Apple is hard at work on a new foldable version of its best-selling iPhone and a folding iPad. The latter will launch first, according to sources within the company.
The pliable new designs will be pitted against the slew of new foldable devices from arch-rivals Samsung and Huawei, which are currently the first and second biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world.
The latest information comes courtesy of an investors note from UBS, which was handed to US news outlet CNBC. It states that Samsung currently "dominates" folding devices when it comes to patented technology, but claims that Apple is "steadily working" on its response.
It adds: "Samsung will lead the way for foldable adoption as a smartphones vendor. But Apple is steadily working on the technology and UBS believes a folding Apple product could come next year, although it said "2021 is more likely." UBS thinks the first folding Apple product is more likely to be an iPad than an iPhone.
According to the UBS note, the biggest hurdle for the foldable hardware will be price. While some customers are willing to pay a premium for the flexible screen, the prices for the first-generation of foldable (Galaxy Fold starts from £1,800, while the Huawei Mate X costs €2,299 for the entry-level model) is still too high.
UBS says its survey data shows that most consumers are willing to pay roughly $400-$500 (£320-£420) extra for a folding device, though Apple users would pay a little more. The bank research claims the idea of a folding phone held "reasonably high" appeal for around a third of consumers, with China leading the demand.
One thing is certain, Apple will not rush out its folding effort. The Cupertino-based company has never been worried about being first to anything. Instead, it has always been happy to let its rival cross the finish line first and then stumble and make mistakes that it can learn from. The approach worked well with tablets, MP3 players, and smartwatches – so there's no reason it will be different for foldables.
Apple holds a number of patents around folding iPhone and iPads, something that has previously sent concept artists into an absolute frenzy.
While it might still be a long wait for the folding iPhone, there is new hardware from Apple on the way very soon. The so-called iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11R will launch Tuesday September 10, 2019.