We recently learned that Google’s first foldable phone, the rumored “Pixel Fold,” will pack the same 12.2MP camera sensor as the soon-to-be discontinued Pixel 3. Some people are very disappointed by this news, citing the new Pixel 6’s 40MP sensor. But the Pixel Fold camera isn’t a “downgrade”—in fact, it may be the first foldable phone camera that doesn’t suck.
Foldable phones are a feat of engineering, and their large displays unlock capabilities that are impossible on regular smartphones. But if a friend came across $2,000 and asked me which phone they should buy, I wouldn’t point them to a foldable. Not just because they break easily, but because they’re uncomfortable to hold, their camera quality stinks, and they’re too thick when they’re folded shut.
Funny enough, these three problems are all related. If the Galaxy Fold 3 had larger “flagship” cameras, it would be too thick and have a poor weight distribution. But if Samsung wanted to make the Fold 3 thinner, it would need to strip down the camera array. And if Samsung made the Fold 3 more comfortable to hold … well, it would need to change everything about the phone, but that’s a different conversation.
But unlike Samsung, Google relies on computational photography AI to pull the best possible images from its cameras. It can get a “flagship” photo quality from small, lightweight sensors—that’s why it reused the old 12.2MP sensor in both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5.
In other words, the Pixel Fold’s camera quality may be comparable to that of the Pixel 5. It could even be better than what the Pixel 5 has to offer, depending on what chipset Google uses (the company’s new Tensor chip is better equipped for AI than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors).
But that’s not all. The 9to5Google dataminers who discovered the Pixel Fold’s camera specs also found that it also packs two 8MP selfie cameras; one on the phone’s inside and another on the outside. If true, then the Pixel Fold will take the same quality selfies whether you’re in “folded” or “tablet” mode, something that’s impossible on the Galaxy Fold 3.
All said, this leak is promising. Google could release the first foldable with a good set of cameras, and it may not be any thicker than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold 3. Our friends at 9to5Google believe that the Pixel Fold will launch next year, and if it does, I think we’ll be in for a treat.