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I want a foldable iPad even more than a foldable iPhone

Published Jul 27th, 2023 8:22PM EDT
Interactive widgets on iPad via iPadOS 17.
Image: Apple Inc.

Anyone in the market for a foldable smartphone has plenty of choices this year. Beyond the brand new Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5, there’s also Google’s Pixel Fold and Honor’s impressively thin Magic V2. The foldable phone of my dreams doesn’t run Android, however. But while I’d be excited to try out a foldable iPhone, I’m even more interested in a foldable iPad.

Rumors suggest that Apple is already considering a foldable tablet in addition to foldable iPhones. But you shouldn’t get your hopes up just yet.

The problems with foldables

There are obvious problems with foldable devices that I don’t see Apple tolerating. Otherwise, there’d already be a foldable iPhone. For starters, Google’s Pixel Fold just proved that foldable phones can be quite fragile. Apple can’t afford a similar mistake.

Separately, phones like the Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5 still have creases in the middle of the screen. That’s a design compromise any company would struggle to make, especially Apple.

We’ve seen rumors that Apple has been developing foldable iPhones internally for years. And Apple has plenty of patents that prove it’s looking at technologies that will lead to a foldable iPhone. But it might be years until Apple gets there, if it ever takes the leap at all.

Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 foldable smartphones.
Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 foldable smartphones. Image source: Samsung

Also, we saw reports that said Apple might make a foldable computer (iPad or MacBook) before a foldable iPhone. And this rumor surfaced this week from two separate Asian sources.

The least detailed report came from Digitimes, saying that both Apple and Google are looking to manufacture foldable tablets.

I wouldn’t mind a foldable iPad/MacBook

The more interesting report dropped from The Elec a few days ago. Apparently, Apple is working with Samsung Display and LG Display on a 20-inch foldable device. This could only be a tablet/laptop combo.

At that size, you’d probably use the device in a laptop format most of the time. Place it on a desk, and you’d get a 20-inch desktop once you pair it with a keyboard. But I’m simply speculating at this point. That’s what I would do. I’d also worry about breaking the foldable screen a lot.

Samsung Display managing director Seung-in Baek gave a presentation at a SID review event detailing the company’s innovations with foldable displays. According to a slide from that presentation, fixing the crease remains a top priority for Samsung Display.

The exec said the company has been working on the problem for years. Samsung Display is considering various structures to make the crease invisible, but it’s not quite there yet.

Samsung is working on fixing the crease

In this context, the exec said unnamed companies are looking at transforming laptops into foldable tablets. According to him, there’s a lot of interest in products that measure 25 inches when open and about 13 inches when folded. I wouldn’t mind a foldable iPad/MacBook that would run both iOS and macOS depending on how I use it.

Samsung Display did not confirm that Apple is looking for such a device.

The Elec didn’t elaborate on Apple’s plans for a foldable iPad. But the report said that the industry is waiting for Apple to make foldable devices, which will drive further growth. For that to happen, the crease problem has to be fixed first, apparently.

Samsung's Flex X multi-foldable displays shown at MWC 2023.
Samsung’s Flex X multi-foldable displays shown at MWC 2023. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

A report in mid-April said that Apple is working on a 20-inch foldable iPad, which could be released in 2026.

We’ve also seen concepts of foldable tablets from Samsung, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one in stores in the coming years. But the fact that not even Samsung is ready to release such a product should be pretty telling. It means the tech isn’t quite ready for that.

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.