pen, and there’s still a gap when closed. And at $1,799, it’s still very expensive.

It’s easy to see why Apple wouldn’t sell a flagship iPhone with the same flaw. Newer Apple devices can be rough around the edges—the first iPhone didn’t even have an App Store, and the original Apple Watch relied on an iPhone to run apps—but the hardware is always tough. Software may evolve and mature, but hardware is forever.

But still, people seem to love Samsung’s foldable phones. Even if Apple gets it right, launching a foldable iPhone now will be a huge challenge, with rivals experienced in making reliable foldables and consumers with loyalties to specific devices. With no foldable iPhone in sight for at least 2-3 years, the foldable revolution is close to overtaking Apple, if it hasn’t already.

Waiting for the iFold

So what is Apple’s grand plan? Is it seriously going to give up on the foldable market altogether? Probably. But it’s more of a gamble than it might seem.

For all the tech media’s understandable cynicism about hype and failure points, foldables may become a widely prevalent or even dominant form factor. After all, a foldable screen is in principle the ideal design for a phone, which combines a large working space with a compact chassis. It just faces practical problems in delivering that design – and if you wait long enough, as Apple is doing, those practical problems start to disappear.

Apple

Let me do it the other way around. Imagine the technological landscape of 2030. What major device is every person using in their daily life? It could be the iPhone 21 Pro Max with the same form factor and a better camera, but it’s more likely to be something completely new, like a VR/AR headset. Perhaps something we’ve already seen will evolve to take on a broader role: the Apple Watch, for example, if Apple can find a way around screen-size limitations. But regardless, it’s hard to imagine everyone still carrying a smartphone with the same design as the iPhone 13.

Foldable smartphones have at least a shot at becoming the universal device of the future, and it worries me that Apple seems to be doing so little to prepare for that future. It’s one thing to be fashionably late, but when it comes to foldables, Apple runs the risk of returning to the party and finding all the seats taken.

Also See : This is what the new battery percentage indicator looks like in iOS 16

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