Pixel Fold: Google’s anti-Galaxy Fold foldable hasn’t learned much from Samsung’s mistakes
The global takeover of folding phones is taking much longer than expected.
Surprise, surprise but it turns out Samsung isn’t enough, and despite Huawei’s jaw-dropping Mate X3, the global market is still awaiting the Galaxy Fold’s first major competitor. Correction: Was awaiting the Galaxy Fold’s first major competitor.After a long wait and months of leaks and rumors, the Pixel Fold has now been announced, ready to take on the very important mission to give Samsung a tough time, and push the industry forward. The Pixel Fold should be on the shelves in the second half of June, or about a month earlier than we expect to see the new Galaxy Z Fold 5.
“The best camera, most durable hinge, and the thinnest foldable (in markets outside of China)” – Google’s claims of record-breaking achievements might lead you to believe the company just did what Samsung failed to achieve in the past four years, and that we can finally crown the best folding phone without any hesitation. However, I beg to differ…
The Pixel Fold might be the first Google flagship since the Pixel 6, which doesn’t seem to stand out with the same incredible value offered by Google’s phones released in the past two years. Quite the opposite, the Pixel Fold is shaping up as the hardest Google phone to recommend. Why?
- It doesn’t undercut similar phones, costing a whopping $1,800 (it costs as much as four Pixel 7a phones on sale)
- It doesn’t seem to offer any standout features to justify this ludicrous price tag – if you’ll be making a super-expensive phone, better make it the best, Google?
Where’s the value, Google?
Google’s folding phone is anti-Samsung but anti-Google too: Unlike Pixel 7 flagships that give you the best value on Android, Pixel Fold is expensive, yet less impressive than competing folding phones
The Pixel Fold is noticeably heavier than the (already heavy) Galaxy Z Fold 4 but it’s also noticeably thinner.
With great prices comes great responsibility, and without wasting too much time, I’ll let out the hot question I’ve asked myself since the launch of Google’s first folding phone… Why does the Pixel Fold exist in the first place? Bear in mind, that’s not me saying it shouldn’t exist. I’m looking for Google’s objective here.
In my view, the two folding phones that stand out (and are released globally) right now are called the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Huawei Mate X3. Samsung’s latest folding phone is important for obvious reasons (it’s the most popular one), while Huawei’s Mate X3 single-handedly pushes the industry forward with unmatched design but lack of native Google support for self-explanatory reasons.
Meanwhile, what does the Pixel Fold, which (don’t forget) costs a whopping $1,800 do to challenge the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and/or Huawei Mate X3?
- Is Google’s folding phone cheaper than the competition? No, it isn’t – in fact, the Pixel Fold is noticeably more expensive than some foldables like the Oppo Find N2, Xiaomi Mix Fold 2, and the globally available Honor Magic Vs (this one can be yours for only £1,200/€1,400 if you buy it before May 26)
- Considering the Galactic price, does the Pixel Fold bring the most impressive hardware we’ve seen? That’s also an easy “no”; this title belongs to the Huawei Mate X3, which weighs the same as an iPhone 14 Pro Max and it’s as thick as a “normal” phone in a case; again, Pixel Fold doesn’t even come close
- Does the Pixel Fold bring the best software experience on a folding phone, which takes advantage of the form-factor? I’ll leave this for our full review but so far this might be Google’s only saving grace; Android 13L looks impressive at a first glance and might be what gives Pixel Fold a much needed edge over other foldables (until they get upgraded with this version of Android?)
The Pixel Fold’s cover display is a winner but the inner screen sends you straight back to 2019 – has Samsung made the right compromises with the Galaxy Z Fold 4?
Sure, Samsung’s Fold might still have a display crease and a poor 4MP under-display camera but its inner display looks far more immersive than the one of the Pixel Fold.
While Pixel Fold certainly brings a more practical cover display compared to the Fold 4’s remote control-like outer screen, the inner display is a different story.
To address the elephant in the room, I don’t mind the huge bezels of the Pixel Fold’s internal screen when I look at it in isolation. In fact, most tablets have similarly sized bezels anyway, and bezels give you something to grab on to. They can be practical. But it’s when you put the Pixel Fold next to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 when the former starts looking a bit ancient.
For starters, the screen-to-body ratio of the Fold 4’s inner screen is much larger – Samsung gives you as much display as possible here. Then, the Pixel Fold opens up to turn into a wide-screen tablet, which at the same time is heavier than the Fold 4, which has a taller aspect ratio. Sure, the Fold 4 might not be perfect for watching videos when you open it up but the taller inner display makes it more practical for one-handed use (so, for every other task). And, of course, you can flip the Fold 4 around and get a wider aspect ratio, similar to that of the Pixel.
Basically, we have a “give some, take some” situation, and I think Samsung’s approach to the inner display form-factor might prove more practical than that of the Pixel Fold, which seems fitting for watching YouTube videos but less ideal for everything else.
Pixel Fold: One of the most expensive folding phones on the market doesn’t have the most impressive design, largest battery, fastest charging, or most powerful processor
Pixel Fold (left), Galaxy Z Fold 4 (right). Google’s foldable has the more practical cover screen.
- Pixel Fold: 283g – one of the heaviest folding phones on the market
- Galaxy Z Fold 4: 263g – noticeably heavier compared to a “normal” phone
- Huawei Mate X3: 240g – the lightest, thinnest folding phone-tablet (weighs as much as an iPhone 14 Pro Max)
In a nutshell, Google wants to sell a folding phone at the ludicrous price of $1,800, but I don’t think the first-gen Pixel Fold’s hardware is impressive enough to make me think: “Sure, this is expensive but totally worth it.” And that’s not very Google, and it’s not very… OK.
Here are a few more things the $1,800 Pixel Fold doesn’t have: It doesn’t have the largest battery in a folding phone, the fastest charging, or the best camera hardware. Meanwhile, the Tensor G2 that powers Google’s premium foldable is the same chip found in the $500 Pixel 7a. While the Tensor G2 seems pretty fitting for a $500 phone like the Pixel 7a, I’m not sure I can say the same when we’re talking about a $1,800 device.
I’m not buying a first-gen folding phone at a last-gen price, Google: Buy a Pixel 7 and a Pixel Tablet and save $800
Pixel Fold (left), Galaxy Z Fold 4 (right). Images courtesy of Mrwhosetheboss.
While Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro “normal” flagships challenge the likes of the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Ultra with significantly lower prices and unmatched value, the Pixel Fold costs just as much as the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (at launch). Cool! This might bring people to believe the Pixel Fold might be better than the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in every single way, and this simply isn’t the case here…
In the past couple of years, Google’s worked really hard to establish itself as the best-value alternative to Samsung (and other Android phone-makers), which is the reason why tech reviewers let some things slide. Sure, Pixels don’t have the best displays, fastest chips, longest-lasting batteries, or most impressive cameras around, but at $300-400 less compared to the competition, phones like the Pixel 6a, Pixel 7, and Pixel 7 Pro do more than enough to deserve all the praise they get.
Now, looking at the $1,800 Pixel Fold, I can’t help but think: “What’s the value proposition here?” I’m used to getting the best value from Google, and a nearly $2,000 Pixel Fold simply doesn’t fit the bill. The story would’ve been totally different if the Pixel Fold arrived at a price of $1,400 (for example), undercutting Samsung’s Galaxy Fold – the same way the Pixel 7 undercuts the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Or if the Pixel Fold was better than the Fold 4 and the Huawei Mate X3 in every single way. But none of that seems to be true.
Still, to find out whether the Pixel Fold is a better foldable than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, we’ll have to wait for our full Pixel Fold review, which should be coming sometime in June. It looks to me that Google’s brand new Android L (Android for foldables/tablets) software experience might be the Pixel Fold’s only chance at setting it apart from the competition. But is it going to be enough? My guess? No. Let’s have a discussion in the comments!