Why Development of Foldable iPhone is Problematic for Apple?

Huawei and Samsung are now leading in the foldable smartphone market and both are hoping that these devices will go mainstream. In the meantime, Apple hasn’t developed any type of foldable iPhone model. It has been suggested that Apple will introduce its first foldable iPhone in 2024 or later. Despite its proven innovation and technological prowess, it’s not an easy thing for Apple to develop and produce a foldable iPhone model. In a recent Unpacked event, Samsung released its 4th generation of a foldable smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. It’s a flip clamshell smartphone that becomes very compact when folded.

Another new foldable smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, a tablet-size device that’s equal to the size of a regular smartphone when folded. Other than Samsung and Huawei, Motorola and Xiaomi also have their own foldable smartphone models. Apple never announced its products until they are ready for launch. The company recently introduced the AirPower charging pad with wireless, but there’s still no word about the probable foldable iPhone. Typically, Apple positions itself as a refiner of existing technology. The company isn’t the maker or inventor of the first smartphone, tablet, laptop, and smartwatch, but it sets a new standard in these product categories.

With Samsung and other phone manufacturers making foldable smartphones technologically more mature and reliable, Apple is expected to bring something even better. It would be bad for its reputation if the foldable iPhone is technologically inferior compared to current models from Samsung and other manufacturers. Apple needs to develop its own proprietary foldable or flip technology while catching up with the current level of technology and reliability. It’s a difficult situation for Apple because foldable and flip smartphones are inherently less reliable than traditional smartphones.

Despite the pandemic, manufacturers shipped nearly 12 million foldable smartphones in 2021 and it is expected to be even higher this year. If Apple continues to delay the development and release of the foldable iPhone beyond 2024, it will lose significant market opportunities. Soon, hundreds of millions of foldable smartphones will be sold each year and more users will start to abandon iPhones once foldable smartphones become more mainstream. Once released, there will be massive demands for the foldable iPhone and Apple needs to make sure that it has the manufacturing capacity to meet those. Apple ran out of iPhone 6 Plus in 2014, due to its radical hardware improvements.

Foldable smartphones have moving mechanical parts that could wear out and malfunction easily. The chassis must be dust-proof to prevent foreign particles from lodged within the internal mechanism that could cause accelerated wear and malfunctions. The original Samsung Galaxy Fold had quite noticeable issues and it’s understandable for new technology. There’s a comparatively high failure rate of the display and hinges. Now with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4, these devices have become much more reliable, powerful and functional than the first-generation model. If Apple will release its foldable smartphone in 2024, Samsung might already have its sixth-generation foldable and flip smartphones, so Apple needs to be quite ambitious with its development goals.