Apple may not like the state of folding technology but there's no way it's shelving the foldable iPhone

 Waiting for the fold.
Waiting for the fold.

Apple's foldable iPhone plans are dead. It's just too hard to bridge the gap between current foldable display technology and Apple's exacting demands. Except I don't buy this latest rumor, not at all.

This week Digitimes reported that Apple's foldable iPhone plans had slipped to 2027 , then doubled down on that by reporting analysts' concerns that Apple's flexible iPhone plans might be shelved indefinitely.

I have no doubt Apple is hard at work on many different folding iPhone and even iPad designs, testing multi-part chassis and especially the flexible OLED, various polymers, and ultra-thin glass required to make effective, attractive, and useful foldable screens.

It's hard work. I'm sure it's clear to Apple that today's state of the art is far from perfection.

Perfect is the enemy of the good

A few years ago I spoke to Samsung EVP and Head of Flagship Product R&D Team Dr. Won-Joon Choi about its ongoing efforts to perfect its already industry-leading foldable line. He walked me through the transition from a plastic covering to ultra-thin glass, and Samsung's efforts to eliminate the bend crease that still exists today on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5.

At the time, Dr. Choi told me Samsung was pursuing a couple of avenues to decrease the crease. One would widen the bend to make it less obvious, and the other was looking at new materials. At least Dr. Choi had a sense of humor about it, telling me that getting rid of the crease is "part of his homework."

Perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook looked at each of them and sniffed, "Nope, not for us!"

Samsung is not alone in this. I have yet to see a foldable that doesn't have a crease you can clearly see and feel. OnePlus Open has less of it, but it's still visible. Google Pixel Fold has it, and adds a weird quirk where you have to press the phone sides again to make the screen flat.

In its efforts to design and build the ultimate foldable, I'm sure Apple's taken a close look at every folding-screen device on the market. Perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook looked at each of them and sniffed, "Nope, not for us!" He's probably demanding that the iPhone Fold or iPad Fold have no visible crease.

If the late Steve Jobs were still running the show, he might've said, "We won't ship with a crease!" I think Cook is more pragmatic and might allow for the "least-visible crease on the market."

Have it your way, Apple

Of course, Apple doesn't build most of its components, and reports indicate the company is talking to Samsung and LG Display to source folding panels. Each company has extensive experience in flexible OLED panels, and Samsung's best work is on display in its folding line.

Apple is famous, though, for not accepting the same product as everyone else. It'll take an ARM chip and have it engineered to meet its own Apple Silicon specifications. It will micromanage components until it's happy with the final product. Doing so is not about vanity or even  control, it's about full-stack quality. Apple's products function well together because they've all been engineered and designed by Apple (even if Apple doesn't build them by hand).

There's only so long that Apple will let Samsung lead in the folding marketplace.

I'm sure there's some frustration that current foldable screen technology won't give us a folding iPhone display that, when unfolded is perfectly flat and feels exactly the same as the iPhone 15 Pro Max's Super Retina XDR Display. That does not mean Apple is giving up.

There's only so long that Apple will let Samsung lead in the foldable market. Granted, it remains a small market, but with more competitors flooding in (OnePlus, Honor), it's clear they all sniff a bigger market opportunity down the line. Apple's traditional iPhone market is flattening out, and while it can still generate huge revenue with upgrades, it needs something to inspire new customers. It needs to keep people from switching to Android so they can own a cool foldable flip phone from Samsung or Motorola.

So, if you've managed to read this far, let me speak plainly: Apple is far from done with its folding iPhone or iPad efforts and 2027 can't come quickly enough.

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