The “Pixel Fold” is Google’s best chance to make a smartphone that matters

I love Google’s Pixel devices As much as another gadget nerd, but I think we all know they don’t sell like hotcakes. Google commanded just three percent of the North American smartphone market in May 2022, according to market research firm Canalys, and ironically, it’s much easier to find an iPhone or Galaxy S in the wild than a Pixel.

But that hasn’t stopped Google (the Pixel 7 Pro is pretty cool), and now, based on the rising tide of leaks and leaked mockups, the search giant may have found a new opportunity: foldables. Folding phones are still very new, and they may be where Google can fully insert itself into the smartphone conversation (outside of Android) that it hasn’t yet been an active participant in. Here’s how foldables could be good for Google, the company could be good for foldables, and Android tablets could finally win.

The fold may not last forever

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a mold that can be broken and made whole.Ian Carlos Campbell / Reverse

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is as close as a folding glass device will get to a household name, but the choices Samsung has made with hardware so far shouldn’t be considered set in stone. A device from a company like Google has a real chance to make a name for itself by perfecting what Samsung has already done.

Other manufacturers, such as Oppo, have already improved on Samsung’s design by reducing the crease or creating screens with completely different aspect ratios. Based on case mockups shared by YouTube creator Dave2D, it looks like Google may take a similar approach with an overall squatter device (a 5.79-inch external display and a 7.67-inch internal display) with a generous serving of bezels to hide an internal webcam. .

If Google’s design tweaks make the “Pixel Fold” cheaper than Samsung’s $1,799 phone, it might already have a winner on its hands, but I think a smartphone that’s rounder, flatter, and easier to hold in one hand will be the choice. Make the device more accessible. I haven’t used the new Oppo Find N2, but I did use Oppo’s first foldable, and I immediately found it more fun to hold than Samsung’s phone, though it makes more sense to note. Google may have the opportunity to create a foldable form factor specific to North America.

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A rising tide lifts all boats

Android already has foldable-support baked in, but Google could do more.Google

References to a possible Google foldable device first resurfaced in the Android 13 beta released late last year. Google, of course, has also accommodated foldables since before the launch of Samsung’s original Galaxy Fold, making it easier to create Android apps that can switch between different screen sizes on the fly.

With its own skin in the game, Google can make Android a better OS for folding screens, ideally improving the experience for everyone no matter what device they own. The Pixel line, in addition to Google’s attempt to break the Android monopoly and prove it can be a hardware player, is considered an expression of its idealized version of the Android/Google experience. With the Pixel Fold on the market, Google could have even more influence in guiding the folding phone conversation.

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Someone, think of the tablet!

Pixel tablets and Android tablets in general can only stand to benefit from Google Foldable.Google

Or, at least, it could be something that helps Google think about big-screen experiences on Android. On the way to the Pixel tablet, the company has already taken time to update its most popular apps for the big screen, but with a phone that can become a mini-tablet, Google could create a feedback loop of tablet design for developers. . Either you target the Fold and get an app that at least works well on the Pixel Tablet, or you build an app with the Pixel Tablet in mind and get an app that works well on an unfolded Pixel Fold.

In either scenario, there will be more interest in larger screens and more reason to create Android tablet apps, a dramatically underserved space compared to Apple’s iPad. So even if the Pixel Fold doesn’t make Google a smartphone contender, there are still plenty of ways Android could benefit overall.

And if Google announces the device at this year’s Google I/O developer conference as currently expected, we could see the fruits of that labor as early as this fall.


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