Google I/O ignored the Pixel Fold, but don't lose hope
Like the Pixel Watch, the oft-delayed Fold just needs more time to marinate before it's ready for the public eye.
After 90 minutes of the usual I/O rambling about new Google app tools and its quest to build a sentient Google Assistant, Google ended its keynote presentation with a roadmap of all the major hardware coming out in the next year: the Pixel 6a and Pixel Buds Pro this summer, Pixel 7, 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch this fall, and Pixel Tablet in 2023.
We knew from leakers that most of these were coming, though it surprised everyone that Google would tease tech that won't arrive until late 2022 or 2023. But given Google let so many cats out of its leaky bag, we found it interesting that Google left one feline stuffed inside the sack: its foldable phone, rumored to be called the Pixel Fold or Pixel Notepad.
Leakers swore last year the Pixel Fold would ship alongside the Pixel 6, only for Google to (allegedly) delay it. Then, DSCC CEO Ross Young claimed in February that Google would begin factory production in Q3 2022 and launch it in Q4, which would coincide with the Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch launch this fall. Plus, a Google Camera APK deep-dive found references to "isPixel2022Foldable" in the code, which leaves little ambiguity.
Only, if all that were true, you'd think Google would have shown off a brief glimpse of it at I/O with the rest of its 2022 hardware. So does this mean the Pixel foldable is a pipe dream cooked up by leakers, or has been canceled? Not if Google has anything to say about it.
An Android Central source with insider knowledge told us, in no uncertain terms, that the company plans to release the Pixel Fold (or Notepad or Logbook or whatever it's eventually called) in 2023. While the leakers may be wrong about the 2022 launch timing, they certainly didn't fabricate the evidence that Google is hard at work on foldable tech.
Of course, Google SVP Rick Osterloh specifically said during the keynote that "we typically don't announce a product a year before it's ready," but that it would announce the 2023 Pixel Tablet anyway due to "amazing energy around tablets in the developer community."
Is there not enough dev hype around foldables for Google to give a sneak peek of its 2023 Fold? Absolutely not! But behind the scenes, Google probably felt it had to show its Tablet off.
Google has made a lot of noise about Android tablets being the "future of computing" this year, but not everyone took them seriously because it all but abandoned them for years. Google unveiled its tablet ahead of schedule to broadcast that it was walking the walk, so Android devs will buy in and start optimizing their apps for larger screens.
People have reason to doubt Android tablets, but not Android foldables. The excellent Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 showcased how to do folding phones right, and other international brands like Huawei, OPPO, and Xiaomi all have released excellent foldables of their own.
Google doesn't need to hype its Fold this early to get devs invested, because foldables use very similar software tricks as tablets. And frankly, showing off an unfinished prototype too soon will only set the foldable up for unfair comparisons in the interim.
Samsung released several uber-expensive, imperfect foldable phones before it nailed it with the third generation. And the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 this year will only perfect its formula. Starting years behind the competition, Google will need to nail the foldable design on the first go, or else Android power users will shrug and stick with Samsung.
Why didn't Google unveil the Pixel Fold at Google I/O 2022? It could be for all manner of legitimate reasons.
Google has apparently tweaked the Fold design several times, and may not have a set final design to show off yet. Maybe it looks too similar to the Z Fold 4, and Google worries it will be upstaged by Samsung during the long wait. Or perhaps Google doesn't want to hurt Pixel 7 Pro sales by tantalizing its loyal users with a more powerful foldable down the road.
My personal guess is that the Pixel Fold will arrive in late 2023 — unlike the Pixel Tablet — meaning it just makes logistical sense to show it off at I/O 2023 in the spring.
I know many of you have probably been burned one too many times by assurances that the Pixel Fold is "coming this year," only for the leakers and the sites covering them to backtrack later. And I don't blame you for that.
But perhaps you can take heart in the fact that after years of leaks and delays, when we'd all started to doubt the Pixel Watch would ever ship, it randomly showed up in a Chicago restaurant, only for Google to announce it a few weeks later.
Google is slower than other brands at pushing out hardware, and frequently procrastinates on its deadlines, but it gets there in the end.
So if you're excited for a Google foldable, just be patient a while longer, and keep a weather eye out in bars and restaurants next year; maybe another Google engineer will get sloppy and leave a Fold for you to find!
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Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.