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Want a foldable iPhone? Wait two years, analysts say

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Samsung and Huawei may not be the only phone makers eyeing a foldable phone. Apple is reportedly planning to release a foldable iPhone in 2020, according to analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (via CNBC), citing several Apple suppliers as sources. 

The analysts speculate that a folding iPhone may be able to open up for a larger footprint and be used like an iPad tablet.

The design could echo the ZTE Axon M, a dual-screen handset that folds out into a larger screen. That form makes some functionality possible, like multitasking, mirroring the contents from one screen onto the other, and enlarging an app to full the full display space.

Foldable phones are an important frontier in smartphone innovation. Being able to reconfigure the screen and phone body in multiple ways will let phonemakers experiment with new hardware and sensors. As one of the world’ top two phonemakers, Apple’s interest in a foldable phone could help validate and popularize the concept, lifting it from a niche curiosity into a serious market product. 

Apple’s chief competitor, Samsung, has been known to be working on foldable phones for a while, and we’ve heard from Samsung’s head of mobile DJ Koh that the company may release a foldable phone as soon as this year. Unlike the Axon M, which pivots on a hinge, Samsung’s folding phone may take advantage of its flexible OLED technology to create a folding display.

The iPhone X has a screen that secretly folds in on itself.


Apple

Apple’s first OLED iPhone, the iPhone X, also uses a flexible OLED display that bends around itself to minimize bezels and maximize screen space. Its possible that the 2020 foldable iPhone uses this flexible OLED to create a display that folds in on itself. We’ve seen Apple entertain this idea in patent applications.

The Merrill Lynch analyst note mirrors a Korean report from last year, which claims that Apple is working with LG’s OLED division to supply foldable screens for a future iPhone. Interestingly, the Korean report also claims that the folding iPhone could launch in 2020.

Phones that bend or fold may seem like a throwback to old-school clamshell designs, but they have the potential to break us from our smartphone rut. Samsung, Huawei, and Apple’s early work could be a sign of what’s to come.

Apple did not immediately to a request for comment.

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