The OLED screen MacBook Pro is on the way, and it may even be foldable

According to market research company Omdia, Apple is "very likely" to launch a new MacBook Pro equipped with an OLED display in 2026.

Omdia has long-term forecast tracking of display industry demand. Its latest report shows that demand for OLED from mobile devices is expected to grow by 37% from 2023 to 2031.

Apple is no exception. From Apple Watch and iPhone to the just-released iPad Pro, more and more Apple products are choosing to use OLED as their screens. It is also expected that future MacBooks will use OLED.

▲ Following the iPad, MacBook will also be equipped with OLED in the future. Image source: MacRumors

Compared with other common display technologies, each pixel in an OLED screen is self-illuminating, so there is no need for a backlight system, which allows OLED screens to be made thinner.

The benefits of using OLED panels are obvious. It enables more accurate color display, superior contrast, faster response times, better viewing angles and greater design flexibility. Moreover, it can also bring a thinner and lighter body to the MacBook.

▲ Schematic diagram of OLED vs. LED. Image source: LG

In addition to the improvement in display effects, OLED also makes foldable screens possible.

Haitong International Securities analyst Jeff Pu recently published a report stating that Apple is stepping up the development of foldable devices. The report states that Apple will begin mass production of 20.3-inch foldable devices by the end of 2025.

▲ Apple folding screen concept map. Image source: Macrumors

Previously, Ming-Chi Kuo mentioned that Apple is developing a 20.3-inch foldable MacBook, which is expected to be released in 2027. Ross Young also reported that Apple is developing a 20-inch foldable device, saying that the device will be released in 2026 or 2027.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman also said on the Power On podcast that Apple is "exploring a dual-screen, foldable MacBook/iPad hybrid device."

▲ Concept map of folding MacBook. Image source: @MajinbuOfficial

For a long time, news about Apple's development of foldable screens has been confusing, but Apple has indeed been exploring this aspect.

In March 2018, Apple submitted a patent application related to screen coating. It is mainly used to protect the device display so that the display will not be damaged even when it is bent in half.

This coating is made of polymer and comes in the form of flakes. This coating can be applied evenly to curved materials through liquid polymer coating techniques such as spraying, printing and dipping. This patent is applied to the glass layer, making it flexible enough to adapt to the bends of the display without reducing its strength.

▲ Apple’s folding screen coating patent image. Image source: Patently Apple

Just this month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a new patent from Apple, which involves a folding screen device with a unique hinge design, providing new possibilities for future MacBook forms.

▲ Apple hinge patent diagram. Image source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Apple's largest laptop currently on sale is the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Historically, the largest MacBook product Apple has ever launched was the 17-inch MacBook Pro, which was discontinued as early as 2012.

If a foldable screen Mac can appear, it will set a new record for MacBook size.

▲ Concept map of folding MacBook. Photo credit: Antonio De Rosa

Folding notebooks are actually nothing new.

ThinkPad X1 Fold is the first consumer laptop to use folding screen technology. From the perspective of folding screens, as the first product to bring folding screens into the consumer computer market, it brings more possibilities to the notebook category and also provides consumers with richer usage scenarios.

But from a notebook perspective, this is an immature product. The too small size and too thick black edges mean that although this product has the form of a folding screen, it loses the advantages of a folding screen.

▲ ThinkPad X1 Fold. Image source: Lenovo official website

In 2022, ASUS launched the Zen book 17 Fold, which has learned a lot from the lessons of its "predecessors" and made this product appear more mature.

The 17-inch size allows it to meet users' daily use regardless of whether it is unfolded or folded. Because the screen is large enough, Zenbook 17 Fold has a keyboard that is the same size as a 12.5-inch laptop. The experience is no longer like a "tablet with a keyboard", but a truly usable folding screen notebook.

▲ ASUS Zen book 17 Fold. Image source: ASUS official website

HP, also a giant computer manufacturer, also released a foldable screen notebook called Specter Fold. HP says "this is the world's thinnest and smallest 17-inch foldable computer."

HP Specter Fold has an excellent keyboard and screen switching is very smooth. Even including the keyboard, the Specter Fold weighs only 1.6 kilograms. To some extent, this can be said to be the best folding screen notebook experience currently.

▲ HP Specter Fold form display. Image source: HP official website

Although there are more and more foldable screen notebooks on the market, judging from market feedback, it is still difficult to popularize them. The advantages of folding screens are obvious. The foldable body not only provides a larger display area, but also takes into account portability.

But the reasons why it cannot be popularized are equally obvious, and the first one to bear the brunt is the high price. Lenovo Thinkpad Pad ).

▲ HP Specter Fold back display. Image source: HP official website

Except for foldability, the rest of the experience of foldable screen notebooks at this stage cannot be compared with ordinary notebooks of the same price, or even lower-priced ordinary notebooks.

Along with the high price, what dissuades users is the not-so-excellent user experience. Large screen and weight are pain points that are difficult to balance with ordinary computers. Although the emergence of foldable screen computers solves this pain point, it also brings new pain points.

▲ HP Specter Fold scene map. Image source: HP official website

For a productivity tool like a laptop, durability is very important. The flexible structure of the folding screen coupled with the complex hinge will definitely not be more durable than the structure of ordinary machinery today.

Long-term opening and closing is a very important test for folding screens, and the lifespan of the fold has always been a major problem in the promotion of folding devices.

▲ The crease problem is inevitable for folding screens at this stage.

Another annoying problem on laptops is heat dissipation. Because of its thin and light nature, it is difficult for manufacturers to add an effective active cooling system to folding screen computers.

The lack of heat dissipation effect has brought about the problem of insufficient performance, making the foldable screen notebook category only able to meet the needs of light work.

▲ The notebook actively dissipates heat. Image source: Apple official website

Now it seems that folding screen computers are not suitable for people who play games, nor are they suitable for people who need stable operation, nor are they suitable for people who need low prices.

So now the question comes back to price: How many consumers are willing to spend tens of thousands to buy a laptop, but only use it to complete some simple tasks?

▲ HP Specter Fold scene map. Image source: HP official website

Of course, ordinary notebooks and foldable screen notebooks are not the same. The former has a development history of nearly 40 years and has already experienced several rounds of technological updates. These technological updates have been applied to ordinary notebooks, and they have become such mature ordinary notebook products with many market segments today.

The latter has only been developed for a few years. It is not so much in the initial stage as it is still in the stage of being tested by the market.

If the moment you see a foldable screen laptop, you exclaim: "This is definitely for me! I can't wait to see the next generation, which will definitely be greatly improved!" Then you may want to consider these "designers" "Folding screen computer". However, I hope it won't die "young" due to repeated folding.

▲ HP Specter Fold scene map. Image source: HP official website

As for whether folding screen notebooks will be as short-lived as pop-up cameras, or whether they will grasp the future direction as correctly as folding screen mobile phones, all answers can only be confirmed by time and the market.

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