Working iPhone Flip is here to give us a glimpse of Apple's foldable future

An unofficial foldable iPhone from the front and back
(Image credit: AST)

Apple doesn’t seem in any hurry to make a foldable phone, with most leaks suggesting the iPhone Flip is still years away. But the world won’t wait, and one intrepid team has taken it upon themselves to create the first functional folding iPhone.

Crafted by the China-based Aesthetics of Science and Technology (AST), this foldable iPhone – spotted by Engadget and others – took around a year to make.

The process involved combining the internals of an iPhone X with the chassis of a Motorola Razr (2019), along with some 3D printed parts; a process that doesn’t sound easy or cheap. For example, they ate through 37 iPhone X screens before successfully separating the non-flexible glass from the flexible OLED that their phone needed.

The end result is far from perfect, but it's impressive nonetheless. This makeshift iPhone Flip has a sizeable gap between the folded part of the screen and the body, which in turn strikes off any chance of water resistance, and the phone as a whole is likely extremely vulnerable to dust and damage.

This Frankenstein’s phone also couldn’t fit the iPhone X’s 2,716mAh battery inside, so it instead has to rely on a measly 1,000mAh cell; there's also no MagSafe or wireless charging, which isn't a surprise considering the lengths taken to make the concept work at all. There’s also only space for one speaker, and iOS in its current form is clearly a bad fit for foldables – even with some tweaks the team made to the (jailbroken) software.

Yet, assuming the video is genuine, it does work. This is an iPhone, running iOS, with a foldable screen, and it appears more or less fully functional, other than the limitations mentioned above.

Analysis: a promising sign of things to come

While this particular folding iPhone is not something anyone should ever buy – were it even for sale – it shows what’s possible.

After all, if a small team on a presumably extremely limited budget can achieve this in just under a year, imagine what a company as large, rich and experienced as Apple could do. Especially as Apple itself has probably been developing the iPhone Flip for well over a year already. As such, by the time it launches, the iPhone Flip could be something really special.

Of course, it will have to be. Samsung is already up to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, and we may well have seen another couple of models of each by the time the iPhone Flip lands. So Apple’s first-generation device will be up against Samsung’s fifth, sixth or even seventh generation devices.

Still, part of the reason Apple is taking so long is presumably so that it can launch an extremely polished foldable handset on its first attempt. So don’t be surprised if the eventual iPhone Flip tops our list of the best foldable phones.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.