Apple has reportedly started working on a foldable display for a future iPhone model, and the company is planning minor changes for the 2021 iPhone and iPad lines.
According to Bloomberg’s reliable Mark Gurman, Apple developed prototype foldable displays for internal testing. However, the company has yet to solidify plans to launch a foldable iPhone. Further, a person familiar with the company’s plans told Bloomberg that development hasn’t expanded beyond the display. In other words, Apple has yet to make a full foldable prototype device.
Apple reportedly considered several different foldable screen sizes, including an option that unfolds to a 6.7-inch size similar to the company’s iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s worth noting that current foldables from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and Huawei have a variety of options, such as unfolding horizontally like a book to form a larger tablet-like screen or unfolding vertically to a more traditional phone display.
Finally, the screen Apple is testing reportedly has an invisible hinge behind it, similar to what you’d see on a Galaxy Z Flip or Z Fold device. Other companies, like Microsoft, developed foldables with two distinct displays and a visible hinge between them.
Despite the news, Gurman stresses that a foldable iPhone is likely years away, if it ever gets released. For the moment, Apple is focussed on 2021 iPhone and iPad models set to launch later this year.
2021 iPhones to feature minor ‘S’ style upgrade, possibly an in-display fingerprint sensor
Bloomberg reports that the 2021 iPhone lineup will feature minor improvements after the iPhone 12 series introduced new designs and 5G. Internally, Apple allegedly considers the 2021 iPhones an ‘S’ variant, a callback to Apple’s previous two-year cycle that saw major iPhone upgrades followed by minor refinements the next year.
One of the bigger features that could launch on the 2021 iPhone line is an in-display fingerprint scanner. Bloomberg notes Apple is testing the feature and that it could be a convenient option given the ongoing pandemic. Apple moved away from its Touch ID fingerprint authentication with the iPhone X in 2017, favouring its new Face ID facial authentication system. However, Touch ID has remained a staple on lower-cost iPhones, Mac laptops and some iPads. While Face ID is quite fast and reliable, it doesn’t handle masks well. Under-screen Touch ID could provide an alternate authentication method for users wearing a mask.
As for iPad upgrades, Apple is reportedly planning a new iPad Pro with an updated display using the ‘Mini-LED‘ display technology. Further, the iPad Pro could feature a significantly faster processor. Finally, Apple may be working on a thinner and lighter entry-level iPad sporting a similar design to Apple’s 2019 iPad Air.
The pandemic will undoubtedly impact Apple’s lineup this year, but it remains to be seen how much. Bloomberg notes it has complicated product development since Apple’s hardware engineers can only work in the company’s offices a few days a week. Last year, COVID-19 delayed the launch of the iPhone 12 line by several weeks. According to Bloomberg, it was also the reason Apple didn’t launch the rumoured ‘AirTags’ Bluetooth tracker tech last year. Apple intends to launch AirTags in 2021 instead.