APPLE has been “experimenting” with flexible screens in secret labs for years, a top analyst believes.
It gives hope to Apple fans who want to see a foldable iPhone to rival the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X.
This year has seen a sudden flood of foldable phones from top brands like Samsung and Huawei, along with lesser known rivals TCL and Royole.
Even Motorola looks poised to re-release the classic Motorola Razr as a foldable smartphone device – but we’ve heard nothing from Apple ahead of its rumoured iPhone 11 launch later in the year.
However, one top industry watcher thinks Apple has been testing bendy screens behind closed doors, and could one day launch a foldable iPhone.
“It is inconceivable that Apple has not been experimenting with flexible displays in it design labs for years,” Ben Wood, an expert analyst at CCS Insight, told The Sun.
However, Ben pointed out that Apple is “rarely the first to embrace cutting-edge technologies like this” – and instead prefers to wait, and get the tech right.
“You can be sure Apple will be scrutinising the new products from Samsung, Huawei and others with a forensic level of detail trying to figure out how Apple can best deliver a foldable iPhone,” he explained.
The jury is still out on whether foldable phones are actually going to catch on.
The idea is that you can carry a large tablet-sized screen around with you, which then folds down into a pocket-able smartphone.
However, getting high-quality screens to bend is difficult, which makes producing foldable phones extremely costly.
For instance, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold will set you back about £1,800 in the UK, while Huawei’s Mate X will cost upwards of £2,000.
That makes Apple’s most expensive smartphone to date – the £1,449 iPhone XS Max top model – look positively cheap.
And early impressions of the Royole FlexPai foldable phone suggest it’s a bit clunky to use.
So it’s likely we’ll need to wait a few years before foldable gadgets are in a state where most people want to use them.
More importantly, the cost will need to come down significantly too, as the number of people willing to spend £1,800 or more on a smartphone is tiny.
However, smartphone makers are struggling to give customers reasons to upgrade – and foldable phones appear to be a quick fix.
“We are currently in the Stone Age of foldables and we remain concerned they are a solution looking for a problem,” Ben told us.
“But as with all innovation, once a product category becomes a reality it becomes more refined and the use cases emerge.
“History shows that Apple has an uncanny ability to take technology and implement it in ways others have not thought of so I’m interested to see what an iPhone with a folding screen looks like if and when it comes to pass.”
Apple has shown interest in foldable phones previously, but only through patents.
Sadly, patents don’t signal any intent to actually create a product, and Apple hasn’t confirmed plans to launch a foldable iPhone. Not yet, anyway.
Apple declined to comment on this story.