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Folding iPhone: Apple's next big thing?

Apple's next big thing could very well be a new take on the iPhone.

While it's not a new rumor, The Korea Times is claiming that Apple "is eyeing developing foldable iPhones" that "will come several years later."

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Just to be clear here, when we're talking about "folding" smartphones we are not talking about two screen held together by a hinge, but instead a device with a single foldable OLED display.

This is a small but subtle difference. And OLED displays are key to this technology.

An iPhone with a folding display would allow Apple to fit more display into a smaller space, and bring a new dimension to the iOS platform.

However, it's unclear as to the timescale that Apple is working to. I've seen guesstimates ranging from "years" to "immenantly."

However, let's not forget that Samsung, Apple's closest rival in the smartphone space, has already committed to bringing to market foldable OLED smartphones this year. And these devices could redefine what is considered high-end, and come with a sobering $1,800 price tag.

But there are a lot of unknowns and risks.

The first is whether folding smartphones is something that the market wants, especially if they are going to add hundreds of dollars to the price tag. What people want and what they are willing to pay for - along with how much they are willing to pay for something - are different things.

Another issue is turning the folding display from a gimmick into something really useful. Tech is ripe with fads and attention-grabbing stunts, but few actually gain the required traction to last.

Then there's the technological hurdles. How reliable are folding displays? How good will the manufacturing yield be? How much will they cost? How reliable are the hinges? How good/bad will their lifespans be?

Lots of questions. Lots of uncertainties. Lots of potential for Apple (and others) to make or lose a lot of money.

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