While Samsung is on to its fourth generation of foldable phones, Apple has yet to get its boots on. But that will change in the next two years with the first foldable iPad or MacBook according to Samsung.
According to Korean site The Elec (opens in new tab)’s sources, representatives from Samsung’s mobile division met with suppliers in October to discuss the smartphone market.
There, Samsung attendees allegedly stated that they expect Apple to join the foldable market in 2024, but not with a folding iPhone to rival the sixth generation of Galaxy Z Flip or Galaxy Z Fold handsets. Instead, the company is expecting Apple to join the party with a foldable iPad, or maybe a foldable laptop.
While it would be in Samsung’s interests to talk up the possibility of Apple backing its innovation, this isn’t the first time Apple’s possible foldable tablet-first strategy has been rumored. Last month, the research company CCS Insight also predicted that Apple would test a folding screen on an iPad first, not wanting to go all in on fundamentally changing its biggest seller.
“Right now it doesn’t make sense for Apple to make a foldable iPhone,” chief Analyst Ben Wood said at the time. “We think they will shun that trend and probably dip a toe in the water with a foldable iPad.”
A smart, if risk-averse approach
The competition is a lot less fierce in the world of tablets, too. Not only are there just a handful of foldable tablets out there (the Asus Zenbook Fold and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold being two such examples), but Apple’s chokehold on the tablet market is hard to overstate.
While around 28% of people use an iPhone worldwide (opens in new tab), over 50% of the tablet market is iPad branded (opens in new tab). True, it’s a significantly smaller pie, but that just makes it a relatively lower-risk testing lab.
That makes a degree of sense. The main thing stopping me from carrying my iPad mini in my pocket at all times is the fact that I physically can’t — it’s too wide. If Apple was able to create an iPad that could fold down to half its width or height, that’s a serious selling point — especially if it still supported the Apple Pencil.
Of course, the line between phone and tablets has been deliberately blurred by the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series, and it’s not impossible that a theoretical 5G folding iPad could do something similar, depending on where the fold line is. At 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.3-inches, the iPad mini 6 isn’t that much bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (6.1 x 5.1 x 0.21-inches) when open, after all.
Here’s the iPad mini against the open Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, captured by my colleague Roland — who also wishes for a folding iPad mini, for comparison.
But maybe Apple is thinking about going the other way, and using a foldable form factor as a way of making the iPad grow even bigger than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The company is rumored to be mulling over both 14-inch and 16-inch tablets, so perhaps a folding screen is a way of making that unwieldy form factor a bit more portable.