Apple has a lot to offer with its various products, ranging from the Mac Studio to the fairly affordable iPhone SE. However, there is one point where Apple is always behind its competitors: foldable screens, or rather, their absence. That’s not really a problem, because foldable screens are still a bit of a novelty and aren’t exactly cheap, so demand is somewhat limited. On the other hand, as technology develops, it makes perfect sense that Apple would want to jump on the bandwagon of foldable devices so that they can one day bring such devices to market as well. To that end, today’s news about the future of Apple’s foldable devices is a bit mixed.
The first news comes from renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo recently started sharing his thoughts on Twitter, keeping the rumor mill alive with his latest predictions. While Kuo’s analyzes are generally quite accurate, his latest tweet is a revision of an earlier prediction. He thought Apple would launch a foldable iPhone as early as 2024, but that date seems to have been pushed back — and Kuo is no longer certain that the iPhone will be the first Apple product to receive this revolutionary upgrade.
I expected Apple to launch a foldable iPhone as soon as 2024 in my reports last year, but now it’s clear this prediction needs to be revised. I predict Apple may launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, which may be a foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad & iPhone. https://t.co/HGIDPFvdar
— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) April 1, 2022
According to Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple may be planning to launch its first foldable product in 2025 at the earliest, but his wording implies that it could be much later than that. The type of product has also become considerably more interesting. Kuo mentions a “foldable iPad or a hybrid of iPad and iPhone”. Sounds exciting, but who will Apple turn to for the foldable display finesse it needs for such a futuristic hybrid device?
The subject is more complex than reported by Kuo, and additional information comes from The Elec. According to the publication, Apple has started developing an OLED panel without a polarizer, which would be a big step towards producing foldable displays. Removing the polarizer allows for thinner screens to be made and therefore more optimal for bending. The Elec cites unnamed sources for these claims, but given the various rumors that hint that Apple might be working on a foldable device, it’s pretty self explanatory.
Using a polarizer in a display has its pros and cons. As for the benefits, screens with polarizers generally offer better visibility than those without. This comes in handy when you’re using your screen outdoors and have to face sunlight — many smartphones and tablets can’t keep up with super bright surroundings, causing you to squint eyes and trying to find shade. On the other hand, polarizers also decrease the peak brightness of a display. As The Elec points out, a common workaround for manufacturers is to increase the power consumption of devices. However, it is impossible to push the limits of consumption until it becomes excessive.
A late arrival on the market
If Apple is indeed ditching the polarizer in order to create thinner and possibly more flexible displays, then that suggests that Apple is indeed creating a foldable display for a future device.
As Ming-Chi Kuo suggests, we know that Apple takes its time when a new feature or technology is in the works for a hardware product. While Apple’s first device with a foldable screen won’t see the light of day for a few years, competitors continue to iterate with enticing devices. It will be interesting to see how Apple hits the market with a device ready to differentiate itself from the devices already in the minds of consumers.