Internet is flooded with rumours and news related to Apple‘s foldable iPhone, especially after more smartphone players have placed their bets in the foldable segment. Led by Samsung, Oppo is making heads turn with its new Oppo Find N. Similarly, Vivo and Mi are also expected to join Samsung and Oppo with their foldable bets. It appears that all the development has ‘kind of‘ convinced Tim Cook & team that the future belongs to foldable smartphones.
According to an Apple analyst Dylan, Apple is testing multiple foldable iPhone prototypes. However, a foldable iPhone might not be a reality in the near future as the Cupertino giant has many concerns about the maturity & sustainability of foldable display technology besides the market potential for foldable smartphones.
Dylan tweeted that Apple was working on a future device but that the foldable display technology was not yet advanced enough and forces Apple to make too many compromises, which top management at Apple are not very happy about.
Apple is also skeptical about the sustainability of the foldable smartphone market. The world’s most valued publicly-traded company concerns that foldable smartphones are here in the market for a short duration, and may lose their popularity or become obsolete over the next few years, according to reports.
Given Apple’s promise to their customers about the durability and quality of the iPhone, the above concerns make sense. Apple wants to make sure that the foldable iPhone isn’t a regression from the iPhone’s current form factor. This could happen if the folding functionality causes problems with quality and display durability. Dylan’s comments indicate that Apple may opt for a ‘wait and watch‘ strategy for foldable smartphone technology despite being ready with foldable iPhone.
There is another discouraging factor that is keeping Apple away from the having an aggressive approach toward foldable iPhone. In 2021, according to IDC, only 7.1 million foldable smartphones (flip+fold) were sold. As per the price of foldable smartphones currently available in the market which ranges between $1,099 to $1700, the average price of a foldable device is approx $1,400. Therefore it safe to estimate that foldable devices worth $9.9 billion worth were sold in 2021. This was indeed a 251% YoY increase in sales volume which paints a promising picture for foldable smartphones.
However, when we keep these figures beside Apple iPhone sales of revenue from the sales of iPhone, the situation turns upside down.
Apple reported $365.8 billion revenue in fiscal 2021. 52.5% of it, amounting to $192 billion came from the sales of iPhone alone. Hence, the foldable smartphone sales was just 5% of the revenue generated from iPhone and les than 3% of Apple’s total revenue reported in 2021.
Let’s drill down these figures further down to have more clarity on the scope for Apple in foldable smartphone segment.
For the last few years, Apple has been capturing nearly 15% of global smartphone shipments. However, in premium smartphone segment Apple accounted for 55% and 60% market share in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Assuming that Apple would maintain the same share even in foldable smartphone segment also, It’s safe to assume that Apple would have generated $5 billion in revenue in 2021. This is just 2.5% of Apple’s total iPhone sales revenue in 2021 and less than 2% of Apple’s overall revenue in 2021.
Anyone, who has been following Apple for long and have a great understanding of its go-to-marker strategies, will tell that Apple would never jump into the market as small as foldable smartphone is currently.
On the other hand, there are rumours that claim that Apple believes that foldable display technology will mature by mid-2023 and the company may release a foldable iPhone in the summer of 2023.
Apple foldable iPhone: A Hybrid device?
Ming-Chi Kuo, an Apple analyst stated in May 2021 that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone that has an 8-inch flexible OLED QHD+ LCD display. It’s expected to be released in 2023. In December, Ross Young, a Display Analyst at Apple stated that a foldable iPhone would not be released by the company until 2023. However, 2024 is more likely. Bloomberg stated that Apple had begun “early works” on an iPhone with foldable displays in early 2021. This indicates that there is still a lot of work to do.
However, in April 2022, Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a reliable track record of predictions when it comes to Apple, claimed that Apple’s foldable device could be a 9-inch hybrid device and won’t debut before 2025.
There are other rumours as well that claim that Apple is testing multiple foldable iPhones to find the best one that could move the market.
Foldable iPhone rumors have been making rounds on the internet since 2016, and we have previously heard reports about different prototypes that Apple is currently testing. Samsung has reportedly provided samples of foldable displays to Apple for testing purposes. However, the development team has not expanded beyond that display.
If rumours have any truth, one of the foldable iPhone prototypes Apple is testing will feature two separate display panels connected by a hinge. This is a departure from the single-display designs, similar to what Samsung has introduced with its Fold series. Another prototype under testing at Apple labs is expected to be the replica of the Galaxy Z flip, albeit with improved design, build quality, and camera placement.
Samsung has been making foldable smartphones for many years. Other Android manufacturers too have adopted the technology. Smartphones with folding displays continue to have issues with the build quality and durability, as well as high prices that are far more expensive than standard smartphones.
With Apple joining the market, it would be interesting to see what would be the price of foldable iPhone, considering the exorbitant price of the latest iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Don’t be surprised Apple decides to price tag it with $2,000 or more.