People really want folding smartphones, and are willing to pay more for them. At least, that’s what a recent survey from UBS seems to be telling us. So it’s no surprise that Apple is still working on designing a folding iPhone, and analysts are now suggesting that we could even see one arrive as soon as next year.
We’ve been seeing reports for years suggesting that Apple has undeniable plans for devices with folding screens — something that’s been made possible by OLED technology — and the evidence has continued to stack up. Of course, Apple being Apple, the company is undoubtedly determined to do it right, and we’ve already seen what happens when a company tries to jump the gun and cares more about a foldable device being “first” than it does about it being “good.”
Now, however, it looks like Apple’s plans may be coming into focus, according to a new report by CNBC, citing an analysis by UBS.
Apple’s Customers Want Foldable Products
Over a third of consumers surveyed by UBS expressed “reasonably high” interest in purchasing a folding smartphone, and although many were still concerned about paying more for a folding device, Apple fans showed a higher overall interest in folding devices along with a willingness to pay a premium for them — up to $600 more than the price of a normal flagship iPhone.
Much of the demand still seems to be concentrated in China right now, however, although UBS said that’s not surprising, since it was the Chinese market that also drove the adoption of smartphones with larger displays, which have since become popular throughout the rest of the world as well.
Samsung Still Leads the Way
Despite Samsung’s debacle with the Galaxy Fold, UBS still believes that it will “lead the way for foldable adoption” since it “dominates” patent filings for folding display technologies. On the other hand, even legendary Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak feels that Apple has fallen behind in this area.
However, Apple is also “steadily working on the technology” and UBS believes that it could have its first folding product out by next year, although that’s likely to be an iPad rather than an iPhone. That’s assuming that it happens next year at all; UBS adds that a 2021 release “is more likely.”
This suggests that the industry will need to work to further reduce costs for foldable mobile devices to take off as a products category.UBS Analysis
Further, while UBS seems to think that many customers are willing to pay a bit more for a foldable device, cost is still a big factor that Apple is going to have to address. Even if it had been a flawless device, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold came in at a price higher than most laptops, making it inaccessible for most consumers no matter how badly they want that folding screen.
Although Samsung took its ill-advised Galaxy Fold off the market, the smartphone maker will probably learn from its mistakes and its overeagerness, and there are already reports suggesting that the Galaxy Fold is poised to make a comeback later this year.
Slow But Steady Wins the Race
Apple, on the other hand, has a long history of being late to market with new technologies, but also being able to implement them better than most of their rivals. So it’s no surprise that the company is in no hurry to put a folding iPhone or iPad out there, especially when it can sit back and learn from the mistakes of others.
Further, it’s not just about design and engineering, but also waiting for the right materials to catch up to the technology. For example, we’ve already seen how Apple could be waiting for foldable glass in order to ensure that the premium quality of its iPhones and iPads is maintained, rather than being forced to use a cheap plastic polymer.
The report by UBS also confirms other reports we’ve heard that Apple is approaching the problem from a different angle, with plans to release a premium folding 5G iPad — a device that would feature a MacBook-sized screen, designed in the style of a laptop/tablet hybrid. This would basically be an iPad Pro sized device that could fold down to the size of an iPad mini. This approach actually makes quite a bit of sense, since it would allow Apple to pioneer its own folding screen technology on a much smaller scale without having to worry too much about sticker shock — a flagship 5G iPad Pro is likely to be far less in demand in general than an iPhone, but Apple can also get away with charging a much higher price for an iPad Pro.