There's zero chance we'll get an Apple iPhone Fold this year, and I'm bummed

Tim Cook with iPhone 14
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The chances of an Apple iPhone Fold appearing this year are close to nil and that means the new Google Pixel Fold has 12 months or more to eat into and define this growing foldable market.

Once you use a really wonderful folding phone like the Google Pixel Fold, you can't help but think about how Apple, the most iconic brand in all mobile devices, might do it. 

Ever since I wrapped my review of the Pixel Fold my mind continuously leads me down the same path. I'm like a tech somnambulist, sleepwalking to the refrigerator of mobile ideas, searching the cool shelves for the Apple iPhone Fold that will not be.

While increasingly concrete rumors swirl around the iPhone 15 and iPhone 16, little to nothing is known about Apple's foldable plans. There are so few rumors and so little heat around the topic that the smartphone-buying public is as cold as my refrigerator to the idea.

On Twitter, I asked in a poll if Apple would release the iPhone Fold this year. As you can see, virtually no one expects that to happen.

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Our Apple iPhone Fold reality is that there will be no iFold in 2024 but that does not mean never.

Going back as far as 2019, we've seen various patents that all point to Apple's plodding but consistent interest in folding mobile device technology.

A 2019 patent showed ideas of how a folding iPhone or iPad could work. In the folding world, these could arguably be the very same device. Four years is a long time in the tech space and since that launch Samsung launched its Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip line and has spent, with the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 5, five generations improving it.

In that same year, we found another patent in which Apple fixated on keeping a busy folding hinge warm (to avoid display cracking). 

This year we were treated to a patent that promised an auto-closing Apple foldable and a patent that adds virtual buttons all over an apparently fungible Apple device.

These patents are like coal for our folding iPhone furnaces, but that flame should be set on low. I noted how analysts in the latter piece still caution that while Apple is clearly working on folding iPhones (or iPads), we shouldn't expect anything this year.

I'm all for Apple waiting out other tech companies as they stumble over themselves and each other trying to create usable, long-lasting, and affordable handsets. It's the Apple way to drop into a pre-existing category and summarily show everyone how it's done. There may be no better recent example than the Vision Pro. It's insanely expensive but also unlike any other VR or Mixed reality headset I've tried.

Still, the hour is late and Google just showed the existing foldable market how it's done. The Pixel Fold is expensive but otherwise easily the best folding handset on the market. Instead of being full of compromises, it unfolds into a world of possibilities.

That's supposed to be Apple's job, showing us all how it's done.

I'm not implying that there's no room for improvement in the folding area. Apple could bring an iFold to market that features better materials like ceramics and sapphire crystal. It could add a LiDAR camera for 3D capture. But Google kind of took the perfect form factor option away from them and Apple has not shown a propensity for beating anyone on mobile lenses. Apple's cameras are great but it never has the strongest telephoto or most megapixels and is unlikely to outshine the Pixel Fold or Galaxy Z Fold 5, either

I do not expect to see even a glimpse of Apple's foldable plans in 2023 but I will also not be hiding my disappointment. Apple is not just late to this game, it may be too late to take the field.

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.