Does it matter that the Pixel Fold won't ship with the Tensor G3?
Google might be missing an opportunity to debut its next flagship chip.
It's no secret that the foldable market here in North America is a bit sparse, to say the least. Really, your only options are either the Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy Z Flip 5, as Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 is out of stock from pretty much everywhere. Even then, the Duo 2 is a different type of foldable phone, whereas Google's rumored Pixel Fold is setting its sights to compete with the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Leading up to the rumored announcement at Google I/O 2023, we're continuing to learn more thanks to some pretty impressive leaks. The latest of which, practically revealed everything there is to know about what the Pixel Fold will bring to the market. For the time being, I'm going to focus more on the underlying specs, as opposed to looking at how the form factor might play well in Google's favor.
Tensor G2 performance is good enough
In the latest batch of leaks, it appears as though Google is satisfied with using its Tensor G2 processor, as opposed to introducing an entirely new chipset. Keep in mind, this is the same SoC found in the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, while it's also likely to be powering the rumored Pixel 7a.
If these rumors are to be believed, should Google have used the Pixel Fold to launch its next-generation Tensor chip? The question is a bit more complicated than it might first appear.
Ever since the original Tensor SoC debuted with the Pixel 6 lineup, it was immediately apparent that Google isn't trying to take on Qualcomm or Apple Silicon. Instead, this is designed to harness the power of AI and Machine Learning (ML), while still providing a "good enough" experience in terms of power.
With the Tensor G2, there weren't many improvements made compared to what we've seen from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 powering many of the best Android phones. Again, Google focused on AI and ML improvements in an area where the "Pixel" branding holds quite a bit of water; the cameras.
Google's ability to harness the power of on-device ML and AI in order to improve the cameras is one of the things that Google does best. It's part of the reason why the company used the same 12MP camera across multiple device launches, as the post-processing was where it mattered for many.
This trend has only continued following the inclusion of a 50MP main camera in the Pixel 6 and now the Pixel 7. Instead of opting for a different sensor, Google has improved the various camera software features. This includes introducing things like Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Photo Unblur, and more. Let alone the fact that Night Mode continues to be improved to provide even better photos of the constellations above you.
If these rumors are to be believed, the Pixel Fold will feature a 48MP main, wide-angle camera, a 10.8MP ultrawide lens, and a 10.8MP telephoto sensor. This is almost the exact same setup as is found on the Pixel 7 Pro, giving users flexibility between three different sensors, in addition to the various software improvements.
Where the concerns are
That's not to say that there won't be some who think that Google is making the wrong decision here. For one, the Pixel Fold would be the perfect opportunity to launch and introduce the Tensor G3, provided that it's ready for primetime. There will also be those who might complain that the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro will cost hundreds of dollars less, but will sport a newer chipset than the Fold.
Then there are those that will notice that the Pixel 7, with its $599 retail price, is powered by the same processor as the (rumored) $1799 Pixel Fold. Even the Pixel 7 Pro retails for $900 less than what the Fold is rumored to be released at, regardless of whether Google throws in a Pixel Watch for free or not.
Another potential concern with the Tensor G2 is the ongoing overheating problems that have been plaguing users. It was a problem with the original Tensor chip, and it continues to be a frustration with the Tensor G2.
Presumably, the Tensor G3 would make strides in that department, potentially lowering concerns about your foldable phone overheating. Both the Tensor and Tensor G2 are built on the 5nm process, while the latest chips from the competition have moved onto the 4nm process. In doing so, we're seeing better performance and incredible improvements when it comes to efficiency.
The argument can definitely be made that the Tensor G2 in a Pixel Fold won't suffer from overheating issues. This is simply because it will have more room due to the much larger chassis, giving Google space to improve the overall thermals.
But as pointed out by Michael Hicks, there's still a chance that the Tensor G2 won't be able to handle the dual display setup. Let alone trying to play games or multi-task when using the larger inner display.
It's a foldable phone with Pixel cameras
As someone who is all for more competition, I couldn't be more excited for another foldable phone to become available in the U.S. I also won't be shocked if the excitement wears off as soon as the Galaxy Z Fold 5 debuts sometime later this year.
Google isn't likely to position the Pixel Fold as a direct competitor to Samsung. One UI offers a much more refined software experience, complete with different tweaks to improve how apps look and work on a foldable phone. And that's not to mention Samsung DeX, of which it doesn't seem as though the Pixel Fold will offer a similar desktop-like interface.
Instead, Google is going to lean hard on the camera experience, focusing on the total of five different cameras being built-in. There's a very good chance the Pixel Fold will outperform the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and unless Samsung does something drastic, it could be better than the Fold 5.
I'll leave you with something that our own Jerry Hildenbrand said, summing up the Pixel Fold perfectly:
"Google is gonna come out and say this is a folding phone with the Pixel camera so you should buy it."
And that's just fine with me.
Phone deals: Best Buy | Walmart | Samsung | Amazon | Verizon | AT&T
Get the Android Central Newsletter
Instant access to breaking news, the hottest reviews, great deals and helpful tips.
Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.
This is the current "flagship" Pixel 7 Pro. I call it green lantern model: