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The release date of Apple’s first foldable iPhone might’ve just leaked

Published Feb 16th, 2021 3:32PM EST

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  • A new rumor says Apple will release its first foldable iPhone in 2023.
  • The handset will reportedly feature a 7.3-inch to 7.6-inch OLED display and Apple Pencil support.
  • Recent reports said that Apple is testing several foldable iPhone concepts, indicating that a launch could still be several years away.

Samsung is at the forefront of foldable phone development right now, with Huawei and Motorola trailing behind. But everyone in the industry is working on similar devices. While several Chinese handset makers have already shown foldable phone concepts without actually launching any of them commercially, others are more secretive about their foldable plans. Apple is perhaps the most secretive of them all, as the company never announces any new products until they’re ready for mass-consumption. Well, unless you count AirPower, which remains vaporware to this day.

Apple is supposedly working on its own foldable iPhone, according to several leaks as well as patent discoveries detailing tech innovations that might be used on such devices. Apple isn’t close to releasing a foldable iPhone though, as has been noted in several leaks over the past few weeks. Now, a new report claims the first foldable iPhone won’t launch until 2023, when it will debut with a flexible OLED screen and Apple Pencil support.

Investment research firm EqualOcean cited an Omidia report (via MacRumors) that brings forward claims about the first foldable iPhone. Here’s what a machine-translated version of the iPhone bit reads:

Omdia, a global communications and digital media research organization, predicts that Apple may launch a 7.3-7.6-inch foldable OLED smartphone in 2023 and add an activity pen to its foldable iPhone.

Since Apple typically launches new iPhone models in September, we would seemingly be looking at a September 2023 release date for Apple’s first foldable iPhone, if this report pans out. And that “activity pen” is likely the Apple Pencil, Apple’s stylus that works on several iPad models, including the iPads Pro, Air, and mini. While it’s unclear where Omdia got its information from, the claims do make some sense.

For starters, Apple is rumored to be working on several foldable iPhone concepts, including a version that looks like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold models. That’s the kind of foldable smartphone that could offer a 7.3-inch to 7.6-inch display. Such a display size would put the iPhone on par with the iPad mini, which features a 7.9-inch display. That’s the smallest iOS device to support Apple Pencil.

Apple has been rumored for years to be planning stylus support for the iPhone, with the larger Max versions expected to be among the first iPhones to support the stylus. Apple also patented technology that explains how the Pencil would work with an iPhone.

A few weeks ago, Samsung confirmed rumors that said the Note’s S Pen stylus works on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The company said that other Galaxy devices will also support the stylus. The next-gen Galaxy Z Fold model might be among them, assuming Samsung can develop a key technology in time. The Z Fold 2 was initially rumored to support the S Pen, but subsequent rumors explained that the foldable’s ultra-thin glass (UTG) wasn’t strong enough for the stylus.

For the foldable iPhone to support the Apple Pencil, Apple would need to develop the kind of strong glass that can withstand stylus pressure but still fold and unfold without breaking.

The OLED claim also makes sense. Apple uses OLED displays across its iPhone lineup, with Samsung being the leading provider of the screens. Samsung OLED displays offer the best possible performance right now, and they’re flexible so that they can be used inside foldable handsets. Samsung Display also makes the OLED screens used on Samsung’s foldable phones, of course.

Omdia doesn’t have an established track record when it comes to Apple rumors. The research organization might just be repeating some of the recent claims about foldable iPhones. Recent rumors did say that Apple is testing foldable chassis as well as foldable displays. Apple is said to be looking at both portrait and landscape foldable designs. Those reports said foldable iPhones might still be several years away.

A set of older rumors said that Apple is also developing an iPhone with two displays connected by a hinge, similar to Microsoft’s dual-display Surface handset that launched last year. That’s technically not a foldable handset, as it doesn’t feature a continuous screen that can fold. But such a device could employ strong glass and it could support the Apple Pencil. That’s just speculation, however. And Omdia is clearly referring to the device as a foldable OLED smartphone, not a dual-screen device.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.