Google’s first folding device, the Pixel Fold, has finally been unveiled. It was unveiled today Wednesday, May 10th at the Google I/O 2023. The new device is set to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4. Preorders for the $1,799 Fold open today and will begin shipping to customers in June.
Despite being Google’s first try at a folding phone, there are many positive aspects to this device. The Pixel Fold is quite wonderful as a general gadget or product that you hold and handle in your hands – the hinge is firm but not bulky, the screens look fantastic, and it feels like the costly object that it is. It seems to run Google’s software and apps effectively, and it’s likely that any upcoming Android capabilities for folding phones will be developed with the Pixel Fold in mind.
Google has seen much of its success with the low-end Pixel series of phones and with their cameras. Although Google entered the phone market much longer than others, it is still early enough to make a significant impact, particularly given that it continues to control the Android platform.
This kind of device design allows a lot of freedom. It’s pretty convenient to be able to switch between a phone that fits comfortably in one hand and one that offers a large screen for reading, using apps, or watching videos. Once you’ve used a folding gadget of this kind, it’s simple to understand that someday all phones will be like this. While still being as portable as your current phone, it is capable of replacing a number of the devices in your life.
Both of the screens on the Pixel Fold are OLED panels with 120Hz refresh rates, while the inner screen is protected by ultrathin glass (plus a screen protector that was preinstalled and isn’t really designed to be removed). Both of the screens should be pretty useful outside because the 1080 x 2092 pixel outside screen can reach up to 1550 nits of brightness and the 2208 x 1840 pixel interior display can reach up to 1450 nits.
The Pixel Fold has the same Tensor 2 CPU and 12GB of RAM as the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, as well as the Pixel 7A and Pixel Tablet, which were also unveiled today. You can choose between 256GB and 512GB of storage, but there is no way to add more later.
The Pixel Fold’s about 4,800mAh battery system, which is divided into two cells, one in each half, is said to provide “beyond 24 hours” of battery life, according to Google. The Pixel Fold can be wirelessly charged using a conventional Qi charger or fast-charged at a rate of up to 30W. Unfortunately, the smartphone does not come with either charger.
The Pixel Fold has a total of five cameras. In addition, there are three cameras in the back: a 48-megapixel optically stabilized main camera, a 10.8-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 10.8-megapixel 5x telephoto lens. There are two 8.3-megapixel cameras: one on the outside for selfies and another above the internal display for video chats. Google was unable to put the larger sensors of the 7 Pro in the Fold’s thin body, thus the camera’s features and capabilities are different from those found on the Pixel 7 Pro.
The Pixel Fold cannot be considered without reference to the Samsung Z Fold 4. Although the two devices are largely extremely similar, Google deviated from Samsung on a number of fronts. The outside screen is shorter and wider than the oddly tall and thin Z Fold 4 screen, which is the most visible difference between the two screens in terms of aspect ratio. Because of this, the Pixel Fold operates and feels more like a typical smartphone when it is closed. This makes it easier to type on and prevents odd stretching or compression of apps.
Like Samsung’s folding phones, the Pixel Fold has a hinge that can fold entirely flat, so there is no space between the screens when it is closed. When the Pixel Fold is opened, there is a noticeable crease, but it isn’t something that would likely obstruct usability – in the limited time I spent with the device before today’s presentation, I only noticed it when I was explicitly looking for it. The hinge is made of stainless steel, and Google says it’s rated for up to 200,000 opens and closes.
In addition to folding fully flat, the Pixel Fold is very thin; the Google execs who showed it to me said that each half is “about 2/3s the thickness” of a Pixel 7 Pro. That is actually less than six millimetres thick, making it significantly slimmer than the Galaxy Z Fold. The Pixel Fold is around 12mm thick when closed, which is thicker than the average phone today but not by much enough to prevent it from fitting in most pockets or feeling awkward. A closed Z Fold 4 is almost 16mm thick in contrast.
Unsurprisingly, Google and Samsung differ from one another in terms of software and feature count. Both stylus input and output to an external display are supported by the Galaxy Fold 4, however, neither is offered by the Pixel Fold. The Pixel Fold can only multitask with two side-by-side apps.
Due to its relative tardiness in releasing the Pixel Fold, Google has the advantage of being able to learn from Samsung’s mistakes and hopefully avoid making the same ones. However, we won’t truly understand how the Pixel Fold will perform in terms of things like durability and compatibility with third-party apps until actual users have had a chance to use it for several months.