Foldables are undoubtedly the next generation of touchscreen devices that we'll use. The market seems quite hyped up about them, and the sales numbers are growing daily. Most of the brands in the smartphone/tablet space have launched (or are on the verge of announcing) their own foldable device, but one company — Apple.
There have been several reports about Apple launching its first foldable device soon, but nothing seems concrete. Despite saying this, we still believe that Apple will launch a foldable some time or the other. The company is very late to the market and it's (sort of) inevitable now. Plus, Tim Cook won't want to miss out on the wave of first-time tech enthusiastic foldable buyers.
Apple isn't really a pioneer
Apple has shown us quite a few times that it's not a 'sheep' that would follow other companies into launching a new category of products. Instead, the company takes its time and has proven time and again that whenever it brings a product later to the market than any other brand, it does things a little bit better. For e.g., Apple wasn't the first player in the market to launch touch phones — LG Prada was the first commercially available touch display phone — yet we think that Steve Jobs' first-gen iPhone event is the one that changed the smartphone industry forever.
Another example of this is the Apple Watch. Again, Apple wasn't the first player to launch a smartwatch. Motorola had released its Moto 360 smartwatch almost two years before Apple's smartwatch, and it was arguably the most popular smartwatch when Apple Watch was first announced. Seven years into the future, take a look around and see how many people use a Motorola smartwatch. Compare it to the number of users who have an Apple Watch on their wrists right now, and we're pretty sure the Cupertino-giant wins this case by a considerable margin.
What Apple usually does is that it takes a product from the competition, refines it, and then releases the same product in a better package and with better functionality. It thinks of the long-term rather than riding the hype train. But we believe that the situation is a little bit different when it comes to foldables.
Samsung has the lead
Big tech companies, especially Samsung, have a huge headstart when it comes to foldables. We point out Samsung in particular because the company is about to launch its fourth generation of foldable devices this year. Over the past three generations, Samsung has (nearly) corrected everything that could go wrong with a folding screen.
But Rome wasn't built in a day, was it? The first generation of Galaxy Z Fold came with a number of shortcomings: removing the plastic film would leave the device unusable, folding mechanism failures, and other hinge problems. In the past two years, Samsung worked hard on its devices and now it's to the point where everything about its foldable feels nearly perfect: from the hinge mechanism to software and even pricing, Samsung has refined its foldables a lot and they feel good enough for daily usage.
Other companies such as OPPO and Vivo have also released their foldable devices. When OPPO announced its Find N, the company said that it had been working on its foldable for four years. The company nearly perfected the hinge mechanism and the folding crease in its first go. With smartphones brands going all-in foldables, what could Apple do to become a pioneer in this industry?
What could Apple do?
A few weeks ago, a report claimed Apple has been working on a hybrid Mac-iPad foldable behind the scenes. The said foldable device would provide an 11-inch screen when folded which will turn into a 17-inch big-screen-only canvas when unfolded. The laptop-tablet foldable is one of the areas yet to be tested by any company, and we believe that Apple could become a pioneer in this sector if they release an iPad-Mac hybrid soon.
Despite the rumors of Apple working on a Mac-iPad foldable, Ming-Chi Kuo reports that Apple will still launch an iPad-iPhone hybrid first. Not much is known about the product right now, but Kuo's tweet seems to be pointing in the direction of a Galaxy Z Fold competitor only. If Apple goes this route and releases a phone-tablet foldable, it would be following the footsteps of Samsung, HUAWEI, OPPO, HONOR, and others that are already in the foldable market.
In case Apple releases a MacBook-iPad foldable, it would then be called a leader as it would be foraying into a new category of foldables that nobody has dared to enter, yet. All-in-all, it remains to be seen what the Cupertino-giant can do differently with a folding screen: whether it's software, hardware, or anything else.