Foldable iPhone Mania Strikes. Fad or Not?

Folding iPad comcept

It’s like a fever. Foldable smartphones from Samsung and Huawei are on the way. A foldable iPhone probably isn’t far behind. 2020? And maybe iPads too.

Foldable iPhone or iPad concept
Image credit: Dongjae Krystofer Kim

First off is Mashable. “Apple newest patent shows how they plan to dominate the foldable phone market.” Nothing astoundingly new except some exceptional concept graphics.

Next is a nifty concept video at Mactrast. “‘iPad U’ concept imagines Apple’s take on a folding tablet.” This video breathes life into the concept. Enough to get one salivating.

But what about the practical engineering details of a foldable iPhone? And is it a fad or not? New York Intelligencer has a healthy discussion. “Here’s What Will Determine If Folding Phones Are a Fad or for Real.

But foldable phones still represent one of the biggest form-factor changes that have hit smartphones in a long time…

So what will be the major milestones folding phones will need to hit to make them a viable form factor? One of the first challenges will be figuring out ways to make the hardware, software, and UX all work together in seamless unity.

That sounds like something that’s right up Apple’s alley. Still, is this a headfake from Apple’s competitors? Apple will have to figure that out too.

More Debris

• IoT device security is a mess. Horrific actually. Maybe that’s why Apple wants to step in and re-establish confidence in home automation and security products. See: “Apple’s latest purchase suggests it’s making moves in the home security sector.

An Apple-made home security system would be an interesting addition to the home security market, especially if it follows tradition and integrates into the overall Apple ecosystem.

Kai-Fu Lee
Kai-Fu Lee. Image credit: Wikipedia

• Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures, is one of the world’s authorities on AI. Here’s an interview with him. The focus by interviewer Tonya Hall is what artificial intelligence can and can’t do.Comparing AI in China and the US.

• If you thought the Apple Watch would be the only sensor from Apple that monitors your health, think again. See Cult of Mac: Future MacBooks could monitor your health while you type.

A MacBook biosensor would be located on an area of the keyboard where the wrist naturally rests and could determine respiration, blood pressure and heart rate.

I can just see it now. Siri: “John! I see your heart is racing. Try to calm down before you reply to that email.” ::gulp::

• At iMore,Rene Ritchie lets his imagination run wild. “An Apple 8K TV. A HomePod Theater. Subscription gaming… Are you getting it yet?

But, if Apple’s time and resources were truly unlimited. Not just the “Apple’s one of the richest companies in the world and obviously I’ve never heard of the mythical person month so I’ll just keep tweeting about how they really should be able to do it all, all the time!” crap our feeds get festooned with on a regular basis. But for really real unlimited.

Here are some things I think would be super interesting to see.

And he poses a final question. Will AR glasses make most TVs obsolete?

• Finally, here’s a glimpse of how 5G might be rolled out, especially from Verizon. Discused is new 5G modems and how you’ll set up your new 5G home system. “The way you get TV and internet at home is about to change drastically — for the better.

But 5G is a short-range protocol. This will roll out in densely populated areas first. Still, the article is a good primer on what to expect in your future.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

8 thoughts on “Foldable iPhone Mania Strikes. Fad or Not?

  • John:

    I attempted to post a comment a short while ago that appears to have been eaten by the great aether. I’m just testing to see if this one posts.

  • A better concept would be to have the phone in a cylinder form factor the size of a jumbo crayon with the screen rolled up into it via tiny motors, with a button on the end of the cylinder that is an expand/contract selector and double as the screen-off & power-down button.

    And make sure it has a shirt pocket clip.

    1. YES, that would be far better. Skipping the “Is that an iPhone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me” jokes, I think that form would work far better. No hinge line, just a smooth coil that you can pull out flat. Earth Final Conquest had something similar as a communicator and I thought it was brilliant then.

  • “Bendable screen” to me means that the display is not two pieces that mesh together, but one continuous piece. I cannot think of anything that can be folded and refolded without eventually developing a crease. How long could such a display continue to work without a hitch? Certainly not years.

    I could envision 2 pieces with hexagonal (or similar) edges that would mesh together to form a bigger screen. Yet I wonder if dirt, pocket link, etc. would allow that to continue to work well.

  • AI in the hands of anyone always runs the risk of misuse. AI in the hands of a technologically advanced totalitarian country led by a power hungry megalomaniac who already has shown willingness to militarize and unilaterally claim sovereignty over whole bodies of international waters… I leave that to your imaginations.

  • Maybe there’s a perception problem here… Maybe they’re not bendy phones. Maybe they’re bendy tablets with phone circuits. Imagine an iPad Nano with phone calling left in; from there, it’s not a stretch to imagine The Mac Observer writing “Now, if Apple had only made it fold to coat pocket-size, it could be a hit!” Now that folks have grown accustomed to decent BT earpieces – and generally rave about Apple’s EarPods (which I personally can’t tolerate) – the notion of holding an phablet up to your head for a phone call isn’t even joke-worthy anymore.

    Geoduck mentioned artists preferences for drawing surfaces. He’s correct, of course; however, artists are even more finicky. Visible seam or not, there is NO WAY – positively IMPOSSIBLE – that any kind of hinge would be tolerable to sensitive hands.Furthermore, styli such as the ApplePeni… PENCIL… are already sensitive enough to reveal even the slightest unevenness in a surface.

    Apple is a great company, but no longer the company that BECAME great. Best regards to Mr. Cook, but he is so very clearly an operations and finance guy. If Apple had a hair on their you-know-what, they’d make wetware phones with displays like Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale had in the new Total Recall. Though Siri would probably still be kinda retarded, glitching out like “Toowoooo Weeheeekss…”

  • The important thing about folding devices is the hinge. The strip across the hinge has to be INDISTINGUISHABLE from the rest of the screen. No ripple, no color difference, no dip, no illumination difference. If you can tell where the hinge is when the device is open, it will fail in the marketplace. Artists don’t want drawing surfaces with a line down the middle. People watching videos don’t want a line down the middle. Readers don’t want a line down the middle. If Apple produces a folding device and you can tell where the hinge is either visually or tactically they will be raked over the coals for it.

  • See Dagogo’s latest YT post re: imagination and bendy wrist displays. It shows the kind of imagination Apple has lacked for 10 years. After the iPhone came out and the competition improved on it Apple’s modus operandi has been poo-poo, and then Copy, – stylus-copied; edge to edge screens-copied, thin phones-copied, high res screens – copied (but still not the highest) – multiple cams-copied. wireless charging – have they copied that yet? Of COURSE they will copy bendy phones, but if they were creative they’d take a look at what Dagogo’s post shows. Check it. 📺

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