What if Apple didn’t come out of foldable?

What if Apple didn't come out of foldable?

Foldables are all over the Android world these days. Everyone from Samsung to Huawei to Honor to Oppo is making one. Yet despite all of this, Apple has made no move indicating that it will join the market. Heck, this week Apple announced one of its most backward products in the iPhone SE. We’ve explored what a foldable iPhone might look like, but it might be worth considering the possibility that Apple might not release one at all.

Foldables as a concept are quite enticing. In a market where every smartphone feels more or less the same, getting a smartphone that can be a smartphone and a tablet is pretty exciting. Giving credit where credit is due, foldables have also come a long way. While early foldables proved flimsy, modern devices are tough, exciting, and selling in greater numbers than ever before. It’s almost as if Apple needs to break into this market before all of its Android competitors overtake it with their more advanced devices.

It’s time

And yet, looking at the numbers paints a different story. In the high-end market where foldables live, Apple reigns supreme. Sure, Samsung’s S-series phones are exciting, and the Z Fold and Z Flip are better than ever, but they don’t compare to Apple’s iPhones in terms of sales. This is a product line that includes seven of the top 10 smartphones sold in 2021, with the other three being budget devices. Apple does not need do anything. It’s the foldable makers that have to prove themselves to Apple.

In an interview with Digital Trends, Marta Pinto, senior research manager at IDC, said: “In the current hardware portfolio, Apple has the iPad Mini, which has a slightly larger screen than the Samsung Z Fold 3, so there is apparently no reason to get started immediately in this segment. The foldable category is still in its infancy and requires a lot of “feeding” [i.e., consumer and developers’ being educated as to why it is a relevant category, as well as building more compelling use cases]. IDC predicts the foldable category will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 69.9% [over the next few years, 2020-25], so the market will likely continue to exist and grow as the price of the technology drops with the improvement of production capacity and more brands find the need to compete in this segment as well. Currently, the trend is supply-driven – mainly driven by Samsung – and players who want to break into this segment will have to put a lot of effort into building the category from the ground up. Moreover, the necessary investment is also in sales: placing a device that falls in a gray area between categories (smartphone and tablet) will force brands to find the right angle or risk having just a gimmick in their portfolio. »

Microsoft’s Surface Pro series is a popular form factor that Apple has eschewed in favor of the more traditional clamshell. Digital trends

Building on Pinto’s point, it wouldn’t be the first time that Apple has eschewed creating an in-between form factor. By the mid-2010s, convertible laptops and tablets like Microsoft Surface were seemingly everywhere. Not only did Microsoft have its Surface Pros and Surface RTs, but Dell, HP, and even Samsung also offered convertible-style laptops. Now pretty much only Microsoft is making a Surface-style convertible, while the others have gone back to tweaking their laptops. Every once in a while, wild laptop designs emerge, but there’s a new understanding that they’re just that – wild.

“Foldable and curved screens are not new to the market. [remember LG?] and so far none of these experiments have taken off. … Apple is not known for making uncertain strategic moves, so there are only two options: either Apple is working on a product that will disrupt the category for good (like the iPhone did), or it will wait for the technology and the market to mature and bring the best-in-class device when the market conditions are ready,” Pinto said. “… The company’s shift in focus towards value-added services in addition to devices is clear, and so [we will likely] see other brands come into this market, eager to be a ‘first’…while Apple will do what it does best: disrupt the industry in style by working secretly behind the scenes” .

Wait-and-see approach

Yet at the same time there have been reports of Apple testing this foldable form factor, or patent this one, with a 2025 anchor for a foldable version of the iPhone. Could this mean that Apple is really and truly preparing to release the iPhone Fold or iPhone Flip despite all the reasons why it shouldn’t? Techsponential’s Avi Greengart told Digital Trends via email: “Apple is fundamentally conservative when it comes to form factor – it introduces products to address specific user issues, not just because there’s new form factor technology. display it could use Apple is also happy to sell you multiple devices to suit different needs rather than combining them into one transformative super-device that inevitably comes with trade-offs in durability or usefulness. While Apple is unquestionably testing foldable phones and iPads in its labs today, there’s no guarantee it’ll actually launch them, especially if it can deliver entirely new computing experiences with augmented reality glasses instead.

An iPhone SE 2020 sits on a desk, partially obscured by a plant in the foreground.
Apple’s most outdated products remain popular. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Indeed, as we’ve seen with convertibles and touchscreen laptops, Apple has often stubbornly forged its own path where other companies would go in new and (dare we say) more interesting directions. . The end result was a company with more memorable and reliable products than most of its competitors, and that track record might be what guides internal decisions more than external pressure.

In the end, it should be remembered that foldables are still a niche market that has not yet proven itself to ordinary mortals. While they’re still new in some sense, they’re no longer the new kid on the block — it’s been three years since the Galaxy Z Fold broke. If there is reason to say they are the future of mobile computing, that window is closing fast. If Apple is going to join the rat race, someone within the company will have to make that point. And they may have their work cut out for them.

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