Five reasons I'm skipping the Google Pixel Fold...for now
Google revealed the rumored Pixel Fold, it's first foldable phone set to challenge Samsung
Regular readers of my ZDNET coverage know that I have purchased each Samsung Galaxy Fold device since it first launched in 2019. I drove eight hours to find and purchase my first Fold and with the help of Max Winebach I was able to get the AT&T model unlocked to use with my T-Mobile SIM.
As a professional engineer, the stunningly detailed engineering that goes into the Fold fascinates me and as person who rides a train for most of my commute and travels by plane regularly, nothing beats the portability of the Fold that then opens up for a large screen experience. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is nearly perfect and addressed nearly every detail I wanted to see improved by Samsung so it’s a regular companion of mine.
Yesterday at Google I/O (no, I am not there and have never been), we saw the reveal of the rumored Google Pixel Fold. It’s available starting at $1,799, but Google does throw in a Pixel Watch during this pre-order period. I also found out that I can get $900 if I trade in my Z Fold 4.
I actually thought that trade-in offer was pretty fair, so I placed an order for a Pixel Fold while on my iPhone on the train. I never received an order confirmation and later that afternoon discovered that the order apparently never went through. I took that as a sign to pause and really consider whether the Pixel Fold was for me or not.
Once I was back at a computer, I went over to check out the hands-on video from the Foldable King himself, Michael Fisher, as well as others that were able to get some hands-on time with Google’s first foldable.
After watching the videos and taking a bit more time to think about the device, here are five reasons I am personally planning to skip the Pixel Fold.
First generation Google product: I’ve been lucky with almost every product I have tested over the past 22 years, but for some reason Pixel products (phones and earbuds) fail me frequently. I treat review products with extreme care so the failures aren’t due to abuse. The high failure rate scares me for a product that is just about $2,000 (after sales tax). Samsung’s first couple tries at the Fold had issues and it may take Google a couple of attempts as well.
Google Tensor G2: I had terrible cellular reception with phones running Google’s first Tensor chip and would never recommend phones with that chip to anyone. The Tensor G2 on the Pixel 7 series has performed better, but in my experiences in areas with lower cellular signal strength nobody beats Qualcomm.
Battery capacity: The Pixel Fold comes with a 4,821 mAh battery. The Pixel 7 Pro has a 5,000 mAh battery and it is just acceptable, but not outstanding. Add in another interior display and a large exterior display and I’m very worried we will see poor battery life on the Pixel Fold. Newer Pixel phones also sport fairly minimal charging rates and I’m not sure calling a 30W charger “fast charging” is accurate.
Size: This one may or not be valid, but I really need to get some hands on the device. I actually love the narrow design of the Z Fold 4 that feels quite small in the hand while providing me with a perfectly capable front display for many tasks. I don’t really want my outer display to be just like a regular phone or else I would just use a regular phone. The Pixel Fold looks to have a fairly wide front display that appears more like a Surface Duo device and so far I am not convinced that’s something I would like.
No stylus support: Samsung and Microsoft foldables support stylus use and that big inner display is just asking to have a stylus sliding across the display. While it may be a niche use case, those who use the stylus regularly love the canvas they are sketching on and as big as the Pixel Fold inner display is I imagine we may see this in a second or third generation device.
There are some things that could be great with the Pixel Fold and I do like that others are attempting to offer some competition in the foldable space. I am looking forward to reading, and viewing, more about the following:
Software experiences: Samsung has always pushed Android ahead with innovative software experiences that outpaced Google and the Z Fold 4 is nearly perfect with split screen options, app pair shortcuts, intelligent bottom task bar, and much more. Google’s Pixels run Android the way Google intended it so it will be interesting to see how they handle the foldable form factor.
Computational photography: Google’s cameras are pretty amazing, just check out my visit to the zoo last year with the Pixel 7 Pro. Camera use isn’t a major use case for the way I use folding phones, but I’m confident that Google will excel here.
Power button fingerprint sensor: One feature I absolutely love on my Z Fold 4 is the fingerprint sensor embedded in the side power button and it looks like the Pixel Fold employs that same approach. I’m not a fan of under-display sensors so appreciate this design element.
I don’t care about the hinge gap on the Z Fold 4, the bezels on the Pixel Fold, and other design elements. Foldables need to make some compromises in design and as companies advance the technology then these details are resolved.
Did you pre-order the Google Pixel Fold? Do you have anything to share to try to convince me to trade in my Z Fold 4 for the Pixel Fold? Are you also hesitant to buy one and if so, why?
I won't be getting it either, and while I'm skeptical about foldables in general, at least Samsung's models are time- and user-tested.
(And you're right about the reception on Tensor 1 - my Pixel 6 works great for the most part, but cellular reception in spots is iffy. I'll most likely upgrade to the 8 or what-ever this year's model is.