If analyst reports are correct, however, it looks like Apple may be looking at the problem from an entirely different starting point, developing an iPad as its first foldable device, rather than an iPhone — a move that actually kind of makes more sense when you think about it.
According to a report from IHS Markit in Economic Daily News (via 9to5Mac), Apple is working on a new iPad model that would feature a MacBook-sized screen along with 5G technology for ultra-fast internet access on the go. The design would be in the same style as a laptop, but with a display that extends to both sides, rather than a physical keyboard.
The display size isn’t a huge stretch considering that the largest iPad Pro already sports a 12.9-inch screen, which almost approaches Apple’s standard MacBook Pro in size, and exceeds the screen found in Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, but if the new iPad model were to incorporate a true one-piece folding display (something that isn’t clear from the report), it’s easy to see how having an iPad Pro sized device that folds down to about the size of an iPad mini would be pretty cool.
However, since the report is unclear, it’s also possible Apple is talking about a device with two screens — one on each side of the fold — but this seems a lot less likely considering Apple’s penchant for great design and aesthetics. A dual-screen iPad would not only seem kind of clunky, but iOS doesn’t really lend itself to a multi-display design — even the newly-debuted iPadOS 13 doesn’t add anything in this regard. So we believe that Apple is almost certainly working to develop a device with a single folding screen, while taking its time to be careful to avoid the serious mistakes made by others.
When Could We See It?
By the sound of the report, the folding iPad seems like a much more long-term project that Apple is working on. There are a lot of aspects to the folding screen technology that Apple would need to perfect to reach its standards for design and quality, and Apple is most definitely not interested in simply releasing a device like the Galaxy Fold, which seemed like more of a prototype right from the very beginning.
The other clue that this could be a ways off is the inclusion of 5G technology. Apple is taking a similarly cautious approach to 5G in its devices, with the first 5G iPhones not expected until 2020, and only in its highest-end models. That, combined with Apple’s struggles with 5G chip suppliers which may have only been partially mitigated by its truce with Qualcomm, suggests that we’re unlikely to see even the first 5G-capable iPads until at least 2021.
IHS Markit also has a somewhat mixed track record when it comes to Apple-related predictions. The analysts have also recently suggested that Apple’s first 16-inch MacBook Pro will be coming this fall, alongside refreshes to its non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models.