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The real reason I’m excited about Apple’s 20-inch foldable MacBook

Published Mar 7th, 2024 6:50AM EST
M3 Max MacBook Pro 14-Inch
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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We’ve been talking about Apple’s foldable devices for at least as long as Samsung has been actually selling foldable phones. But not all rumors agree on which type of foldable device Apple will make. Some detail Apple’s ongoing research and development plans for foldable iPhones. Others claim Apple will launch a foldable MacBook/iPad before a foldable iPhone.

Regarding the latter, we also have an actual size for the device. Rumors dating back to December 2022 claimed that Apple was developing a 20-inch foldable MacBook. Fast forward to early March 2024, and Ming-Chi Kuo mentioned the same device in an update on X. He says the foldable MacBook is the only device with a clear development schedule and an expected release date.

If Kuo’s estimate that Apple will release the foldable MacBook in 2027 is correct, I have a big reason to be excited about such a device, and it doesn’t concern the foldable screen. It’s all about the operating system. Or, dare I say, operating systems, that such a device would run.

Kuo hinted that the recent wave of foldable iPhone rumors made him check with his Apple supply sources on the company’s plans for foldable devices. That’s where the tentative release schedule for the foldable MacBook comes from:

Recently, I’ve received many inquiries about whether Apple plans to mass-produce the foldable iPhone or iPad in 2025 or 2026. My latest survey indicates that currently, Apple’s only foldable product with a clear development schedule is the 20.3-inch MacBook, expected to enter mass production in 2027.

Apple wouldn’t be the first to make a foldable laptop. Lenovo actually did it years ago, and other Windows PC makers followed. But Windows is already touch-friendly. And foldable laptops essentially feature one large touchscreen that bends in half.

You get three distinct modes to operate it. You can unfold the screen and use it as a large tablet. Prop the screen up against a stand, and you get a desktop experience once you pair the device with a keyboard and mouse.

Finally, unfold the laptop halfway to essentially get a laptop experience where a part of the display becomes a touch keyboard. Or place a Bluetooth keyboard on top of that bottom half to avoid typing on a touchscreen.

I would expect a 20-inch foldable MacBook to behave similarly. And here comes the best part. Apple would have to optimize macOS for touch input if it wants to sell a foldable MacBook. If that happens, we could see a slew of MacBook Air and Pro models that support touch input. But that’s not what I want.

Earlier this week, I explained that the DIY MacPad someone made embodies the Apple device of my dreams. A dual-OS device that works as a macOS computer or as an iPadOS tablet. I’d love to have that versatility in an Apple computer. That’s why the 20-inch foldable MacBook is so exciting. Apple will have to make a choice.

I’m not saying the foldable MacBook will run both macOS and iPadOS. It doesn’t have to. A 2027 macOS device with a large touchscreen would run on an M-series chip. That means most iPadOS apps will work on it.

LG Gram Fold foldable laptop/tablet.
LG Gram Fold foldable laptop/tablet. Image source: LG

Suppose Apple goes for an iPadOS version of the future for the foldable MacBook, which is technically a foldable iPad too. In that case, I’d expect that operating system to be closer to macOS when it comes to multitasking capabilities.

Whatever the case, the 20-inch foldable MacBook has to bring a serious OS revolution. Whatever that operating system might be, it should also run on other devices, not just the foldable MacBook. After all, most people will continue to purchase traditional laptops and tablets rather than what’s bound to be an expensive foldable gadget.

Therefore, it could release MacBooks with detachable screens that become tablets. Or iPads that run an iPadOS version that’s more similar to macOS.

I’ll conclude by saying there’s also the option for Apple to finally merge macOS and iPadOS in such a way that the user would get to choose which user interface and experience to take advantage of. That could be the ultimate OS upgrade, one a foldable MacBook could definitely need.

It’s all wishful thinking right now, yes. But there’s no denying that Apple will need big OS changes in place for a foldable MacBook.

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.