Apple’s first folding screen is here! Not iPhone

Apple’s first folding screen is here! Not iPhone

Source: Lei Technology AI Hardware Group | Editor: Chongjia | Typesetting: Autumn

Nowadays, folding screens have long been an important segment of smart phones. This new form of product, which is different from the traditional straight board computer, is becoming a key weapon for major mobile phone manufacturers to seize the brand highland and impact the high-end market. In addition to mobile phones, the concepts and products of folding screen notebooks and folding screen tablets are gradually emerging.

Recently, Guo Ming, a well-known Apple whistleblower, revealed that the only Apple foldable product with clear development progress is the MacBook, which will be equipped with a 20.3-inch large screen.

Notebooks are naturally foldable, but the "folding" here means "closing the lid" to make the host fit the screen. What the "foldable notebook" says is that the screen of the notebook itself can be folded.

In fact, this is not a particularly novel concept. For example, ASUS launched Lingyao X Fold, which focuses on folding screen selling points.Specifically, this notebook is still the design idea of two-in-one product (notebook and tablet in one), and its physical keyboard part and screen are separated. At the same time, the screen part of Lingyao X Fold can be folded.

(Source: ASUS)

Lingyao X Fold uses a 17.3-inch OLED screen, which is the same as a normal notebook when unfolded. In the folded state, the screen size will become 12.5 inches, which can be used either as a tablet or as a 12.5-inch notebook with half for screen display and the other half as a virtual keyboard on the screen.

Lenovo, another PC giant, has also launched a folding screen notebook, and its representative product is ThinkPad X1 Fold. Its product form and design ideas are very similar to Lingyao X Fold, and it is also a variant of two-in-one products. ThinkPad X1 Fold uses a 16.3-inch OLED screen with a 12-inch display area when folded.

(Source: Lenovo)

Judging from the folding screen notebooks of these two brands, the corresponding technologies they adopted are actually relatively mature, basically upgrading the original 2-in-1 PC, and the screen part is an OLED+ hinge solution.

In the view of Lei Technology (ID: Leitech), the folding screen MacBook will adopt similar hardware design ideas. Compared with the folding screen mobile phone, a big problem on the folding screen notebook is the handling of the physical keyboard. In order to ensure the input efficiency, it is difficult to remove the physical keyboard directly from the folding screen notebook, so it can only be designed separately.

In fact, just like the folding screen mobile phone, the core problem solved by the folding screen notebook computer is the unity of "portability and large screen". Users want to go out with a big screen, but they don’t want it to occupy too much space, so "foldable" has become an ideal solution.

Compared with the Windows camp, Apple’s situation is somewhat special. At present, Apple has not launched a two-in-one MacBook product.If Apple wants to launch a 2-in-1 folding screen notebook, then the first estimation to be solved is the system and software problems.

Apple has always been resistant to notebook touch screens. Although iPadOS has been in macOS, and they are getting closer and closer, they are still two completely different operating systems, and the underlying interactive logic and software ecology are not the same thing.

Of course, in theory, Apple can insist on not providing touch interaction function for the screen of the folding screen MacBook. But in this way, the use of folding screen notebooks will be greatly limited. Originally, the detachable screen can be used independently in the form of a flat panel, which greatly increases the selling point of the folding screen notebook. If there is no touch function, then the selling point of the folding screen MacBook may only be the large screen, which will have limited appeal to users.

It is worth mentioning that Lei recently saw an interesting "invention" of Federico Viticci in an Apple community.He used the "decapitated" MacBook with no screen with the iPad, and turned the iPad into a wireless screen of the MacBook with Sidecar function. In this way, he got a DIY version of the two-in-one MacBook. The fly in the ointment is that the Sidecar function requires two devices to access the same LAN, so it is not convenient to use it when going out.

(Source: MacStories)

In Xiao Lei’s view, Apple can learn from this idea. Nowadays, all Macs have completed the migration to the ARM self-developed chip platform, and it is not difficult to get through macOS and iPadOS. After all, we can now use a large number of iPad and iPhone applications on the MacBook. Moreover, compared with the Windows camp, Apple has stronger control over its own M-series chips, and it also has advantages in heating and power consumption control, which is very suitable for products that require more space, such as folding notebooks.

Once Apple makes macOS support touch function, the playability of folding screen MacBook will be greatly increased.

Xiao Lei believes that the order of Apple’s folding products will be folding screen MacBook, folding screen iPad and folding screen iPhone. As we all know, Apple has always been more inclined to launch mature commercial products, and is not keen to release pioneering products with cutting-edge technologies but low maturity. Mobile phones are still Apple’s pillar business, and Apple will naturally have many concerns about using the iPhone to test water folding screen devices. On MacBook products, this concern will be much less.

Unlike mobile phones, the PC market itself has a small capacity. Moreover, in the PC industry, Apple’s shipment ranking is not high. In recent years, the operation of Mac business is not particularly ideal. In terms of Q1 financial report in fiscal year 2024, Apple’s Mac revenue was $7.78 billion, accounting for about 6.5% of the total revenue. In this way, Apple has more incentive to test the water folding screen technology on the MacBook.

We can find that the current mainstream folding screen notebook solution is essentially the same as the folding screen tablet. However, the folding screen notebook has an external physical keyboard than the folding screen tablet. Similarly, since Apple intends to release a folding screen MacBook, it is also a matter of course to launch a folding screen iPad.

Previously, there has been news in the supply chain that Apple’s MacBook and iPad product lines will gradually be OLED, which is naturally conducive to the subsequent emergence of corresponding folding screen devices. Apple’s current top-end flat-panel product, iPad Pro, has a maximum size of 12.9 inches. If the screen display area is to be further broken, it is an inevitable trend to move towards a folding screen form.

(Source: Apple)

As for the folding screen iPhone that everyone pays more attention to, there are also some news. At the end of last year, Korean media AlphaBiz reported that Apple executives revealed that the folding screen iPhone is expected to be released in 2026. However, this news has not been confirmed by other sources.

One of the two most critical technologies of folding screen mobile phone is the screen, and the other is the hinge. The former is not difficult for Apple, while the latter may need to accumulate experience through folding screen MacBook and folding screen iPad. At present, the proportion of shipments of folding screen mobile phones is still low, and there is still a long way to go before it is widely popularized. There are still certain opportunities for folding screen iPhone in the future.

(Source: CNET)

Of course, Xiao Lei also believes that Apple’s perennial smashing of iPhone products will affect the competitiveness of the folding screen iPhone. Now, all major manufacturers are competing for beauty in folding screen mobile phones, but the common product evolution direction is to continuously improve the basic skills on the basis of maintaining the special advantages of folding screens.

In other words, the advantage of the early folding screen is that it can be folded, but it lags behind the traditional straight flagship in terms of image, battery life, reliability and price.Now, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and other head brands are constantly enhancing the image ability of folding screens and enhancing reliability through better hinge technology. Folding screen mobile phones are gradually changing from "tent-type" products to "bucket-type" products.

As a conventional flagship, iPhone has lagged behind Android models in terms of heat dissipation, signal, image and charging. For example, the problem of fever and poor battery life of the iPhone 15 Pro is largely due to the lack of progress in Apple’s heat dissipation design. If Apple Trade rashly launches a folding screen iPhone now, it will perform poorly in terms of image, signal and performance stability. Apple still has a lot of lessons to make up before making a good enough folding screen phone.

The basic form of smart phones has not changed since the release of the iPhone in early 2007. After the mobile phone manufacturers have exhausted the conventional means to increase the screen size, the new form of folding screen has become the evolution trend of the next generation of mobile phones.

For notebook products, it is much less necessary for them to evolve into folding screen form. After all, the screen size of the notebook itself is much larger than that of the mobile phone, and its requirements for portability are lower than that of the mobile phone. Therefore, Xiao Lei believes that folding screen notebooks will not become the mainstream form.

Of course, the PC industry behind the notebook itself is already facing the problem of saturated market capacity and lack of room for growth. The application of cutting-edge technologies such as folding screen and AI may inject some new hopes into this ancient product.

As for the folding screen MacBook, Xiao Lei thinks it may not be too innovative in product form. However, in terms of system and software, the integration of iPadOS and macOS is more worth looking forward to. Xiao Lei is looking forward to it. Apple can bring refreshing solutions to the industry in its own way on the system software of folding screen products. Apple is late in folding screen products, and Xiaolei will keep a close track of its products, so stay tuned.



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