I’m a longtime iPhone user who won’t switch to Android to get a foldable handset. But I’m drawn to the form factor. I’m even more excited about foldable devices with larger displays, of which we only have a few. Various laptop vendors have created foldable notebooks, but we’re still in the very early days.
Unsurprisingly, Apple is absent from the foldable space. But reports in recent years said that Apple is studying foldable display technology. Most rumors say that Apple is likelier to make a foldable iPad or Mac than a foldable iPhone.
A new story now says there’s no timeframe for a foldable iPad launch. But since I’m deeply entrenched in Apple’s computing ecosystem, I’m ready to wait for such a device to arrive.
A report from Korea said earlier this week that Samsung is already getting ready to meet Apple’s foldable display needs, with a focus on the iPad. The consensus among leakers and analysts seems to be that Apple is working on a hybrid foldable iPad/MacBook device that would feature a 20-inch display.
I’m not just a longtime iPhone user. I’m also a longtime MacBook owner. And I’ve long dreamed about the Mac getting touchscreen support and transitioning to a form factor more similar to Microsoft’s Surface tablets. I’d dock the tablet part when I need a keyboard, but I’d love to use the Mac as a touchscreen device most of the time.
A lighter version of macOS might be needed for that. Or maybe the device could let the user choose between macOS and iPadOS. This is just speculation from this Mac enthusiast. The point is I’m not happy with the current MacBook experience. That’s where a foldable iPad could come in handy.
But there are challenges when it comes to making big-screen foldable devices. That’s why we only have a few such laptops around. The foldable screens are more fragile, and the devices are more expensive. Apple would not deploy such a device until it feels like the technology is ready. It’s what Apple usually does with new tech. It rarely leads, choosing to deploy its version of the tech when it feels it’s ready.
A new report on foldable iPads says there’s no release timeframe for the device. According to Nikkei’s sources, Apple’s main priority is the switch to OLED displays for iPads and MacBooks. It’ll start with the iPad Pros next year. But, eventually, more iPads and Macs will switch to OLED screens.
The first OLED MacBook model should drop in 2025, the same reports say. These are the necessary moves before Apple can even conceive a foldable iPad/MacBook device. That’s because any foldable gadget has to rely on a foldable OLED screen. All foldable devices launched so far feature foldable OLED panels, as LCDs don’t bend.
That might be why Apple does not have a concrete timeframe for a foldable iPad:
Apple has also started evaluating the possibility of making foldable iPads after it deploys the flexible OLED screens on the tablet, but it does not have a concrete timeline for doing so, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The report indicates Apple’s switch to OLED for iPad and MacBook will be a significant move in the industry. Apple will leave even more LCD suppliers behind, and others might follow Apple’s lead. Other companies already sell tablets and laptops with OLED screens, but Apple could persuade more competitors to follow suit.
Samsung Display is the main provider of OLED screens for the iPhone. It’ll likely manufacture iPad and MacBook displays soon. LG is also part of the iPhone display supply chain, and a market leader when it comes to TV OLED panels. LG’s name often comes up in connection with Apple’s plans for foldable devices.
Then there’s BOE, which also manufactures OLED screens for the iPhone. Nikkei notes the Chinese giant will invest over $8.65 billion in a next-gen OLED factory the likes of which only Samsung has.
It’s very likely that Samsung and BOE will use their new supply lines to manufacture OLED panels for the iPad and MacBook in the coming years. And when the time comes, flexible OLED screens for foldable iPads and MacBooks might also come out from such factories.
The switch to OLED will take time, however. It’ll be years until all iPads and MacBooks get OLED panels. it might also be years until Apple perfects technology for a foldable iPad/MacBook. But I’m ready to wait.