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iPhone Flip Phone?

Samsung has the bendy Galaxy Z Fold 3 and clamshell Galaxy Z Flip 3, there's the reboot of the Motorola Razr and even Google is said to have a foldable Pixel in the works. While competitors have released various foldable handsets, Apple has been slower to market.

This may be a smart move, since foldable phones have been met with mixed reviews.

Apple took the wraps off a bunch of new products in 2021. This includes the iPhone 13, Apple Watch 7, upgraded MacBook Pros, and AirPods 3, to name a few. As expected, we have yet to get a glimpse of the foldable iPhone, possibly called the iPhone Flip. Although the iPhone Flip's release date seems to be a moving target, rumors suggest Apple's foldable could arrive in 2023 at the earliest. Still, that hasn't stopped the buzz about the possibility of a foldable iPhone.

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 been kicking the release date down the road ever since, and rumors and wish lists have simmered.

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 the year has since passed with no foldable iPhone in sight. A report from longtime Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo 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. Speculation from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman aligns with Kuo's predictions. In his Power On Newsletter, Gurman says that the foldable iPhone may not arrive for another two to three years. More recent rumors from display analyst Ross Young say a foldable iPhone is expected in 2023 at the earliest, but it's more likely to arrive in 2024.

Design: What Will the Foldable iPhone Look Like?

The 2023 timeline would match up with a report from Bloomberg last 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.

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 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. 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, the new blue, and pink option for the 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?

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. Although Samsung lowered the price for its most recent foldable phones, its previous model, the Fold 2, cost $2,000 which is over twice the price of Samsung's other flagship phones. 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 last 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. Perhaps the "Apple effect" will change those stats if and when a foldable iPhone ever becomes reality.

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