Since September 2019, Samsung has released a smartphone with a foldable screen called the Galaxy Fold. Competitors like Motorola with their RAZR fold and Levono with their X1 Fold. Apple has been conspicuously silent on this product segment. But that does not mean that Apple is not looking into foldable displays. In fact, Apple has been thinking and playing with foldable display for almost 10 years now. Based on the patent filing tracked by Patently Apple, we do know that Apple has been working on foldable display for a long time.
The earliest patent about foldable display is putting some flexible display on their smart cover. This was around 2012 so it is safe to assume that Apple has been developing such Smart Cover since 2010, when the first iPad with the first Apple designed chip was released.
A patent awarded in 2013 reveals designs which includes a brochure-like fold with sensors built-in the device itself. Other designs includes the traditional billfold design.
A more recent patent in 2018 reveals a trifold iPad like device.
So it is clear that Apple has been experimenting with flexible display for over a decade and decided that it is not good enough to be a product yet. As you can see from Samsung and other vendors, the problem with flexible display is the dirt will get in to the hinges, the display is not as durable as their glass counterpart and it still is too expensive to be a mainstream product. Apple does not typically release halo products.
If the future means foldable, it a sure thing Apple will release it when the technology meets Apple high standards in quality, durability and profitability. Just right now, even in the boarder market, foldable screen is just not ubiquitous enough because of the durability and pricing issues.
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