Apple's first foldable could be much larger than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Apple is said to be testing folding panels, but what device is it for?

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Apple's first foldable could be between 7 and 8-inches, making it more like an iPad mini alternative than a folding phone.

We might have a while to wait to find out though, as sources suggest it won't be coming until 2026 at the earliest.

There's been no shortage of speculation about Apple's plans to launch a folding device, as the market for folding phones heats up.

With companies like Samsung now on its fifth generation of folding phones, and more and more foldables joining the selection every year, there's plenty of anticipation for Apple's entry into this space.

A report from The Elec suggests that Apple is looking at a folding device between 7 and 8-inches. At that size, it would dwarf the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 or OnePlus Open phones. But there's also a good chance that this won't be a folding iPhone - it could instead replace the iPad mini.

There's some argument for releasing a folding tablet rather than a folding phone. Firstly, tablets don't get open and closed as often as a phone and that might put aside one of the concerns around folding displays - durability of the panel.

Secondly, iPadOS would fit more naturally on a folding device of that size, whereas iOS would need considerable reworking to deliver a phone-like experience at a new scale, not to mention the convenient availability of iPad-optimised apps.

Finally, of course, there's the fact that folding up something like the iPad mini to make it truly pocketable has massive appeal, whereas in my experience with devices like the Galaxy Z Flip 5, folding phones are better when they get smaller. I'd want a folding iPhone that got smaller when folded, not something that got larger.

How close are we to an Apple folding device?

Apple hasn't commented on the speculation around folding phones, but we know from experience that Apple tends to watch new technology developments before coming in to disrupt the market. The source suggests that we're looking at a device launch in 2026 or 2027.

LG Display and Samsung Display are said to have supplied folding panels to Apple for evaluation, but beyond that, there are no details.

The iPad mini was refreshed in 2021, but refreshes to this line of iPads has been slower than other models and it always feels as though the iPad mini doesn't get the attention of the larger models. What better way to invigorate the smallest iPad than make it fold?

But there's one other thing to consider. The iPhone was originally announced in 2007 - and what better way to celebrate the twentieth anniversary than with something substantially different? If a folding iPhone was to be launched, then 2027 would certainly be the year to do it.

As always with Apple, until the device is launched, we're unlikely to know anything about it - until that point, it's all hopeful speculation.

Chris Hall

Chris has been writing about consumer tech for over 15 years. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Pocket-lint, he's covered just about every product launched, witnessed the birth of Android, the evolution of 5G, and the drive towards electric cars. You name it and Chris has written about it, driven it or reviewed it. Now working as a freelance technology expert, Chris' experience sees him covering all aspects of smartphones, smart homes and anything else connected. Chris has been published in titles as diverse as Computer Active and Autocar, and regularly appears on BBC News, BBC Radio, Sky, Monocle and Times Radio. He was once even on The Apprentice... but we don't talk about that.