3 Reasons Why Apple Will Never Make a MacBook With a Foldable Screen

Don’t get your hopes up for a MacBook with a foldable screen.

Lais Borges/Inverse; Photo by Raymond Wong

Where does the MacBook go next? It’s too early to tell, but in the custom silicon era, Apple’s laptops are settling into a comfortable pattern. There are yearly M-series chip updates to boost performance, like Apple did with the M3 MacBook Pros and more recently the M3 MacBook Airs, with actual changes to the design of the laptops a much more infrequent affair. The MacBook Air was redesigned in the shift to the M2 and the MacBook Pro when the M1 Pro and Max came out, but other than new colors, it seems highly likely Apple’s going to stick with what works on its laptops: a squared-off aesthetic and ports.

That hasn’t stopped the endless speculation and, on some level, the desire for a more dramatic departure from the MacBook’s tried-and-true clamshell. Apple has been rumored to be exploring foldable devices for as long as there has been glass that can fold, including folding iPhones, iPads, and according to the latest survey from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a 20.3-inch foldable MacBook coming in 2027.

While the idea is exciting, the realities of a foldable MacBook don’t feel like things Apple would want to deal with. 2027 is a few years off, but the limitations of foldable displays, the current state of PC foldables, and Apple’s demonstrated current interest in mixed reality and Apple Vision Pro feel pretty damning of the company ever shipping whatever they’re currently experimenting with.

3. Making Foldable Glass Has Drawbacks

Glass has to be as thin or thinner than human hair to be truly foldable.


To create a display that folds, you naturally have to make some compromises. We’re long past the days of Samsung’s botched first Galaxy Fold, but whether they’re made from plastic, ultra-thin glass, or some combination of the two, a folding screen is naturally more fragile than a traditional one. Plastic can bend more than glass, but it’s also much easier to scratch. Glass is harder to scratch, but has to be ridiculously thin to fold, which introduces other durability problems usually solved with a factory-installed screen protector. Regardless of what materials are used on the outside, because OLED panels are thinner and lighter than LCDs, most foldable displays are OLEDs, which could lead to other issues like burn-in.

While navigating the challenge of all of those display limitations sounds very Apple, there’s also the aesthetic problem of screen creases to deal with. Glass can’t fold completely in half, which means when you fold a foldable laptop or smartphone closed, there needs to be extra room to accommodate the “bubble” poking out the back of the fold. Hinges have been redesigned so foldables can bend completely closed without an air gap, but they haven’t fully removed the visible impression of a crease down the center of the display or the sensation of “give” when your finger brushes over that center column. Devices like the OnePlus Open get very close, and based on Gizmodo’s review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold 16, the crease could be eliminated from laptops, but not without other quirks. In the case of the new X1 Fold, that’s the inability to unfold and lay completely flat.

Does an imperfection like that really seem like something Apple, a company obsessed with the details of its products, would want to deal with? The company operates on the scale of selling hundreds of millions of devices. Any issue, even a minor one, would be immediately magnified on an Apple product. Creases, improper folds, and durability problems aren’t going to fly.

2. Current Foldable Laptops Suck

The Asus ZenBook 17 Fold looks nice but it’s got its fair share of quirks.


Apple arriving late to a trend is the norm at this point, but as multiple PC makers dive head first into making foldable laptops, the current results suggest the juice might not be worth the squeeze. Lenovo was early to the game with the first ThinkPad X1 Fold in 2020, a 13.3-inch tablet that included a keyboard you could lay on half the screen in laptop mode or use separately over Bluetooth when the screen was fully unfolded. Reviews of the X1 Fold at the time noted its poor performance, battery life, and buggy software switching between modes. The larger issue, though, and something that apparently isn’t fixed with even the newer 16-inch ThinkPad X1 Fold, is that cramming a keyboard and trackpad into a package that’s supposed to fit on only half of the screen makes everything cramped.

Current foldable laptops are also far more expensive than traditional ones. HP’s Spectre Foldable PC costs $5,000. The Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED ultimately cost $3,499 when it was released in 2022. The high prices likely have to do with the limited demand for foldable devices in general. What makes that fact sting harder is that sometimes these foldables ship with underpowered internals to keep the price of using a bendable display down. You could end up with an expensive 16-inch laptop that’s not nearly as capable as similarly priced and sized options.

Putting everything except the keyboard and trackpad into the same enclosure leads to other challenges. We’re used to limited port selection on traditional tablets, but the HP Spectre Foldable PC is supposed to be a premium business laptop, so why does it only have two ports, and why are they so awkwardly placed? According to Wired, “In clamshell mode, one appears on the lower right of the upright portion of the screen, which isn’t bad, but the other is on the top of the screen, which limits its accessibility and aesthetics.” But because these foldables are meant to be used in multiple different orientations, that leads to a strange arrangement in desktop mode, too, where “the two ports appear on the bottom left of the screen and the center of the top of the display.” That sounds bad either way you use it. Having to pack the display, internal chips, ports, hinge, and more into one body leads to strange choices just like that.

1. Wearable Computers Are The Future

The Vision Pro is awkward now, but it has a promising future.

Photograph by James Pero

After the launch of the Vision Pro earlier this year, I’m not sure how much more clear it could be that Apple is focused on what happens after traditional, physical laptop and tablet hardware. It’s highly likely we’ve got several more decades together with traditional laptop and desktop computers — the Macintosh is going on 40 years! But I think the success of the iPhone proved to Apple that mobile devices, and the types of computing that come after them, like wearables and augmented reality, are where things are headed.

A foldable laptop, even if you design your way out of the hardware setbacks, software glitches, and high price, still feels like a cul-de-sac rather than a through street. It feels more likely that we’ll get an iPad that works more like a MacBook, or a Vision headset that can credibly replace an iPad (and costs closer to one too) before Apple invests heavily in folding screens. As someone genuinely curious about the possibilities of foldable, I’d love to be proven wrong, but a foldable MacBook just doesn’t make sense. And if that ever changes, Apple might have moved on to something even better by then.

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