Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (2023)

Ever since the release of the original Galaxy Fold back in 2019, Samsung has basically enjoyed a monopoly on big handsets with bendy screens. But with the imminent arrival of the Pixel Fold later this month, Google is hoping to break that stranglehold. That said, with Samsung having already released four generations of its flagship foldable, Google can't afford to simply iterate on a rival's design. In an interview ahead of the Pixel Fold's release, two of Google’s product managers (PM) — George Hwang and Andrea Zvinakis — sat down to shed some insight on why now, what the company is doing differently, and how its upcoming flexible phone will impact future devices.

The first thing I noticed during my hands-on was the Pixel Fold’s shape. Instead of having a long and skinny baton-like chassis similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, Google opted for a wider frame shaped more like a passport, which was an intentional decision by Google. Hwang, who is a PM on the Pixel Fold team told me that “when we talk about the Pixel Fold, we often talk about the outer display first.”

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (1)


Hwang says the reason for this is that more than 50 percent of interactions people have with their phones are less than two minutes long — things like texting a friend, changing a song or simply setting an alarm. “Our focus on form factor was critical and quite intentional to make sure that we offered a usable exterior display, such that you could use the phone like you want to.”

While using the Pixel Fold’s outside display like you would a regular phone might sound kind of obvious, it was also a bit of a surprise. Typically, when people discuss foldables, much of the attention is reserved for that fancy flexible screen on the inside. But more importantly, that touches on a few of Google’s overarching design goals for the Pixel Fold: Being able to use it like a regular handset even when you’re only using it closed, allowing users to open the Fold to augment their experience and then making sure that even though it's a larger device, it’s still a feasible daily driver.

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (4)


As for using that big interior display to enhance the device’s capabilities, it feels like much of the Pixel Fold’s potential lies in the marriage between hardware and software. As someone who works on Google’s Android platform team, Zvinakis highlighted the importance of continuity and posture for the Pixel Fold. “If we were just designing for tablets, you could just create one large screen, he said, "whereas for foldables you’re often unfolding to continue a session.”

When designing an app or UI for a foldable device, Google needs to consider things like buttons or other elements that may fall in the Pixel Fold’s crease. But it also means being able to open the device without losing your place, which often feels like an elusive goal. But when it works, it provides a sense of instant adaptability that you just can’t get from a traditional phone.

(Video) Google’s Pixel Fold Is The Most Important Foldable In Years [Hands-On]

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (5)


Continuity also impacts posture, which is the position of the phone’s screen from open to closed and every angle in between. Due to the Pixel Fold’s flexible design, not only does Google need to track how the device is oriented, it’s important to anticipate how components like the phone’s cameras and UI adjust and move and behave depending on its posture. “We want there to be a user benefit to unfolding the device rather than just seeing an expanded phone layout,” Zvinakis said. “That's why we created things like dual shade for notification that leverages both sides of the display.”

But what’s even more exciting is how Zvinakis says posture detection can unlock entirely new use cases like dual-screen interpreter mode on the Pixel Fold. This allows users to hold the phone in a position so that two people can see a different language get translated in real-time — each with their own display — which cuts down on the typical back and forth that happens when everyone has to share a single screen. And while we’ve seen some other novel uses of foldable phones like taking high-res selfies with the rear camera while using a phone’s exterior display, there are a growing number of functions available on foldable you simply can’t get when using a traditional glass brick.

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (6)


There are other elements that are needed for foldables to reach their true potential. Take, for example, the Fold’s taskbar, which needs to straddle the line between enabling short mobile interactions and more complex multitasking situations. “We launched a taskbar with Android 12L in March of last year and the first version was basically a pinned taskbar that you had to long press to hide and long press to show,” Zvinakis said. “But as we did more testing, users said they found that behavior a little clunky. So instead we refined it into a more transient taskbar where you can access it with a short swipe, drag any app into split-screen and then it automatically closes when you’re not using it.”

The big challenge is combining competing design elements, like the thinness of the device, while still supporting sophisticated components such as the phone’s 5x optical zoom. So to get over that hump, Hwang issued a challenge to the team to make a device that was more than just a collection of components: "If you don't want to use it every day, then it's not a device that we want to ship."

(Video) Interview reveals new details on Pixel Fold's design

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (7)


The quest for thinness is far more important for foldables than other phones. “We realized that if this thing was thick and bulky it's not something you'd really want to have in your pocket all day long," Hwang said. “I think the thing that was a key enabler was the hinge. How the hinge is architected drives everything around the foldable display. It's kind of symbiotic.”

This was a somewhat unexpected revelation because, as someone who has owned multiple generations of the Galaxy Z Fold line, I thought the hinge issues had been solved after all the issues with the original model. “What you see in most foldables is that you'll have hinge mechanisms across the full length of the hinge at three to four different spots,” Hwang said. “But the thing is that now that you have hinge components in the middle of the device, that drives the thickness of what we call the stack and then you have the display on top.”

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (8)

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

So Hwang thought “if those are the limiting factors, then is there a way we can creatively move those components somewhere else?” So in the end what the Pixel Fold team did was relocate the phone’s two hinges to the very edge of the device bringing it out of plane, which had a number of important effects. She says not only does this decrease thickness, “it also helps drive the largest delta between the outer 5.8-inch display and the interior 7.6-inch flexible interior screen.” On top of that, Google’s architecture helped address what Hwang calls fold geometry, which describes how the screen actually bends inside the hinge. “The hinge allows us to furl the display inwards, which lets the fold extend into that area to further drive down thinness,” she added. And while I’ve only used the Pixel Fold briefly so far, the result is rather spectacular, with Google able to make a phone that folds completely flat while still measuring less than 6mm thick (or just 12.1mm when closed).

Steps forward like Pixel Fold’s hinge and thinness don’t come without trade-offs. But, while its bezels are somewhat larger than Samsung’s, to Hwang it’s worth it. “The bezel gave us the opportunity to have an unadulterated display without the need for an under-display camera, which we thought was really cool.” It also gave Google more leeway to improve the Pixel Fold’s general durability, which includes an IPX8 rating for water resistance. “Plus, there’s the ergonomics of it, with the larger display bezels offering a resting area for your hands,” she said

(Video) About The Pixel Foldable…

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (9)

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Hwang said dealing with the inevitable crease in the Pixel Fold’s display was another balancing act, one that he still thinks about on a regular basis. “It’s unappealing, but the bigger question is how do we mitigate the crease? How do we minimize it?” Eventually, what Google decided on was a hybrid approach that produces a fold that’s more of a miniature water drop that runs the length of the screen instead of a full crease, which reduces its appearance while also preventing unsightly trenches from forming over time.

Still, as impressive as the Pixel Fold’s design is, after talking to Google product managers, I feel like it has an even more important job serving as an ambassador for future foldables and as a flagbearer for forward-thinking software features in Android alongside newly optimized apps. That’s because in addition to the device itself, the Pixel Fold is also ushering a fresh set of resources to help app makers optimize their work. Zvinakis said, “the key ways we do that are through developer guidelines, developer tooling and easy-to-use libraries.” These things dictate support for features like adaptive resolutions, landscape orientation, multitasking behavior and more. There are even separate tiers denoting how much a developer has done to support foldable-friendly features along with sample configurations available in the Android Studio emulation environment. “We're about to launch physical device streaming for these Google devices in Android studio, which basically means that developers can see how their apps run on Google-hosted Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet devices, but right from your IDE (integrated developer environment). We just want to make it really easy for developers to test on these new products.“

Google's designers on why the Pixel Fold isn't just another foldable | Engadget (10)

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

To make sure these apps are easier for users to find, Zvinakis says Google will begin showcasing “really high-quality apps more prominently in the Play Store, including screenshots that show new foldable-specific features.” And all of this is coming with a slate of more than 50 first-party Google apps that have been optimized for foldables, something that both Hwang and Zvinakis said was no easy feat. In this way, the Pixel Fold not only serves as a testbed for future devices, but also for Google’s evolving software design.

Unfortunately, the team behind the Pixel Fold hasn’t been able to overcome every hurdle that might prevent someone from hopping on the flexible phone trend — particularly its $1,800 price). But even with the Fold serving as the company’s first go at the category, it’s clear Google is bringing a ton of new ideas to the space, both in terms of hardware and software. It’s slim, it’s sleek and, unlike the Z Fold 4, the Pixel Fold delivers the same great camera experience that you get on the Pixel 7 Pro. It remains to be seen how well it will sell but, with Samsung’s Z Fold basically treading water the past couple years, the Pixel Fold’s arrival couldn’t come at a better time.

(Video) 5 Reason I'm Sold On Google's Pixel Fold


Did Google cancel the Pixel Fold? ›

Google confirms it canceled its first foldable phone because it wasn't 'good enough' The Pixel Fold apparently wasn't the first foldable that Google developed.

Will Google make a foldable? ›

After years of rumors, Google finally unveiled the Pixel Fold at Google I/O 2023, its first folding phone that goes head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

What are the dimensions of the Pixel Fold? ›

The Google Pixel Fold has a compact form factor measuring 139.7 x 79.5 x 12.1mm when folded, and 139.7 x 158.8 x 5.8mm unfolded. Its design resembles other recently released Pixel devices, thanks to Google's signature camera visor on the back panel.

What is the battery life of the Pixel Fold? ›

The Pixel Fold comes with a 4,821mAh battery, which gives the phone pretty decent battery life. During Google's tests, the Pixel Fold lasted around 33 hours on a single charge. The phone also comes with Google's Extreme Battery Saver feature, which extends the phone's battery life to up to 72 hours.

Why did Pixel fail? ›

It is believed that Google failed to sell its Pixel devices in India due to its Soli Radar chip on the front, which utilised the 60GHz frequency band banned for commercial use in India.

Is Apple going to make a foldable phone? ›

Analysts Ming-Chi Kuo and Ross Young reported that Apple's first foldable product is expected to be introduced in 2025 “at the earliest.” Details about these devices remain unclear at this point. This comes as no surprise since Apple has been following a more conservative approach in recent years.

Why are foldable phones not popular? ›

Dust Resistance

But dust resistance remains a problem on the foldable form factor. Dust is a big problem for foldable phones because they have a lot of moving parts. If any small dust particle enters the phone body via any one of its openings, it can cause problems and potentially kill the device.

Why not to get a foldable phone? ›

Foldable Phones Are Expensive and Lose Value Quickly

The latter might sound reasonable since it matches the price of a modern flagship, but the Flip is full of compromises like poor battery life, fragile display, high repair costs, and more.

What is next for foldable phones? ›

The rumors are true: next week, Google will introduce its first foldable phone, the Pixel Fold, during the Google I/O 2023 event. Google hasn't revealed any specs for the device, but a brief teaser video shows off a full-size outer display on a phone that opens up similarly to Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold devices.

What is the refresh rate of Pixel Fold? ›

The full specs were disclosed on May 10th, 2023 at the annual developer conference Google I/O, where the design team revealed that Pixel Fold's external screen spans 5.8 inches before it opens up to a 7.6-inch tablet inside with an OLED display and 120hz refresh rate.

How much will the Pixel Fold cost? ›

Google Pixel Fold preorders and availability

Google's first-ever foldable phone promises the thinnest design and best camera experience of a foldable, on top of the company's usual software smarts. The Google Pixel Fold is available for preorder today (May 10) starting at $1,799, and is set to ship in June.

Does Pixel Fold have dual sim? ›

The Google Pixel Fold smartphone is equipped with an eSIM. Thanks to the eSIM, you will be able to use dual SIM cards. It means that the eSIM on Google Pixel Fold allows you to immediately connect to another mobile operator without using a physical SIM card.

Are foldable phones easy to break? ›

Myth: Folding phones are not as durable

While it isn't supposed to, the UTG screen does in some instances crack, usually right at the bend. Glass is glass, and glass breaks. These reports are more than enough to keep anyone from buying a foldable phone.

How many times can foldable phones be folded? ›

A screen that folds

The folding mechanism feels strong and built to last. In fact, Samsung promises the device will survive a minimum of 200,000 folds.

How many times can you fold a foldable phone? ›

The Z Fold 4 can survive 200,000 folds.

Why do people hate Pixel phones? ›

At launch, there were a few bugs present in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, mostly stemming from UI glitches, a slow and unreliable fingerprint scanner, and screen brightness and refresh rate issues.

Has anyone ever fixed a dead pixel? ›

Dead pixels can't be fixed in most cases, but you can sometimes revive those pixels. We have a few solutions for you to try before you send your device out for repairs. Dead pixels are not the same as stuck pixels. These pixels look almost the same, but there's an important distinction.

Why Google Pixel is not a good phone? ›

But despite all of that, Pixels often end up feeling like products from a scrappy startup. One year it's a bad display panel, another it's inconsistent RAM performance, another it's unforgivably short battery life, and another it's no-stop software bugs.

Will foldable phones be the future? ›

Innovation. A report from IDC shows there is demand for foldable phones, with 7.1 million units shipped last year – well up on the 1.9 million units shipped in 2020. The tech analyst predicts that foldable phones market will reach 27.6 million units with a value of $29 billion by 2025.

Does Samsung make a foldable phone? ›

Galaxy Z Fold4 Folding Smartphone.

Are flip phones coming back? ›

Flip Phones Are Trendy, Thanks to TikTok

The biggest reason that flip phones are becoming more popular among the younger generation is social media. Primarily on TikTok, influencers and celebrities are promoting flip phones because it's easy to disconnect and live in the moment with them.

What are the disadvantages of a foldable phone? ›

5 Disadvantages of Foldable Mobile Phones to Consider Before You...
  • The High Price. Foldable phones are significantly more expensive than traditional smartphones. ...
  • Highly Fragile. ...
  • Decreased Battery Life. ...
  • Infrequent or Lack of Software Optimization. ...
  • Air-gaps.
May 2, 2023

Why are flip phones obsolete? ›

A lot of older cellphones, including the IPhone 5, IPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S4, as well as many of the flip phones, will become obsolete in 2022 as mobile providers make the switch to 5G networks.

Why is Google fold so expensive? ›

The flexible screen found on foldable phones is one of the biggest reasons why they cost so much. Flexible displays require more engineering and are more expensive to manufacture than traditional displays. And the Google Pixel Fold has two: a 5.8-inch cover display and a 7.6-inch inner display.

Why would I want a phone that folds? ›

It adds screen space to a device that fits in your pocket, improving productivity while maintaining a more modest form factor.

Why do I want a folding phone? ›

A primary benefit of foldables is being able to enjoy large screen sizes in a conveniently compact form, and these latest devices in the Galaxy Z series continue to push the limits of the folding form factor without compromising on quality.

What's wrong with the Galaxy fold? ›

Reports suggest that the screens have died for no apparent reason. Users say that there was no impact, they only heard a cracking sound when they folded the phone to close it. Just a crack appearing along the hinge, killing the display. The duration of use of the affected devices is quite variable.

What phone will come out in 2023? ›

Apple iPhone 15

It's due to launch in September 2023 (as Apple's launches and release dates are, mercifully, very consistent). The fancy Dynamic Island notch will make its way down to the base iPhone 15 models (there will almost certainly be an iPhone 15 Plus as well).

Which phone is best in 2023? ›

Best phones in 2023
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. ...
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro. ...
  • Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Most Versatile Camera Phone. ...
  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max. Best Big Phone. ...
  • Apple iPhone 13 Mini. Best Small Phone. ...
  • Asus Zenfone 9. Best Small Android Phone. ...
  • Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate. Best Gaming Phone. ...
  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro. Best Overall.
Jun 6, 2023

Does the Pixel Fold have SD card slot? ›

In terms of storage options, you can choose between 256GB and 512GB UFS 3.1 space with 12GB RAM support, while there's a missing secondary card slot. As far as the battery department is concerned, the company offers a Li-Po 4821 mAh cell with supports for wired and wireless charging.

Does the Pixel Fold have expandable storage? ›

RAM and Storage

You can scale the Pixel Fold to 512GB storage, and the Z Fold 4 to up to 1TB. Find out how much storage you need if you're unsure so that you pick the right model—neither of the two phones has expandable storage.

Why is the Pixel Fold so expensive? ›

The flexible screen found on foldable phones is one of the biggest reasons why they cost so much. Flexible displays require more engineering and are more expensive to manufacture than traditional displays. And the Google Pixel Fold has two: a 5.8-inch cover display and a 7.6-inch inner display.

What is the most expensive Google pixel? ›

Most Expensive Google Mobile Phones Price List in India
Mobile PhonePriceAvailable From
Google Pixel 7 Ultra₹89,999Upcoming
Google Pixel 8 Pro₹89,990Upcoming
Google Pixel 7 Pro 5G₹84,999Oct, 2022
Google Pixel 6 XL₹74,990Upcoming
6 more rows

Will the Galaxy fold get cheaper? ›

However, the Galaxy Z Fold series doesn't seem to be in a rush to become more affordable, and it seemingly stabilized at around the $1,799 mark. With that in mind, maybe it's almost time for Samsung to expand its foldable phone portfolio with the addition of a third model.

What is the IP rating of Google fold? ›

The Google Pixel Fold has a water-resistant rating of IPX8, making it about as water-resistant as smartphones can get based on the current scales.

Is Google making a new tablet? ›

We first heard about Google's return to the tablet form factor, the Pixel Tablet, way back at Google I/O 2022. Then we got a full reveal at I/O 2023 alongside the Pixel 7a and Pixel Fold. The Pixel Tablet is now here and ready to buy. The release date was June 20 for the part tablet, part smart display device.

Does Google pixel have a flip phone? ›

A thin, durable design

When closed, Pixel Fold has a familiar smartphone silhouette that fits in the palm of your hand and slides into your pocket. Flip it open to reveal a 7.6-inch screen with a thinner profile than any other foldable phone in the market.

Which foldable phone has unbreakable screen? ›

Surprisingly, the Galaxy Z Fold4 withstands all attempts to damage it. Samsung advertises its fourth generation foldable Galaxy Fold as being 'unbreakable', at least in the US.

How many times can you open Z Fold 3? ›

The Galaxy Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 are guaranteed to last up to 200,000 times of folding and unfolding (Samsung's reliability standard).

Can I take the screen protector off my Z fold? ›

Do not remove the screen protector film. It is recommended that you do not remove the screen protector film, and do not install other films or stickers, as doing so may cause device damage. Unapproved screen protectors may cause the sensors to malfunction.

How long does Z fold last? ›

Based on the average number of time a person checks their phone, the Fold 5's panel should last about 5.7 years before the hinge has a reduced ability to hold its position, or at worst, some kind of functional failure.

How long will a flip phone last? ›

When Samsung unveiled the Flip 4's predecessor in 2021, the company divulged that it was tested to survive at least 200,000 folding and unfolding cycles. That's enough for about five years of usage, which is not too shabby.

How well are foldable phones selling? ›

In 2021, Samsung sold almost 10 million folding phones, which is a 300% increase from 2020. With the growing popularity of foldable phones, Samsung hopes to sell 15 million foldable phones this year.

Does the Z Flip 4 screen break? ›

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 Bend Test

The display scratches at level 2 with deeper cuts at level 3. In fact, even fingernails can damage the screen. This is because Samsung flaunts a fragile ultra-thin glass at the inner (folding) panel.

What is the lifespan of a Samsung phone? ›

Samsung phones have an average lifespan of 3-6 years. Because Samsung devices are highly durable, they can last you for more than five years if you're careful with them or get them repaired as soon as they need minor repairs.

How many folds can the flip 4 take? ›

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 FAQs

It has a strong folding mechanism, because of which you can perform more than 200,000 folds.

Why did Google cancel Pixelbook? ›

Google has canceled the next version of its Pixelbook laptop and dissolved the team responsible for building it. The device was far along in development and expected to debut next year, according to a person familiar with the matter, but the project was cut as part of recent cost-cutting measures inside of Google.

Does Google pixel have fold phone? ›

A full 5.8" Pixel phone when it's folded. Unfolded, you get a 7.6" immersive display. The most durable hinge on a foldable. And the thinnest foldable of all.

What carriers will have the Pixel Fold? ›

The Google Pixel Fold is on sale at AT&T. Google's Pixel Fold is nearing its release, but there may be a bit of a delay. After being announced at Google I/O in May, Google's first foldable is just now getting some release updates, this time from AT&T and Verizon.

When can I preorder the Pixel Fold? ›

Meet Pixel Fold. It's powerful, thin, and pocket-size. Unfold to multitask on the giant 7.6-inch, beautiful, immersive display. Available to pre-order online and in stores on June 20.

Why is Google Pixel not popular? ›

Google's phones focused on just software with mediocre tech specs and cameras, famously keeping the same primary camera sensor from the Pixel 2 through the Pixel 5. Despite improving the photo software every year to compensate, Google's phones still got a reputation for lagging behind other top phones in hardware.

Will there be a new Pixelbook in 2023? ›

In 2023, that will include a folding phone and the Pixel Tablet, but one thing missing from the equation is a new Pixelbook.

Is the Google Pixelbook still worth it? ›

The Google Pixelbook Go places at No. 3 in our rating of the Best Laptops of 2022. This Chromebook comes equipped with a quiet keyboard and long battery life, making it a good pick for everyday use. However, even though it's fine for video playback and web browsing, it's not equipped for heavy photo editing or gaming.

What is the $1799 folding phone? ›

On the hardware side, the main event was when Google unveiled its first foldable smartphone, Pixel Fold, its most expensive phone. The device can open to a 7.6-inch screen and is powered by Google's in-house Tensor G2 chip. The foldable Pixel starts at $1,799 and is available for pre-order.

Are folding phones worth it? ›

Foldable Phones Are Expensive and Lose Value Quickly

The latter might sound reasonable since it matches the price of a modern flagship, but the Flip is full of compromises like poor battery life, fragile display, high repair costs, and more.

Can Google pixel be locked to a carrier? ›

Your phone can come SIM-locked or SIM-unlocked, depending where you bought it. Important: Pixel phones work with all major carriers. But not all Pixel 4a (5G) and later phones work on all 5G networks.

Is Google pixel exclusive to Verizon? ›

The Pixel isn't really a Verizon "exclusive."

You can buy it unlocked, directly from Google, and use it on practically any carrier.

When can I get fold 4? ›

Aug 10, 2022

What is the first mainstream foldable smartphone? ›

In 2011, Kyocera released a dual-touchscreen Android smartphone known as the Echo, which featured a pair of 3.5-inch touchscreens. When folded, the top screen continued to face the user while covering the secondary screen.


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