During an I/O keynote which featured the phrase ‘AI’ about eleventy seven million times, Google unveiled everything developers and consumers can expect to see and use over the next 12 months.
It was a little overwhelming but exciting. And, joking apart, AI was absolutely the cornerstone for every announcement – including some new Pixel devices. These included the budget Pixel 7a, a brand-new Pixel Tablet, and another debutant – the Pixel Fold.
Following in Samsung, OPPO, and Motorola’s footsteps, Google is the latest in an increasingly long line of Android device manufacturers to beat Apple to the folding post.
Not that Tim cares, obviously, but it’s fun to consider how this might play within the rounded walls of Apple Park.
Pixel Fold specs
Starting at £1,749 the Pixel Fold is as typically astronomically expensive as we’ve come to expect in folding device land.
Having used a Samsung Z Fold4 as my main Android device for three months, I was immediately struck by how expansive the Pixel Fold remains when folded. It measures 3.1 inches across and 5.5 inches tall, so it is indeed wider than the Z Fold4, but a fair bit shorter.
The result is what looks like a far more usable front display and an equally voluminous internal display, which measures 7.6 inches diagonally. Owners get to choose from two typically utilitarian yet pleasant colours (porcelain and obsidian) and the device looks ostensibly like a slightly chunkier Pixel 7 Pro.
The Pixel Fold should be a decent performer thanks to the inclusion of Google’s Tensor G2 chip, which does a marvellous job of powering the brilliant Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. There are up to 72 hours of battery life available (with Extreme Battery Saver enabled), 12GB of RAM, fingerprint unlocking, and a camera system which is, basically, the same one you’ll find on the Pixel 7 Pro. Oh, and bravo to Google for having the good sense to make use of the main camera system as a ‘selfie cam’ when the device is unfolded.
The dreaded crease was evident during the keynote demo of the Pixel Fold, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise – we’re still a long way off a completely flat foldable display on a consumer-ready smartphone.
As is always the case with Pixel hardware, while the Pixel Fold looks rather handsome and is no doubt as well built as claimed by the big ‘G’, it is Android that sits at the heart of the experience. That’s why the bulk of the demo was taken up with glimpses of a more tablet-like multitasking interface and feature set.
I can’t wait to get my hands on the Pixel Fold – particularly considering the amount of chest-beating undertaken by Google yesterday.
The best foldable everything
The Pixel Fold features, apparently, the most durable hinge of any foldable. It also, allegedly, has the best camera system on any folding smartphone. It’s the thinnest foldable on the market, too, and the only one that offers the complete, unhindered, and completely un-Samsung’d Android experience.
I don’t have time to look at the reports and research cited by Google for these claims, but we’ll let them have it for now – it’s their time, after all, until the curtains drop on WWDC next month.
What is clear is that Google has focused smartly on creating a folding smartphone that is still a proper smartphone when folded. The Z Fold4 fails miserably at this task, thanks to a front display which is too narrow to be of use beyond anything but a scroll through your Twitter timeline.
The fact that the Pixel Fold is essentially a smartphone with a 5.8-inch display before you dive into that huge inner display is a testament to, I’d guess, plenty of consumer research. All of it needs to be usable, you see, Samsung.
But it’s Google’s decision to jump into this market now which I find so fascinating. The Pixel line has, until now, been almost Apple-like in its tempered approach to iteration and development. Each year, we’re treated to a slightly better version with essentially the same camera and a significantly improved version of Android. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we have a foldable Pixel, despite it costing a small fortune, and the tech, arguably, still being rather nascent.
Google’s reasoning for this seems to be laced with their desire to make a more meaningful dent in the tablet market. The Pixel Fold is joined by the Pixel Tablet, which is Google’s first in-house iPad competitor, complete with a very cool (and free) charging speaker dock. As a result, the Pixel lineup suddenly looks far more interesting, diverse, and focused than Apple’s confusing roster of iPhones and iPads.
Shop with Google, and you choose either a budget, mid-range, or flagship smartphone, and throw in a tablet for your large display needs. Don’t want two devices? Just pick up the Pixel Fold. That’s an admirably simple customer journey.
Final thought: would Apple do any of this?
I’ve talked about this a fair bit already, therefore I won’t labour the point here. Apple will not launch a folding iPhone (or iPad) until the tech is damn near perfect. That means no visible crease, a folding guarantee that sits within the tens of millions, and the ability to price it not too far north of the current flagship iPhone.
That reality is some way in the distance.
What’s far more interesting is what we’ll see at WWDC. You can bet your bottom dollar that AI will make almost as many appearances as it did during Google I/O, but without new hardware to tie it to (unless the VR headset actually makes an appearance) how exciting will Apple’s announcements be?
This is why I love covering tech. What a ride we’re in for over the next few months!
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