Is Apple Really Working on a Folding iPad?

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Photo Source: 9to5Mac

A few days ago, 9to5Mac ran a piece covering a rumor that Apple may be working on an iPad with a folding screen and 5G. The rumor originated with IHS Markit analyst Jeff Lin, via Economic Daily News. It certainly sounds enticing. While Samsung and Huawei struggle to get a first-gen phone out the door, Apple zags and focuses on bringing foldable tech to a bigger device with fewer risks and pitfalls.

Well, that’s the theory anyway. But is it actually true?

Consider the source

Not to disparage Jeff Lin, but he isn’t Ming-Chi Kuo or Mark Gurman. This is an interesting thought exercise, but I wouldn’t put money on this being a real thing until a more established source starts talking about it, as well. I know its more fun to indulge every Apple rumor, but there are limits. This one pushes those limits.

Consider the possibilities

That said, such a device could really be a shot in the arm for the iPad platform. I love my 12.9″ iPad Pro screen, so a device with a smaller footprint that unfolds to reveal an even bigger screen sounds REALLY good to me. I know I’m not the only one, either. Also, with the newly forked iPadOS, Apple is adding more multitasking capabilities to the platform that are perfectly suited to this kind of hardware. Such a device could be a real powerhouse.

Consider the company

So where does a rumor like this come from? It came from a supply chain source, but what does that mean when we think about how Apple works? To me, it isn’t a question of whether or not Apple has been working on this device. It’s when and for how long. It is well known that they prototype and patent everything that comes to mind. A device like this is no different.

One thing that separates guys like Ming-Chi Kuo and Ben Geskin is that they usually have some sense of what a device is when they report on it. Kuo generally reports on things that have made it past the prototype and testing phases. Geskin reports on a wide range of devices, but he usually provides some context for them. Other guys report on anything they or their sources can lay their eyes on, regardless of context. I have a feeling that, if this rumor has any legitimacy, the latter is where it came from.

Consider the alternatives

Take a look at the picture above and note the middle device. There were a few stories last year about an Apple device with a second screen in place of a keyboard. One was rumored to be a Mac, which is very intriguing in its own right. Then you have the other rumor, which was of a device that could be an iPad in more off a Mac form factor.

When you see these rumors of devices that come out of left field, again, you have to consider the source. Could it be that this hybrid iPad in our fresh rumors won’t have a foldable screen, but will be dual-screen? It’s hard to say, but that would be a more realistic and easy to produce device, especially in the short term.

Consider the timeframe

When you think about Samsung’s high-profile failure so far in delivering their Galaxy Fold, it is hard to believe that Apple is in any hurry to release a device with a foldable screen. Other than intelligent speakers, the company has had a great sense of exactly when to enter a market. They usually get in at the perfect time to take advantage of and learn from the mistakes of others and make a more compelling product. They did it with smartphones and tablets. They did it again with smartwatches and wireless earbuds.

Apple isn’t going to rush this, so if a device is coming within the next year, it won’t have a foldable screen. However, a dual-screen iPad with a 360 degree hinge and a haptic keyboard? Apple could deliver such a device today. I know Lenovo’s recent Yoga device with a soft keyboard was a disaster, but Apple is far-and-away the leader in this area. If any company can deliver an interactive, on-screen keyboard with realistic feedback, they can. If they put out a device like this with USB-C and the thin and light form factor of a MacBook, yeah, I would be all over that and I certainly wouldn’t be alone.

Conversely, maybe Apple really is looking at making a tablet with a true foldable display. However, if that is the case, then we are getting a report of an early prototype. Foldable displays for phones haven’t been mastered yet, so how long do you think it will take before manufacturers can get suitable yields at tablet sizes? If Apple really is aiming to hit this mark, we are looking at two years minimum before we see such a device. Apple has patents on folding screen tech, so it is possible that the company is seriously considering making such a device. If so, it will just be a while before we see it.

You have to love Apple rumors. Sometimes crazy stuff like this just comes out of left field. That said, don’t lose any sleep over this one, Apple fans. Still, it is fun to think about what could be coming a little ways down the road.

 


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