Welcome to Google’s latest venture into the future of smartphones – the Pixel Fold. This isn’t just Google’s first ever foldable phone – it’s a game-changer. While foldable technology has been with us for about four years now, the Pixel Fold is a first in its kind.
It’s our initial glimpse into a foldable experience, meticulously built from the ground up by Google – the masterminds behind Android. This begs the question – have they finally perfected the formula? Well, let’s delve into it.
|7.6-inch 1840 x 2208 OLED foldable display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and a 5.8-inch 1080 x 2092 OLED cover display with a 120Hz refresh rate
|Google Tensor G2
|256GB or 512GB
|48MP main camera, 10.8MP ultrawide camera, 10.8MP telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom and 20x Super Res Zoom (digital)
|$1,799, £1,749 for the 256GB model and goes up to $1,919 for 512GB
The Build Quality and Feel
The moment you lay your hands on the Pixel Fold, you’re instantly reassured. The premium build quality is all too apparent, thanks to its polished stainless steel encasing which provides it with a strong, robust structure.
But it’s not all about aesthetics here. The Pixel Fold also boasts a proper water resistance rating, a feature not typically assumed for foldable devices. This demonstrates Google’s commitment to practicality, durability, and the longevity of the device.
Adding a touch of practical luxury to the Pixel Fold is its fingerprint-resistant matte-finish ceramic on the back, a design element inspired interestingly by air conditioners. This unique feature ensures that the device stays clean, even when handled frequently, preventing it from being soiled within minutes of usage.
Despite its solid build, the Pixel Fold is delightfully slim, making it feel less like a burden to carry around and more of a premium accessory. It’s heavy but doesn’t feel like it, adding to the reassurance of its solid build quality.
Size and Design Comparison
To give you a clearer picture of the Pixel Fold’s slim profile, let’s make a quick comparison. Samsung’s latest Z Fold, when folded, is up to 15.8mm. The Pixel Fold, on the other hand, sits at a mere 12.1mm, which feels similar to holding a standard phone with a protective case on it.
This slimline design is largely achieved by Google’s innovative hinge that enables the screen to fold completely flat. Anyone who has used a foldable phone knows the struggle of discovering random debris like pocket lint or even sand within the device due to the screen gap.
With the Pixel Fold, that’s a worry of the past. Moreover, this design consideration protects the inner plastic screen, which is generally susceptible to damage from such particles.
The hinge, a critical component of any foldable device, is impressively solid in the Pixel Fold. Google has named it the ‘fluid friction hinge’, a nod to its fluid movement. It transitions smoothly without any creaking or squeaking, and it can comfortably maintain any angle between zero and 180 degrees thanks to its friction. However, one might desire a more snapping open and close feel, akin to what Samsung’s foldable offers.
Biometrics and Aesthetic Design
A standout feature of the Pixel Fold is the power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner. This clever integration not only saves space but also adds to the convenience and speed of accessing the device.
The Pixel Fold’s aesthetic appeal is undeniable, with curves in all the right places. It’s a testament to Google’s design philosophy that a foldable can also be holdable. This contrasts with many smartphones on the market that opt for an overly sleek design, often at the expense of comfort and practicality, leaving you with a device that feels more like a kitchen implement than a mobile phone.
Audio and Build Quality Evaluation
Sound quality is a key factor in the overall user experience, and the Pixel Fold does not disappoint. With dual speakers positioned at the top and bottom, the device offers separated spatial sound, earning it a respectable seven out of 10.
If we were to evaluate the Pixel Fold based solely on its core construction, it comfortably borders on elite status. Google’s careful attention to design, build quality, and usability is evident, offering a foldable phone that balances innovation with practicality.
Hardware and Camera Analysis
However, when you delve into the rest of the hardware and specifications, especially considering its price point of $1,800 (£1,749), questions do arise. The Pixel Fold’s cameras, for instance, fall short when compared to last year’s Google Pixel 7, at least on paper.
Google’s camera software is nothing short of magical, often managing to do a lot with a little. However, hardware does matter, especially when it comes to photography.
The camera setup on the Pixel Fold seems to have taken a step back compared to its predecessors. Each individual camera has been pared back in terms of synthesizing capabilities.
It’s worth noting that this comparison is not against this year’s flagship phones, but against last year’s Pixel 7. The reduced camera performance could be due to the limitation of fitting all the necessary hardware into a space with significantly less physical depth.
The front cameras also leave room for improvement. The very front camera has a 9.5-megapixel resolution with a relatively small sensor, and the inner one is an 8 megapixel. It’s clear that while Google has made significant strides with the Pixel Fold’s design and build quality, the camera setup doesn’t quite match the high standards set by previous Pixel devices.
Google Pixel 7 Cameras Specs
Performance, Memory and Processor Evaluation
When it comes to performance, the Pixel Fold packs in 12GB of fast RAM and a minimum of 256GB of fast storage, allowing for a seamless experience. However, the core chip doing the heavy lifting is Google’s self-made Tensor G2, the same one found in the Pixel 7. For an $1,800 phone, it may not be the powerhouse you’d expect, especially given that Google is likely to release the Tensor G3 later this year.
Despite this, the Tensor G2 is an intelligent chip with a lot of potential, particularly for software functionality. It comes with its own separate security processor, the Titan M2, which stores sensitive data in its own segregated memory. This physical separation ensures that most software on your phone cannot interact with it, reducing the risk of data theft from malicious apps.
However, in terms of raw power, especially for gaming enthusiasts wanting to play games like Apex Legends on maximum settings, this chip trails top-end phones by about 20-25%. Comparisons with the M2 iPad Pros are even less favorable.
Screen Quality and Aesthetic Critique
The Pixel Fold’s screens are bright, high-res, and capable of scaling their refresh rates up to 120Hz, enhancing the user experience while optimizing battery life. However, the noticeable bezels might be a point of contention for some. The difference in thickness between the top, bottom, and side bezels might not affect functionality, but it is an aesthetic compromise.
Despite the prominent crease and thicker borders than the original Samsung Galaxy Fold from 2019, Google explained that the thick bezels accommodate the front camera on the inner display. While a large hole-punch camera might have been a preferable solution for some, the camera quality is notably better than Samsung’s inner selfie camera.
Battery Life and Charging
Google promises a battery life of more than 24 hours for the Pixel Fold, which should be sufficient for most users. The phone achieves this through several intelligent features, like prioritizing energy for frequently-used apps. With a battery capacity of 4821 mAh, it surpasses Samsung’s fold’s 4400 mAh.
However, based on comparisons with Google’s Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung’s flagship S23 Ultra, Google’s efficiency in battery usage seems to be lacking. Despite having the same capacity, Samsung’s flagship phone provides 10-15% more output.
While the Pixel Fold does support wireless charging, it lacks fast wired charging, and it’s worth noting that a charger is not included in the box. So while the battery life should be adequate for most users, it’s fair to say it might fall into the middle of the pack compared to other flagship devices.
Software, Camera and User Experience
The Pixel Fold may not be the first choice for spec hunters or those who want the best hardware for their money. However, the software experience might just turn that perspective around.
Software and User Interface
The Pixel Fold sports Google’s Material You interface, which, although a little too funky for some tastes, offers a high degree of customization, hence the “You” in its name. It’s bouncy, lively, and a delight to use, with widgets that change color based on their position on your wallpaper.
This user interface feels less corporate than many Android skins and provides proper visual demonstrations for features that might not be immediately obvious to users. This makes the Pixel Fold one of the few Android devices easily recommendable to those new to the operating system.
Despite the less powerful chip, the Pixel Fold’s responsiveness is impressive, opening apps noticeably quicker than its technically more powerful counterparts, such as the Samsung. This liveliness extends to its new features, like Quick Phrases, which allows users to perform tasks without waking the assistant.
There’s also Clear Calling, which enhances the other person’s voice and reduces background noise during calls. While it may sound gimmicky, it genuinely works, quickly identifying and muting background noise.
The Recorder app provides a real-time transcription of any conversation with shocking accuracy, further enhancing the phone’s user experience.
The Pixel Fold’s camera specs are admittedly not the best, but Google’s software prowess manages to turn this hardware limitation into a strength.
While there is a noticeable difference when compared side-by-side with the Pixel 7 Pro’s camera, the Fold’s ability to use the main camera for selfies compensates for this shortcoming. Users can take high-quality selfies, control the camera through gestures, and even use the sturdy hinge as a tripod for astrophotography shots.
Moreover, Google’s camera software features, like Magic Eraser, AI-based face unblurring, and Super Res Zoom, make the Pixel Fold’s camera experience unique and powerful. Despite the camera hardware being possibly 50% less expensive than Google’s next flagship phone, the overall camera experience feels like it’s 95% of the way there.
Although the phone is still in beta, and Google usually drops several features leading up to and after the launch, the Pixel Fold is enjoyable to hold and use. However, the high price tag, paired with some obvious hardware compromises like the bezels, crease, and chip, may be difficult for some to accept.
Therefore, the Pixel Fold’s success might depend on an as-yet-unknown big software feature. Only time will tell if this potential feature can justify its high price point and make a significant mark in the foldable phone market.