Apple (AAPL) Likely to Launch a Foldable iPhone in 2023, Reliable Apple Analyst Kuo Says

May 3, 2021 7:53 AM EDT
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TFI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the most recognized Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) analysts, believes the Cupertino tech giant will launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023.

Based on Apple's requested capacity plan, according to Kuo, Apple may look to ship between 15 and 20 million new devices in 2023. The analyst adds that SDC will likely be the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry as the exclusive DDI foundry provider.

“We expect that the foldable iPhone will adopt TPK's silver nanowire touch solution because of its several advantages over SDC's Y-Octa technology. We believe that TPK's EPS will benefit from the iPad, Surface, and automotive products in 2021 and 2022 and grow year by year. Its business momentum will boost from 2023 onwards, thanks to the foldable iPhone's adoption of the silver nanowire,” the analyst wrote in a note sent to clients.

Apple is likely to tap into the fast-growing foldable smartphone market, which has become a “must-have for all major smartphone brands,” according to the latest survey results from TFI.

“If the component shortage can improve in 2H21, we estimate that the shipments of the foldable smartphone are about 2 hundred thousand, 3.2 million, 7.5 million, and 17 million units in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively. In the foldable smartphone market, Samsung has more than 90% market share, and its strong promotion is critical to the fast shipment growth of the foldable smartphone market,” the analyst adds.

In addition to AAPL, Kuo expects Asian smartphone brands - Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Honor - to launch their own foldable phones later this year, or beginning of 2022. Major smartphone makers are already working on new lineups as the foldable smartphone is the next innovative selling point of high-end models after 5G.

“At present, the product position of foldable smartphones is mainly to integrate the smartphone and tablet. But we believe that the foldable smartphone is only one of the applications of the foldable design. We predict that foldable devices will blur the product segmentations between smartphones, tablets, and laptops in the future. With its cross-product ecosystems and hardware design advantages, Apple will be the biggest winner in the new foldable device trend.”

Apple is also likely to benefit from its partnership with TPK, which has been developing silver nanowire touch technology for more than ten years and has nearly 200 patents, according to Kuo.

“Apple's adoption of silver nanowire touch technology can reduce its dependence on SDC and facilitate the introduction of a second display supplier to lower the supply risk and cost. Silver nanowire is already the HomePod's touch solution. Although HomePodcan use cheaper touch technology, Apple adopts silver nanowire to master the technology at the lowest cost through small volume production,” the analyst concludes.

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