The much-rumored Google Pixel Fold, which would be the search giant's first foldable phone, has been tipped to arrive this year. But since the Pixel Fold didn't appear at the Pixel 6 event on Oct. 19, it could be a while before we see this foldable.
Apart from the fact that foldable phones are a growing segment as phone makers try their hands at new designs, there's not a lot of details out there about the Google Pixel Fold. Still, one source claims that the Pixel Fold will feature a huge 7.6-inch display.
- Best foldable phones: Here’s the Pixel Fold’s competition
- What’s Apple working on? Latest iPhone Flip leaks
- Plus: Galaxy Z Fold 3 is great — but I’m holding out for Pixel Fold
Otherwise, we're left with questions: What features will a Pixel Fold offer? And will the Google Pixel Fold interest smartphone shoppers, who've yet to really embrace the few foldables that are out there?
Here's what we've heard so far about Google's plans for a foldable phone.
Google Pixel Fold latest news (Updated October 19)
- We chew over what the Pixel Fold could do to challenge the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, if it's revealed in the near future.
- Long-time leaker Evan Blass has cited a trusted source, claiming that the Pixel Fold will indeed launch this year. That places further doubt on rumors of a possible delay.
- Google has a blog post showcasing how its apps work on foldable phones. While the page touts Samsung's foldable phones, the apps would work just as well on a Pixel Fold.
Google Pixel Fold rumored release date
Rumors around the Google Pixel Fold release date have been bubbling away. However, with the Pixel 6 a no-show at the Google Pixel 6 event, we're now left wondering if 2021 is still in the cards for this device.
David Naranjo, senior director at Display Supply Chain Consultants, suggests that a 2021 Pixel Fold launch is on the cards. Long-time leaker Evan Blass also claims the Pixel Fold will launch this year, citing a trusted source. However, Blass didn't offer any more specifics, beyond the fact Google has been working on the phone fort a good two years already.
The jury is out on things, but a Google advert on YouTube promoting the way Google apps work with Samsung's latest foldable phones, is arguably a hint that Google could be gearing up to showcase the Pixel Fold. the ad touts how "a world of new possibilities unfolds," which is a big hint that Google won't be ignoring foldable phones as they grow out of their niche.
Google Pixel Fold price
While everyone seems to be pinpointing a late 2021 launch for the Pixel Fold, there's less certainty on how much the device would cost. In fact, we've heard next to no chatter about a potential Pixel Fold price.
That leaves us to look at what other phone makers are charging for their foldables to get a sense of the direction Google might go in. Right now, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the most expensive foldable you can get, costing $1,799. Flip phones like the new Galaxy Z Flip 3 or Motorola Razr 5G are a little more affordable at $999 and $1,399, respectively — affordable being a relative term in this case.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 costs $200 less than its predecessor, so Google will certainly want to be on par or below Samsung's latest offerings.
Google Pixel Fold design
Any details about Google's design plans for the Pixel Fold largely come from multiple patent filings the company has made for foldable devices. One such patent shows a device that opens on a hinge to reveal a larger screen, with the ability to slide out an additional display for added screen real estate. Another patent intriguingly teases a foldable that could fold in three places.
We don't know if these designs are anywhere close to reality — that's the drawback to relying on patents, which may cover products that never see the light of day. However, from the designs being teased in these filings, it seems that whatever Google has in the works has more in common with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the way the smartphone-sized device unfolds to reveal a larger display.
Adding fuel to that speculation is a report that Google has struck a deal with Samsung to get its hands on foldable OLED panels. (Samsung's a leading display maker and actually supplies the screens found on many phone built by its rivals, including Apple.) The original report claims that Google has ordered 7.6-inch panels, which just happens to be the size of the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3's internal display.
Another report from The Elec backs up the claim that the Google Pixel Fold will feature a 7.6-inch display.
In addition, Samsung will reportedly supply Google with its ultra thin glass layer, which has been a crucial component in making Samsung's own foldables more durable. The display will supposedly also use LTPO technology, meaning that it can scale up to 120Hz.
Designer Waqar Khan has floated several different concept designs for the Pixel Fold, with the latest Pixel Fold design drawing on both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Pixel 6 for inspiration. Khan's concept design features an external display that opens up to reveal the larger screen, just like the fold. Meanwhile, the camera array on the back of the phone stretches horizontally — a design Google has confirmed it's using for the Pixel 6.
Google Pixel Fold specs and cameras
If we know very little about what the Pixel Fold might look like, we have even less idea about the foldable phone's specs. However, given the fact that past Pixel devices have been mainstays among the best camera phones, we'd expect the Pixel Fold to follow suit and put an emphasis on cameras.
That doesn't necessarily mean a lot of lenses on the Pixel Fold. Google has traditionally shied away from adding multiple cameras — the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G only feature a main lens and an ultrawide shooter along with a front-facing camera. Depending on the Pixel Fold's design, Google could add more cameras, but the company seems to favor a less-is-more approach, instead choosing to focus on offering the best post-processing software for producing better photos.
As for the processor powering the Pixel Fold, Google has a number of different options it could use. Current foldables rely on some of the most powerful processors available — the Galaxy Z Fold 2 uses a Snapdragon 865 Plus, which was Qualcomm's best chipset at the time it released. But more powerful mobile processing platforms can drive up the cost of a phone, so you'd expect a Pixel Fold with a Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip to be on the expensive side.
In its recent flagship, Google opted for more modest processors, turning to a Snapdragon 765G for the Pixel 5. The company could go a similar route with the Pixel Fold, opting for something with less oomph than the Snapdragon 888. Of course, that can backfire — one of the biggest complaints about the original Motorola Razr was the fact that it used a Snapdragon 710 instead of a beefier chipset.
The latest rumors about the Pixel Fold suggest it could use Google's new Tensor chipset, which is the same silicon that the forthcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will run on. This makes sense for several reasons, and if true it would give the Fold advantages including enhanced AI and machine learning.
Google Pixel Fold software
Google's not exactly a stranger when it comes to foldable devices, even though the Pixel Fold would be the first one it's built on its own. The company has worked closely with Samsung to optimize its own apps for foldable screens.
One of the many features introduced in Android 11 is better support for foldable devices, allowing app makers to adjust how their software performs depending on the position of a phone's hinge. (We've seen an aspect of this with Flex Mode on Samsung's foldable phones, where the screen is split between a viewing area and a control area for everything from video chat to taking photos.)
The ability to build more foldable-friendly features into Android and then optimize them on a Google-built phone probably explains Google's interest in developing a Pixel Fold. So we imagine that as more info comes out about both the phone and Android 12, we'll hear a lot about potential software features aimed at multitasking and making the most of the unique design of foldable devices. That said, talk of foldable phone features in Android 12 was missing from Google's preview of that OS update at its May developer conference.
Google Pixel Fold outlook
We're still waiting for more information about what Google's cooking up with the Pixel Fold. But that's not stopping us from already coming up with a wishlist of capabilities we'd like to see. Our biggest needs skew toward the software side — no one's better positioned than Google to develop software features ideally suited for folding screens, and we're especially intrigued to see if the Pixel Fold's form factor opens up new possibilities for photography.
Finding the proper balance between performance and price will be key for Google. No one's going to want an underpowered phone — foldable screen or not — but few people have been willing to pay up for a foldable device thus far. Perhaps Google can find the right mix to make devices like the rumored Pixel Fold more mainstream. We could know as soon as mid-October if Google can deliver on that front.