Back in May 2017, iDrop News was first to present evidence that Apple may be working to mass-produce an iPhone boasting a foldable form-factor.
And while Apple, Samsung and other smartphone OEMs have expressed their interest in building devices featuring this straight-out-of-the-matrix design, Apple has been granted multiple patents covering the technical and design details it would embody.
We may still be years away from seeing a foldable smartphone arrive on the scene, if we ever do — however a report this morning from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch analyst, Wamsi Mohan, appears to suggest a foldable iPhone may arrive much sooner than we think.
In fact, Apple is already “working with its Asian partners on a foldable phone,” Mohan asserted in a research note to investors obtained Friday morning by CNBC News. Mohan added, based on his previous meetings with some of Apple’s Far East supply chain partners, that the foldable device could even arrive as soon as 2020.
Apple has been awarded a number of patents covering this foldable iPhone form-factor, with the latest among them surfacing back at the end of November 2017. And while a patent is just a patent, after all, it’s worth noting that Mohan’s analysis is but a corroboration of earlier reports suggesting that Apple’s desire to develop a foldable iPhone is alive and well.
Published in October 2017, that report offered credible rumors that Apple has partnered with LG Display to form a “task force” which will see the companies work together in a bid to not only create foldable OLED display panels, but also “rigid flexible printed circuit boards” destined for a future iPhone model. The report also claimed, citing sources in the Far East, that production could begin as soon as 2020.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed iPhone displays increase in both size and technological complexity, with iPhone X representing the tech-giant’s latest milestone in display innovation.
Other smartphone vendors, such as ZTE with its clamshell-style Axon M, have already come out with their own take on a “foldable smartphone” design — though that model merely incorporates two separate 5.2-inch displays which, when unfolded, can function dichotomously to create a display area totaling 6.75-inches.
Off-brand models like the Axon M, of course, are just a precursor to all the possibilities of what smartphone OEMs are capable of. But LG, in particular, has been working for years to address issues relating to actually bending a smartphone display in half — like a taco shell — and, as we mentioned in our earlier report, Apple and LG are rumored to be working together now on the potentially game-changing display tech.
In his research note, Mohan also suggested that Apple’s foldable iPhone could afford the company a major leg up in its bid to create a truly revolutionary smartphone design, noting how the device could “potentially double up as a tablet.”
Theoretically, in other words, Apple could create a device that, when unfolded, more closely resembles an iPad mini — offering the benefits of an extra-large display area with the functionality, and portability, of an iPhone.
As always, we recommend considering Mohan’s report with a pinch of salt until further notice. However, given it’s a clear corroboration of what we’ve been hearing for months now, it’s only reasonable to assume the analyst’s predictions are more accurate than not.