Before Google I/O 2023, if you wanted to buy a foldable smartphone in the U.S., you could only really choose between the Samsung Galaxy Fold 4 and the Galaxy Flip 4. Now that Google has thrown its hat in the ring with the Pixel Fold, there’s some real competition.
The Most Premium Pixel Hardware Yet
- Dimensions (folded): 5.5 x 3.1 x 0.5in (139.7 x 79.5 x 12.1mm)
- Dimensions (unfolded): 5.5 x 6.2 x 0.2in (139.7 x 158.7 x 5.8 mm)
- Weight: 10 oz (283 g)
- Display (external): 5.8in, FHD+ 2092 x 1080 OLED, 408ppi, 120Hz refresh rate, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
- Display (internal): 7.6in, 2208 x 1840 OLED, 380ppi, 120Hz refresh rate, Ultra Thin Glass with protective plastic layer
- Battery: 4821mAh, 30W wired charging, Qi wireless charging compatible
- Ram: 12GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 256GB or 512GB
- Processors: Google Tensor G2, Titan M2 security coprocessor
- Port: USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
Whether or not you like the current design style of the Pixel lineup, there’s no denying that Google can make a solid phone. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are solid devices crafted from metal and glass and feel great to use. The Pixel Fold is all of that and more.
Picking up the foldable, the first thing I noticed during my short hands-on period was how natural it felt in my hand. I always felt like the folded-over build of other devices was bulky and cumbersome, but that wasn’t my experience here. Instead, you have a compact handset that’s wider than most.
Before we talk about the internal display, let’s discuss the Pixel Fold’s front screen. The best way I can describe using the device is that it felt like a standard phone. That might sound odd, but compared to the Galaxy Fold 4’s narrow and tall display, you don’t have to unnaturally reach to the top of the phone to tap something, and there’s plenty of width to comfortably type a message.
Looking around the rest of the handset, you’ll find a USB-C port on the bottom edge, a fingerprint sensor that doubles as a power/sleep button on the right side, as well as a volume rocker on the right edge. The three primary camera sensors are housed in a metal bar around back, but we’ll talk about those later.
Flipping open the Pixel Fold felt like opening a new paperback book; separating the two halves is easy, but there is some resistance. The hinge on this foldable can be opened to just about any angle between 0 and 180(ish) degrees and stay there. It’s stiff enough that you can prop the phone up like a laptop or angle the camera half up and use the second half as a makeshift tripod.
One thing I noticed is that the handset didn’t unfold flat. I’m not sure if this was a pre-production issue or not, but I wouldn’t say the slight fold distracted from the experience.
The Pixel Fold’s internal display is made out of Ultra Thin Glass and comes with a plastic protective layer on top of it, similar to Samsung’s foldables. It obviously doesn’t feel like your standard smartphone screen, but it’s not cheap, either. And also like the Galaxy Fold 4/Flip 4, the crease is definitely noticeable if you look for it, but you quickly forget it’s there.
There Are So Many Cameras
- Rear cameras
- Primary: 48MP Quad PD with OIS + CLAF, ƒ/1.7 aperture, 82-degree FOV
- Ultra-wide: 10.8MP, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 121.1-degree FOV
- Telephoto: 10.8MP, ƒ/3.05 aperture, 21.9-degree FOV, field of view, 5x optical zoom, Super Res Zoom up to 20x
- Front camera: 9.5MP Dual PD, ƒ/2.2 aperture, fixed focus, 84degree FOV
- Inner camera: 8MP, ƒ/2.0 aperture, fixed focus, 84-degree FOV
The Google Pixel Fold has five cameras, and you can take selfies with all of them. You have a single hole-punch camera on the front display, a single sensor above the internal screen within the bezel, and three larger lenses on the back of the phone.
I couldn’t save any of the photos I took during my short time with the phone, but you can see the ultra-wide photo that Dave Burke, VP of Engineering at Google for Android, took during the I/O 2023 keynote.
✨ Live from Shoreline, it's #GoogleIO! ✨ Always wanted to snap a selfie while onstage :). Great seeing everyone in person today. #TeamAndroid #shotonpixel pic.twitter.com/UOfYhOgsqw
— Dave Burke (@davey_burke) May 10, 2023
Software and Battery Life Are Worth Worrying About
Tablet apps on Android have never been great, so because the inside of the Pixel Fold is basically a 7-inch tablet, it is vital that Google takes software and performance seriously. Thankfully, the search giant has been working on improving the large-screen experience ever since its launch of Android 12L.
While I couldn’t push Google’s foldable to its limits, I can say I did play with some of Android 13’s tablet-focused features. These include the split notification shade, where the quick settings are moved to the left side, a divided keyboard, and a floating dock that can be brought up at any time to quickly launch apps or enable multitasking.
Google also redesigned over 50 of its apps to work better on tablets. We can only hope that other developers optimize for the screen size or that Google finds ways to improve the user experience for apps that aren’t.
In terms of performance, the Pixel Fold is powered by Google’s in-house built Tensor G2 processor and 12GB of RAM. I’m not worried about if these will provide enough horsepower; I’m more concerned about battery life.
With a 4821mAh battery inside, the Fold’s battery is smaller than that of the Pixel 7 Pro. As battery life is already not the greatest in the Pro, I am worried that the dual 120Hz screens of the Pixel Fold might drain it even faster. But we’ll have to wait and see. The chip is almost a year old now, so Google has likely found better ways to optimize its usage.
Google Makes a Case
If there’s one thing everyone knows about foldables, it’s that they tend to be fragile. Fortunately, Google is making its own case.
Personally, I wasn’t much of a fan of Google’s Pixel Fold Case. While I can assume it’ll do the job of protecting the device well enough, I found it to be too bulky. It felt good from a quality perspective, but it takes away from the overall compactness.
If you’re especially worried about dropping or otherwise damaging the Pixel Fold, Google’s first-party case would probably be worth checking out. It’ll hopefully actually fit the phone well—a problem some third-party cases have with Samsung’s Galaxy foldables.
Google Pixel Fold Case
Protect your $1800 foldable smartphone with Google's first-party case.
Pre-Order the Google Pixel Fold
From my short hands-on period, I could tell that the Google Pixel Fold was a fantastic phone. Of course, I can’t give my final thoughts on the foldable until I’ve had a chance to use the device in the real world and write a full review (stay tuned for that), but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you choose to pick up this handset.
The Google Pixel Fold comes in two colors: Porcelain (white) and Obsidian (black). Pricing starts at $1,799 for the 256GB model and goes up to $1,919 for the 512GB variant. One thing to note, though, is that you can only get the higher storage option with the Obsidian colorway.
If you want to pre-order the Pixel Fold at the time of publishing, your only options are the Google Store and Google Fi. Other retailers and carriers, including Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, won’t accept orders until June 20, 2023.
Additionally, orders through the Google Store will come with a free Pixel Watch (Wi-Fi or LTE), 2TB of Google One for six months, and three months of YouTube Premium. Google Fi orders don’t come with any freebies, but the MVNO is offering up to $1,000 in trade-in credit or $700 in monthly bill credits over 24 months if you don’t trade in anything.
Google Pixel Fold
Google's first foldable smartphone has a wider front display and is extremely thin once opened.