The internet is awash with rumors and news related to Apple’s foldable iPhone, especially after more and more smartphone gamers have placed their bets in the foldable segment. Led by Samsung, Oppo is turning heads with its new Oppo Find N. Similarly, Vivo and Mi are also expected to join Samsung and Oppo with their foldable bets. It seems that all the development has ‘type of‘ convinced Tim Cook & his team that the future belongs to foldable smartphones.
According to Apple analyst Dylan, Apple is testing several 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 and sustainability of foldable display technology in addition to the market potential of foldable smartphones.
Dylan tweeted that Apple was working on a future device but the foldable display technology was not yet advanced enough and forced Apple to make too many compromises, which Apple senior management is not very happy about.
Apple is also skeptical about the sustainability of the foldable smartphone market. According to reports, the world’s most popular listed company fears that foldable smartphones will be in the market for a short time and could lose popularity or become obsolete in the next few years.
Given Apple’s promise to its customers regarding iPhone durability and quality, the above concerns make sense. Apple wants to make sure the foldable iPhone isn’t a regression from the current iPhone form factor. This can happen if the folding feature causes issues with display quality and durability. Dylan’s comments indicate that Apple might opt for a ‘wait and watch‘ strategy for foldable smartphone technology although it is ready with the foldable iPhone.
There is another discouraging factor that prevents Apple from having an aggressive approach towards the foldable iPhone. In 2021, according to IDC, only 7.1 million foldable smartphones (flip+fold) were sold. According to the price of foldable smartphones currently available in the market, which ranges between $1,099 and $1,700, the average price of a foldable device is around $1,400. Therefore, it is conservative to estimate that foldable devices worth $9.9 billion were sold in 2021. This is indeed a 251% YoY increase in sales volume. , which paints a promising picture for foldable smartphones.
However, when we keep these figures next to Apple’s iPhone sales and revenue from iPhone sales, the situation changes.
Apple reported revenue of $365.8 billion in fiscal year 2021. 52.5% of that, or $192 billion, came from iPhone sales alone. Thus, foldable smartphone sales accounted for just 5% of iPhone revenue and less than 3% of Apple’s total reported revenue in 2021.
Let’s break down these numbers below to get more clarity on Apple’s reach in the foldable smartphone segment.
For the past few years, Apple has captured nearly 15% of global smartphone shipments. However, in the high-end smartphone segment, Apple accounted for 55% and 60% market share in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Assuming that Apple would also maintain the same share even in the foldable smartphone segment, it is safe to assume that Apple would have generated $5 billion in revenue in 2021. This is only 2.5% of Apple’s total iPhone sales revenue in 2021 and less than 2% of overall revenue from Apple in 2021.
Anyone who has followed Apple for a long time and has a good understanding of its go-to-marker strategies, will say that Apple would never enter the market as small as the foldable smartphone currently is.
On the other hand, there are rumors claiming that Apple thinks the foldable display technology will mature by mid-2023 and the company might release a foldable iPhone in the summer of 2023.
Apple’s foldable iPhone: a hybrid device?
Ming-Chi Kuo, an Apple analyst, said in May 2021 that Apple was working on a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch flexible QHD+ OLED LCD display. It’s slated for release in 2023. In December, Apple display analyst Ross Young said a foldable iPhone wouldn’t be released by the company until 2023. However, 2024 is more likely. Bloomberg said Apple began “early work” on an iPhone with foldable displays in early 2021. That indicates there’s 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, claims that Apple’s foldable device could be a 9-inch hybrid device and won’t debut until 2025.
There are also other rumors claiming that Apple is testing several foldable iPhones to find the best one that could rock the market.
Foldable iPhone rumors have been circulating the internet since 2016, and we’ve already heard about various prototypes that Apple is currently testing. Samsung reportedly provided samples of foldable displays to Apple for testing. However, the development team did not expand beyond this display.
If the rumors have any truth, one of the foldable iPhone prototypes Apple is testing will feature two separate display panels joined by a hinge. This is a departure from single-screen designs, similar to what Samsung introduced with its Fold series. Another prototype being tested in Apple labs is expected to be the Galaxy Z flip replica, but with improved design, build quality, and camera placement.
Samsung has been making foldable smartphones for many years. Other Android manufacturers have also adopted the technology. Smartphones with foldable screens continue to have build quality and durability issues, as well as high prices that are much more expensive than standard smartphones.
With Apple entering the market, it would be interesting to see what the price of the foldable iPhone would be, given the exorbitant price of the latest iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Don’t be surprised that Apple decides to price it at $2,000 or more.