Apple CEO, Tim Cook waves as he opens the door of the newly renovated Apple Store at Fifth Avenue on September 20, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

KENA BETANCUR | AFP | Getty Images

A top Apple analyst predicted in a note to clients Monday that the company will likely launch a foldable iPhone in 2023.

TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that, based on an industry survey, he believes the foldable iPhone will reach 15 to 20 million units in 2023. The new model will likely have an 8-inch foldable OLED display, according to Kuo. That means it might work like iPhone that can open up to a tablet with a screen slightly larger than the 7.9-inch display on an iPad mini.

The foldable model is now a “must-have” for major smartphone brands, according to Kuo.

“After 5G, the foldable smartphone is the next innovative selling point of high-end models,” he wrote.

Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi have each introduced models, though the price points still make them relatively inaccessible to most consumers. There are some hurdles Apple may need to overcome. All of Apple’s iPads, for example, support drawing input with an Apple Pencil. But most foldable phones don’t yet support pen input since they’re relatively fragile compared to traditional phone screens.

Kuo said Apple is poised to lead the foldable device trend, which he said “will blur the product segmentations between smartphones, tablets, and laptops.”

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