Folding screen, not Apple’s next iPhone

In 2018, Mike Murphy, then the deputy editor-in-chief of the technology website Quartz, believed that Apple had killed the fun of electronic products (Apple killed fun).

The point of view of the article is very sharp. He believes that Apple has been too successful in shaping the "smartphone", which has affected the industry and turned the mobile phone into a boring box.

I also think that before the iPhone, Nokia with different shapes has more fun.

Of course, his point of view is only limited to the design and form, but he ignores that the smartphone is no longer limited to a hardware device, but has gradually become an Internet content portal under the 4G and 5G networks.

The content on the screen is the determining factor that attracts people to use it continuously, not the different appearance outside the screen, unless you make the screen form a flower.

As a result, folding screens have become a very popular form recently. A device can have two screens of different sizes and has a wider range of usage scenarios. It seems to bring people back to the era when the appearance of mobile phones was constantly changing.

From the concept product to the regular product sequence of the manufacturers, the folding screen only took one or two years.

▲ iPhone Flip? Picture from: cnet

However, as the leader of "smartphones", Apple has not come up with its own folding screen products for a long time. It seems that, as Murphy said, Apple killed fun, but this time the fun refers to its own products.

It could be an iPhone, it could be an iPad, it could even be a Mac

The delay in launching a product does not mean that Apple is "ignoring it."

In fact, the news about Apple's folding screen has been spread for two or three years, and it may appear in iPhone, iPad or even Mac.

▲ iPad Pro Fold imaginary image from: macrumors

There are many analysts and technology media workers who are constantly tracking the predictions of Apple products. Their sources of information are nothing more than industry-related practitioners, plus some speculations of their own.

In the past, although their predictions for Apple's new products were not 100% accurate, at least the general direction was more consistent.

Only on the "folding screen", there are different opinions.

▲ Folding the MacBook Pro, the Smart Island lights up. Picture from: Twitter@MajinBu

TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (Ming-Chi Kuo) predicts that next year Apple will introduce a new folding-screen iPad to the iPad product line, equipped with a carbon fiber hinge to reduce weight.

And said that Apple intends to rely on the "folding screen" iPad to boost iPad sales.

At the same time, DSCC analyst Ross Young disagrees. Apple is actually developing a large-screen folding device between the iPad and the MacBook. The size may reach 20.5 inches, and it will be available in 2026 at the earliest.

▲ MacBook Pro 16 (M2 Max inside)

Mark Gurman, who has a high accuracy rate, said in the Power On podcast that Apple's current attitude towards folding screens is still "exploration", and there is no so-called timetable for listing and fixed products.

This year's iPad update focuses on the iPad Pro, and the screen may use OLED material, and the size may also be changed.

From the iPhone to the iPad, and then to the Mac, Apple's folding screen rumors can be described as confusing.

▲ Jony Ive going deep into the supply chain Picture from: iMore

I remember that in the book "After Steve", before the official release of the iPhone, Apple made quite a few prototypes, including direct changes from the iPod, and redesigning the mold.

At present, Apple may only be in the state of "prototype" for the folding screen form, or even in the earlier evaluation state, which is quite far from the real trial production.

Practitioners in the industry chain shared information with analysts, which undoubtedly caused differences in their opinions. But in fact, according to the status quo of folding screens, Apple may not enter the "folding screen".

Apple folding screen, does not exist

Why does the folding screen appear?

In the beginning, the folding screen was undoubtedly an exploration of different forms of smartphones. Due to the high cost of the screen, it has gradually become a product for many manufacturers to increase the unit price of customers.

Most of the first-generation folding screens cost around 10,000 yuan. No matter what the brand is, the folding form is enough to bring attention and topicality.

In the follow-up, the related industry chain matured rapidly, and the second-generation and third-generation folding screen products gradually matured, becoming a product for brands to show off their technology and strength, and a shortcut to "high-end" as a matter of course.

In particular, against the backdrop of a weakening and declining market environment, the folding screen market is extremely active, rising against the trend.

According to IDC data, in the Chinese market in 2022, a total of 3.3 million folding screen mobile phones will be shipped throughout the year, a year-on-year increase of 118%, and the growth rate is higher than expected.

The smartphone market is saturated, but the foldable screen market is not. With the gradual stabilization of the hinge technology, screen, and shape, the folding screen mobile phone technology seems to have stagnated again.

It is like a once-hot VR device, which came to an abrupt end after winning everyone's attention, and the "bottleneck period" came earlier.

At the same time, the market capacity of folding screen mobile phones only accounts for 1.2% of the total smartphone market, and the volume is still small. For folding screen manufacturers, it is a bit like a drop in the bucket to rely on folding screens to increase market share.

In addition, the folding screen technology is still not perfect, and the weight and fragile screen are still weaknesses. And for Apple, how to integrate the folding screen ecology into existing platforms such as iOS and macOS is also an element worthy of careful consideration.

Domestic Android manufacturers have made targeted optimizations in the switching of large and small screens and the adaptation of software apps.

But for Apple, optimization alone is obviously not enough. Apple products need to have a whole set of linkage logic, that is, how to find a clear product positioning for folding screen devices, otherwise it is easy to get stuck between Mac and iPhone like the previous iPad.

▲ Picture from: digitaltrends

Folding screen devices are more like an extension of iPhone (iPad) products than a new growth point.

In addition, the decisive mechanical mechanism in the folding screen is not future-oriented. For Apple, which is constantly seeking stability, it is difficult to continue to invest in a technology that seems to have no future prospects, so it is better to sit on the sidelines.

Folding screen is not a life-saving straw

2022 is actually a year of "adjustment" for Apple.

Not only is there a large-scale adjustment of middle and high-level personnel, but also some changes are quietly being made in terms of products. Even though the iPhone and Mac have increased delivery cycles due to supply issues, the adjustments to the iPhone 14 series and the delayed update of the MacBook Pro undoubtedly directly affected Apple’s revenue at the end of last year.

▲ The cold winter in the industry just slowed down Apple’s pace of making money. Picture from: Financial Times

Before Apple's earnings report, many analysts believed that concerns about Apple's revenue in the last quarter may become an inflection point.

Not surprisingly, Apple's financial report for the "holiday season" did appear a little weak, with growth slowing down but the profit it created still reached $3 billion, the second in history.

▲ Service business revenue hits a new high Image from: Six Colors

From a closer look, the iPhone still accounts for the majority of business revenue, but the weakness of the general digital series still fell by 8% year-on-year. At the same time, the new MacBook Pro missed the entire quarter, and revenue fell by 29% year-on-year.

However, the iPad ushered in an explosion, and its revenue reached a historical high, a year-on-year increase of 30%.

Compared with the ups and downs of hardware, software service revenue has achieved a record revenue of 20.8 billion US dollars, accounting for 17.7%, which is higher than that of Mac and iPad combined.

▲ Picture from: techeela

And Tim Cook also announced that the number of Apple's activated devices exceeded 2 billion, which has doubled compared to 7 years ago, and in the past year alone, it has increased by 150 million devices.

After the announcement of the financial report, Mark Gurman of Bloomberg also received internal information that Apple would cancel the position of chief design officer (CDO), and the design team would report directly to chief operating officer Jeff Williams.

For such a decision, firstly, after Jony Ive and Evans Hankey left successively, Apple has no suitable candidates for the time being; secondly, Apple has begun to transform its products, taking a practical approach and reducing the right to speak of the design team.

▲ Left: Apple hardware design director Evans Hankey, right: Apple software design director Alan Dye (leader of iPhone 14 Pro series Smart Island design) Picture from: Apple

In fact, with the huge number of Apple devices, software services can provide continuous and stable income for Apple, while the hardware market is actually somewhat saturated.

Apple may have had the idea of ​​a "folding screen" at some point, but in the final analysis, the folding screen is still a new form of existing equipment, and the core is still a personal computing center such as a smartphone or a Mac, rather than a download. an iPhone.

▲ Picture from: 9to5Mac

Looking at Apple's products in recent years, there are obvious traces of hard planning, planning to update, upgrade specifications, and smoothly transition to the advent of AR glasses, which Apple bet on.

After several years, it seems to be a big gamble by Apple, betting the future on AR glasses. Compared with hardware, how to present content and how to integrate into Apple's ecology are the keys to becoming a "new iPhone".

Whether Apple will get out of the cold winter of revenue or continue to survive the winter, all of this is on Apple's AR glasses, rather than simply folding the iPhone or iPad.

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