A leaked internal Android document spied by 9to5Google suggests Google’s 2021 phone line up will consist of the Pixel 5a, a foldable Pixel device and another two in-house gadgets.
Given Pixel phones suffixed with an ‘a’ tend to follow the main flagship Pixel phones, it’s no surprise that Google will follow up the Pixel 5 - expected to be revealed around October time - with a Pixel 5a next year. This will likely take the best bits of the fifth-generation Pixel phone and put them in an affordable handset. But the other three devices are more intriguing.
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Two of the devices mentioned in the document are reportedly codenamed “raven” and “oriole”. These are likely codenames for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL, given they are referenced in an Android document.
There’s an outside chance they could be referring to an Android Pixel tablet or a new version of the PixelBook, given that the current model can run Android apps. But the most likely prediction is they are codenames for the sixth iteration of Pixel phones.
The most interesting part of the document is a device codenamed “passport”, which is referred to as a ‘“foldable”. This could be the so-called Pixel Fold foldable phone that we’ve heard hints at before.
With the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 having just been revealed, showcasing a foldable phone that looks truly compelling, there’s certainly scope for Google to create a foldable Pixel to challenge Samsung's second-generation foldable phone. And it could approach it from two different angles.
The Pixel Fold could be a truly foldable phone with a flexible display that folds around a clever hinge mechanism, like the Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X. Such a device could set the template for what’s expected from a pure-Android foldable phone. And it would likely see Google work more on making Android suitable for devices with foldable and dual-screens.
Speaking of which, the Pixel Fold could eschew a flexible display and instead create a dual-screen smartphone in the same vein as the Microsoft Surface Duo. Such a device would not only pave the way for more dual-screen Android apps, but could also introduce a Google app and service-centric device that tries to mix the pocketable form-factor of a phone with the screen real-estate of a tablet that can be oriented into a form of a clamshell laptop.
If you’ll indulge a little fanciful thinking, we’d like to see a such a Pixel Fold device run traditional Android when in a phone mode. But then switch to a modified version of Chrome OS when in its tablet form to enable more productivity.
With the Pixel 4a only just revealed and the Pixel 5 being prepped for a fall reveal, there are a few steps Google has to take before we can expect to hear any real murmurings about a Pixel Fold. But a foldable phone built around a version of Android optimized by Google for dual-screen devices is certainly an intriguing prospect.