Pixel Fold First Look: Google’s $1,799 Foldable Takes On Samsung



For the final 4 years, Samsung has paved the best way for what the subsequent iteration of the smartphone could seem like. Now, Google is right here to problem that. Through the Google I/O keynote Wednesday, the search large introduced its first foldable cellphone, referred to as the Pixel Fold, which is able to launch this summer season at a hefty $1,799 (£1,749) value. 

The most recent addition to Google’s product lineup was unveiled alongside a extra reasonably priced model of the corporate’s flagship, the Pixel 7A,  an up to date Pixel Pill and new options in Android 14.

Google’s determination to launch a foldable cellphone might be seen as one other sign that the present model of the smartphone is in want of a refresh. Samsung launched its first foldable cellphone practically 4 years in the past, and since then nearly each main smartphone maker has adopted go well with. 

Google was one of many main holdouts, however that is altering. Brian Rakowski, vice chairman of product administration at Google, says now could be the appropriate time to launch a foldable as a result of the key issues that plagued early foldables have largely been solved, reminiscent of software program optimization and getting the design proper.

“It is inherently a costlier gadget,” Rakowski stated. “So we felt like if individuals have been going to purchase a top-of-the-line gadget, we needed every part to work properly.”

Learn extra: Apple, The place’s Your iPhone Fold?

I’ve solely spent a couple of minutes with the Pixel Fold, however I can already inform Google has some promising concepts. Google’s imaginative and prescient for foldable telephones is all about multitasking and productiveness, very similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Like Samsung’s cellphone, Google’s gadget is a book-style foldable that transforms from a cellphone when closed right into a pill when opened. Google nonetheless faces loads of the identical bodily challenges we have seen previously throughout the trade, reminiscent of reducing the gadget’s general thickness when closed and eliminating the crease. However the Pixel Fold has just a few benefits relating to design and software program.

The query is whether or not the Pixel Fold might be compelling sufficient to offer the still-nascent foldable cellphone market a lift. Foldable telephones accounted for just one.2% of the worldwide smartphone market share in 2022, in keeping with Worldwide Information Company. Despite the fact that the market is comparatively new, Google faces severe competitors from Samsung. 

The South Korean tech large leads the foldable cellphone area with 62% of the market as of the primary half of 2022, in keeping with Counterpoint Analysis, which additionally reviews that Samsung is probably the most most well-liked model for foldable telephones. Google definitely has its work reduce out for it. 


Watch this: Pixel Fold Arms-On: A First Have a look at Google’s First Foldable

Pixel Fold’s cowl display is greater than the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s

Google Pixel Fold folding phone

The Pixel Fold’s cowl display.

John Kim/CNET

With the Pixel Fold, Google hopes to handle one of many greatest considerations I’ve had in regards to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Samsung’s foldable can generally really feel awkward to make use of as an everyday cellphone when closed due to its thickness and the form of its cowl display, which is noticeably narrower than the display of an everyday cellphone. 

Google made a few enhancements on each fronts. The cellphone’s 5.8-inch outer show is considerably wider than the Galaxy Z Fold’s, which ought to make utilizing apps and navigating the cellphone’s interface really feel extra pure. It seems extra just like the Oppo Discover N2 than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, simply as leaks had indicated. 

The Pixel Fold can also be thinner than the Galaxy Z Fold 4 when opened, though it nonetheless feels chunkier than your common cellphone when closed. However the Pixel Fold closes fully when shut, with no hole close to the hinge, leading to a sleeker really feel in contrast with the Z Fold when it is folded. 

Nonetheless, when opening the Pixel Fold, I observed that the bezels framing the 7.6-inch internal display are thicker than these discovered on the Galaxy Z Fold 4. And sure, the crease is noticeable, though it is roughly the identical because the Z Fold 4’s. 

Google Pixel Fold folding phone

The Pixel Fold’s hinge.

John Kim/CNET

In the case of {hardware}, the Pixel Fold has nearly every part you’ll count on from a high-end cellphone. Like the remainder of Google’s present Pixel cellphone lineup, the Pixel Fold runs on the corporate’s Tensor G2 processor. The cellphone additionally has a triple-lens digital camera system with a 48-megapixel principal digital camera, together with a ten.8-megapixel telephoto lens with a 5x optical zoom and a 20x digital zoom. There’s additionally a ten.8-megapixel ultrawide digital camera. 

You may be questioning why a cellphone as costly because the Pixel Fold would not have a digital camera that is as superior because the Pixel 7 Professional. That cellphone has the next decision 50-megapixel principal sensor with bigger pixels, a 12-megapixel ultrawide digital camera and a 48-megapixel telephoto digital camera that zooms 5x optically and 30x digitally.

Google needed to make some compromises to squeeze the digital camera sensors into the gadget, in keeping with Rakowski, noting that the gadget is lower than six millimeters thick when opened.

“That is two-thirds the thickness of the 7 Professional,” he stated. “So it was a reasonably large engineering problem to get all of it in there.”

Google has some promising software program concepts for the Pixel Fold

Google Pixel Fold folding phone

The Pixel Fold turns right into a pill when opened.

John Kim/CNET

Whereas the Pixel Fold’s twin show stands out as the cellphone’s headlining function, these screens do not imply a lot with out the appropriate software program to reap the benefits of them. Based mostly on what I’ve seen thus far, Google has a few attention-grabbing concepts for the best way to put the Fold’s screens to make use of.

For instance, Google is considering how the entrance and inside screens can work collectively for duties like language translation. Google demonstrated how this might work with Google Translate. With the cellphone opened, maintain up the gadget in order that the quilt display is dealing with the particular person you are talking to, whereas the internal display is dealing with you. If you ask Google Translate to translate a phrase or query, the outcomes are displayed on the quilt display in order that the international language speaker can see your translated speech. That particular person’s response, in the meantime, is translated and displayed on the internal display dealing with you. 

Whereas it could be a distinct segment situation, it is a robust instance of a use case for foldables that would not be attainable on an everyday cellphone with a single display. One other method Google places these two screens to make use of is within the digital camera. When utilizing the primary rear digital camera to take a selfie with the cellphone opened, the quilt display turns into a viewfinder. 

In any other case, the Pixel Fold has lots of the multitasking options we have seen on different tablets and foldables just like the Galaxy Z Fold. That features split-screen apps, a horizontal job bar, drag-and-drop help when utilizing apps alongside each other, and the power to divide apps between the highest and backside parts of the display when the gadget is folded midway. Google calls this “tabletop mode,” and it is basically the corporate’s model of Samsung’s “flex mode.”

Google additionally says that its high 50 apps have been optimized for the Pixel Fold. Consider, that is in reference to Google’s personal apps, not the highest 50 apps within the Google Play Retailer. 

Google Pixel Fold: Early ideas

Google Pixel Fold folding phone

The Pixel Fold will are available two colours.

John Kim/CNET

Whereas the Pixel Fold appears promising, its excessive value will doubtless make it a troublesome promote for most individuals. Given how aggressive Google has been by way of pricing with its common Pixel telephones, I had hoped it might take an analogous strategy.

However since foldables are bigger and extra complicated gadgets with extra parts, getting the worth down is a problem, Rakowski stated. He believes costs may come down sooner or later because the manufacturing course of improves.

“It is this very comparable story to what occurred with smartphones,” he stated. “As you begin to discover methods to optimize and mass produce and get higher yields, the price of a few of these parts comes down over time.”

Nonetheless, it is thrilling to see extra selection relating to foldable telephones — and extra competitors for Samsung. As extra individuals use the Pixel Fold, Google will doubtless brainstorm new software program options for it, because it’s finished with its normal Pixel telephones. That is extra thrilling to me than simply new {hardware} alone. 

I am wanting ahead to seeing what kinds of new use circumstances Google could provide you with for the Pixel Fold’s bendable display, which I hope will arrive by Google’s commonly scheduled function drops. And it is not simply in regards to the Pixel’s future; Google’s strikes may give Samsung extra motivation to increase the capabilities of its personal foldables, hopefully resulting in extra innovation (and decrease costs) for foldables usually.