The Google Pixel Fold is a contender for the most exciting Android phone of the year. It’s Google’s first foldable.
Late to the party? Maybe. Samsung has been flinging these things out since 2019. But that means Google has been able to sit back and learn what not to do in the world of foldable phones.
The Pixel Fold is a little like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. It has a 5.8-inch slender screen on the outside, a tablet-like 7.6-incher when you open up the hinge.
Should this be the year you take the plunge and realise the world isn’t flat, but foldy? Here are our big takeaways from the Google Pixel Fold. Let’s see if it can get you to take your credit card out...
Available to order, out next month
The Google Pixel Fold was announced at Google’s I/O conference in California. You can order one right now, and these handsets are due to start shipping out “next month”, June 2023.
Buyers in the US get a tasty promo too. Pre-orders come with a free Pixel Watch, Google’s WearOS smartwatch. It is worth $349.99/£339 on its own. A sweet freebie.
That should take some of the sting out of the cost of the Pixel Fold itself.
The Fold starts at £1749, making it even pricier than foldable rivals like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Honor Magic Vs.
It’s the first ever “official” foldable (sort of)
The Google Pixel Fold has something no other foldable has, though. It’s the first of its kind to be made by the same company that produces the software that actually runs on the thing.
We won’t see another until Apple makes a folding phone.
Why does this matter? Foldable phones can only be as useful as Android lets them be. And while Samsung has done a bang-up job of adding foldable features in its own software layer, the very existence of this phone suggests we’re about to see the foldable format really put down roots in Android.
Just as the Pixel phones offer the purest vision of what an Android phone is, the Pixel Fold will tell us what Google thinks foldable are really about, what they are for.
Google is going big on Tabletop mode
All of that jazz is going to start to emerge with Android 14, coming out later this year. However, the first demos of it in action are related to what Google calls Tabletop mode.
This is where you plonk your foldable down on a flat surface and open it up a bit like a laptop.
Google has already demonstrated one one use of this mode, for content creator types. It lets you use the bottom half of the phone as a tripod, keeping your video judder-free without a tripod.
That’s nothing new, of course, but Google also says the YouTube app is set to get an update. Soon it’ll automatically register you’re using this Tabletop mode, and put the video up top, playback controls down below.
You can, of course, also use multi-tasking to put different apps on each half of the screen. But we want to see more of these zero-effort optimisations once the Fold is out and available to buy.
It’s slim and pretty tough
Our first worry with any foldable: are we going to destroy it within a week? Google has put some effort into avoiding that.
The outer screen is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, a top-tier toughened glass. Its inner screen? Much like other foldables, this part is more fragile. It’s a layer of “ultra thin” glass with a plastic layer on top. Don’t remove this, as you might with a factory applied screen protector on a flat phone.
Its hinge is also dead tough, made of steel instead of the aluminium typically seen in phone shells. And with IPX8 water resistance, a bit of rain is no worry. You could even dunk it in water at a depth beyond 1m. But if you’d do that to a phone this pricey, you’re bolder than us.
It’s the thickness we find most eye-catching. The Pixel Fold is just 12mm thick, way thinner than the maximum 15.8mm thickness of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. Could this finally a foldable that doesn’t feel too chunky when closed up?
5x zoom, no clear camera compromise
Foldables often have slightly compromised cameras. Not bad cameras, but just not at the level of their flat siblings. They might miss out on a powerful zoom, for example.
There are no missing pieces in the Google Pixel Fold camera. It has a 5x optical zoom, a quality ultra-wide with lens distortion correction and a big 48MP primary camera.
The hardware isn’t exactly the same as the Google Pixel 7 Pro’s, but we’re going to have to compare the two directly to see which is better. We can’t just call a winner on the specs this time.
Google’s Fold also has, and needs, more cameras that a flat phone too. There’s one on top of the front screen, and one inside, ready for video chats and face unlock. We get five cameras, zero trashy filler ones, plus a laser detection autofocus aid for good measure. This thing is jam-packed with tech, and you get the usual massive array of Google software features including Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser, which lets you straight-up remove objects from your pics.
- Read more: this is our Google Pixel 7a review