Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola all pioneered the category of foldable phones, pushing out expensive prototypes bordering on unfinished tech demos to eager consumers. But with the arrival of the superb Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, Samsung changed the conversation around foldable phones, proving they can offer a premium experience that slab-shaped phones can't.
Now, we're hoping Google gives Samsung a run for its money with its own foldable phones. Throughout 2021, we've seen a series of leaks about a hypothetical Pixel Fold that would launch alongside the highly-anticipated Pixel 6. Unfortunately, the Pixel Launch Event came and went without a Pixel Fold announcement. We now have to assume this phone won't arrive until 2022.
Despite the delay, the Android developers are allegedly hard at work on a new operating system update focused on foldables: Android 12.1. Once that arrives, Google will be primed to release the Pixel Fold with a better software experience.
What will the Pixel Fold look like, when will it arrive, and could it have more than one design? We'll answer all your questions with all the leaked info we could scrounge up. But based on what we've heard, we're confident it will join the ranks of the best foldable phones; as for whether it'll compete with the Z Fold 3, we'll have to wait to learn more.
Google Pixel Fold Release date and models
Google may have two foldable phones in the pipeline. One is the actual Google Pixel Fold that has been the subject of multiple leaks. The other is more of a mystery.
Multiple tipsters have confirmed the existence of foldable phones from Google. The most recent leak comes from Evan Blass, who tweeted that a "foldable Pixel -- codename: Passport, retail branding: unknown -- will indeed launch before the end of the year." Reportedly, Google engineers have spent two years making it, giving it twice the TLC that most phones get.
Codename Passport has a hypothetical late 2021 release date; but given the lack of a Pixel Fold announcement, Blass's source might be bogus or based on old information.
Nevertheless, we first saw the "passport" codename in August 2020 from a leaked internal Android document, which referenced the Pixel 5a, 6, 6 Pro, and foldable Pixel as 2021 releases. Since then, we learned that Samsung would ship Ultra-Thin Glass to Google in the second half of 2021 — the same glass used in the Galaxy Z foldable phones. All signs point to the Pixel Fold being real and in production. But perhaps Google will take more time on the phone than initially thought.
At the same time, Google may have another foldable Pixel phone, codenamed "Jumbojack." A recent report from 9to5Google noted that Android devs had used this mysterious Pixel foldable for a variety of software tests based on the "posture" of the phone, such as "half-opened" or "flipped."
These two codenames evoke a passport opening horizontally and a Jumbo Jack cheeseburger opening vertically, respectively; so in theory, Google could release either or both foldables after the new Android 12.1 software is ready. However, internal documents have only pointed to "Passport" coming out anytime soon.
That could mean Jumbojack won't ship until later in 2022 or 2023, or that it is currently only a prototype without a hard release date. Android devs make software for more than just Pixel phones, and Jumbojack could have been their way of testing software features for sandwich-folding phones like the Z Flip 3.
We don't have any hard info on when the Pixel Fold will launch, now that the rumors about it appearing alongside the Pixel 6 have proven false. As soon as we learn more, we'll update you.
Google Pixel Fold Pricing
No rumors or leaks have touched on Fold pricing, so we'll rely on educated guesswork. Surprising everyone, Google has launched the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro at affordable price points: $599 and $899, respectively. Google might follow this trend and attempt to make the Pixel Fold a reasonably affordable device to undercut the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Still, it's going to be expensive, no denying that.
Most premium foldables fall in the $2,000 range, with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 falling just under that threshold at $1,800. The Pixel Fold is rumored to have a 7.6-inch display using the same display tech as Samsung's foldable. So we wouldn't be surprised if the foldable Pixel costs at that level. The components seem too expensive for Google to price it much cheaper than Samsung did.
Perhaps the Google Tensor chipset will prove more affordable than flagship Snapdragons, making the Pixel Fold more attainable. But we'll have to wait and see.
Google Pixel Fold Availability
Samsung plans to make its Z foldables available in over 100 countries. But Google has always taken a more measured strategy for its phone availability. The Pixel 5 is available in just nine markets — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States — while the Pixel 5a only shipped to the United States and Japan.
It's unlikely that the Pixel Fold will be sold outside of Google's typical markets. So depending on where you're based, you may have to stick with Samsung for your foldable fix.
Google Pixel Fold Design
We've heard very little about the codenamed "Jumbojack" foldable, so we're focusing our design speculations on the "Passport" foldable Pixel due out this year.
Multiple reports have indicated that the primary foldable Pixel will have a 7.6-inch foldable display with Ultra-Thin Glass, using the same display materials as the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Also like that phone, it should have an in-folding design that closes inward. We've generated several photoshopped images that should give you an idea of how the Pixel Fold could look, based on various leaks and patents.
Google patented a foldable design (via Patently Apple) back in 2018 that shows off a clever three-screen design with a hinge and a smaller rectangular display that slides out to increase the footprint of the device. However, most patents don't end up reflected in their company's final designs.
It's not clear whether the foldable Pixel will have a cover display like the Z Fold 3. No leaks we've seen have referenced one, and Google may very well stick to its main 7.6-inch display and leave the back of the phone for the camera module. If that's the case, we wonder whether that will bring the price down a bit.
We'll also have to wait and see whether the Pixel Fold will have a built-in slot for a stylus. Google could design a new, more compact Pixelbook Pen to go with its foldable. If the Pixel foldable doesn't have stylus support, that'll give the Z Fold 3 another edge.
Google Pixel Fold Specs
All signs point to the Google Pixel Fold using Google Tensor as its SoC. People diving into the Android 12 beta source code found references to "Passport", which will use the same hardware as the Pixel 6 lineup.
Google Tensor is a custom silicon platform made by Google and Samsung LSI, and it's confirmed to appear in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It'll have performance on par with current flagship chipsets, and allow Google to support Pixel phones for longer periods of time. In theory, the Pixel Fold could get 5 years of security updates.
Given that the Pixel 6 Pro is rumored to have 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage, we'd expect the Pixel Fold to hit similar numbers for its memory. It could also have similar camera sensors, such as the 50MP main camera sensor and 48MP telephoto camera. But this is all speculation, based on the fact that Google will want its first foldable to stack up with its cheaper Pro flagship in most specs.
DSCC CEO Ross Young, who broke the news that the Pixel Fold would use Samsung Display tech, specified that it would have a 120Hz refresh rate with LTPO tech for variable refresh rates (VRR). A 7.6-inch screen with the fastest refresh rate on any phone is something to get excited about. What we don't know: the screen resolution or what kind of screen protector it'll have.
Google Pixel Fold Software
Android 12 arrived on October 19 alongside the Pixel 6, bringing with it some huge feature updates and a snazzy design language called Material You. But everything in it is tailor-made for standard phone sizes. While Google typically sticks to annual releases, it plans to release Android 12.1 this year with tools focused on foldable phones. Presumably, this software will run the Pixel Fold, though elements of it could come to Samsung's One UI software as well.
XDA Developers got their hands on a preliminary Android 12.1 build, and dove into some of the features. A new dual-pane layout lets you see multiple pages of Settings at once, or see your launcher and notification screen at once. The new taskbar — like the Z Fold 3's sidebar — lets you open your favorite apps with a tap or drag-and-drop them into one half of the display. The split-screen UI received a revamp. And you can tap and hold a notification to drag a particular app into one side of the screen.
We don't know when Android 12.1 will launch. But it'll give the new Pixel foldable proper software tools to take advantage of its tablet-sized display.
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