Apple’s long-rumored foldable iPhone may still have life. On Monday the US Patent Office published that it had granted the technology giant a patent for a display with touch sensors. Apple (AAPL) specifically refers to a foldable electronic device in the patent abstract.
UBS analyst David Vogt says that while there is no indication that we will see a foldable iPhone this year, the introduction of such a product in the future could help boost iPhone sales worldwide.
“We believe that a foldable iPhone model could lead to an increase in the purchase and upgrade rate of consumers,” Vogt wrote in a note to investors. “If a foldable device compresses the upgrade rate for iPhones or attracts ‘switches’ from the Android ecosystem, iPhone unit growth could exceed our estimate of 238 million i. [fiscal 2024] and an installed base of approximately 1.2 billion iPhones and approximately 1.3 billion smartphones shipped annually.”
Rumors about a foldable iPhone have been around for years. In April 2022, FT International analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that the foldable smartphone would hit stores in 2025, possibly as a foldable iPhone/iPad hybrid.
In 2021, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, known for accurately reporting Apple products before the company announces them, said it would be two to three years before the company launches a foldable device.
Apple rival Samsung already has two folding smartphones: the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which has a vertical crease down the middle of the display that makes it fold like a book, and the Galaxy Z Flip 4, which has a horizontal crease that lets him. times like compact makeup. However, both phones are marketed as premium devices, with the Z Flip 4 starting at $999, and the Z Fold 4 starting at $1,799.
However, the introduction of foldable smartphones could help Apple’s iPhone sales at a time when global phone sales are coming off pandemic peaks. According to IDC’s Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphone shipments fell 11.2% in 2022. Apple, alone, saw a 14.9% decline in Q4.
Meanwhile, Apple’s iPhone revenue in Q1, including holiday sales, missed analysts’ expectations, coming in at $65.7 billion compared to the $68.3 billion Wall Street was expecting.
Still, the smartphone maker, like other tech giants, regularly files and receives patents for technologies that never reach consumers. In other words, a foldable iPhone could just be something the company is taking seriously enough to patent, but it doesn’t have to. And while iPhone sales were down in Q1, much of that appears to have been tied to manufacturing issues caused by the COVID lockdown and worker protests in China.
Additionally, as Vogt points out, in a survey of 7,000 smartphone users in the US, UK and China, UBS found that a foldable phone was the least important feature customers were looking for in a new handset.
Despite that, Apple could still launch a foldable phone in the coming years as the technology becomes more affordable for consumers. Or maybe the company will just abandon our phones to the metaverse. Who knows?
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