Google’s Pixel Fold Can Save Foldable Telephones From Obscurity


Again in 2021 I wrote that foldable telephones have been disappointing, providing little in the best way of real innovation on the subject of how we use our telephones each day. They’re completely positive. However when you recover from the novelty of a display that bends, they’re actually simply the identical as every other Android telephone, which is an issue. With much less frequent sizes and facet ratios getting used, apps and video games do not natively run correctly. Additionally, the viewers is small, and builders haven’t got the motivation to place within the time, effort and value to develop their apps for odd styles and sizes. 

However Google would possibly change that quickly sufficient, with a rumored foldable Pixel telephone that might seem at Google I/O in Could. The corporate is in a novel spot to handle software program considerations whereas creating compelling telephone {hardware} that does not break the financial institution. 

To be clear, I do like foldable telephones. I notably just like the bigger “ebook fold” fashions just like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Honor Magic Vs, which rework from a regular-sized telephone into an virtually tablet-sized gadget, offering extra display house for movies, video games and paperwork. I keep in mind after I obtained the first-generation Galaxy Fold and felt genuinely excited at seeing the display bend within the center. And I keep in mind the varied strangers who would cease and ask to see it after I used it in public — with one bartender so entranced that he returned the favor with a free beer. Rating.

The larger inner show of the Galaxy Z Fold collection is nice for watching movies.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Learn extra: Greatest foldable telephones to purchase in 2023

However the software program continues to be the place folding telephones lag behind. Android is designed primarily for normal candybar smartphones, that are generally round 6 inches to six.8 inches in dimension and have customary facet ratios like 16:9. In different phrases, telephones just like the Galaxy S23 Extremely or Pixel 7 Professional take full benefit of Android, and app builders design their apps for these similar kind components. Why? As a result of they’re essentially the most generally used sizes, and subsequently their apps might be optimized for the widest variety of gadgets.

Android 12L and 13 tackle a number of the sizing points, however not all apps are optimized and both go away an excessive amount of clean display house or should stretch awkwardly to suit the display. The Galaxy Z Fold 4, for instance, has a tall and slender 23.1:9 facet ratio on the skin and a extra sq. 21.6:18 facet for the inside show — two nonstandard sizes that builders have to account for. And that is simply one gadget. 

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

Huawei’s outward-folding Mate X was one of many earlier folding telephones we noticed.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

It is the identical Android fragmentation concern that has plagued the platform for the reason that starting: Too many alternative gadgets means it is tough for builders to create for. Apple’s technique of getting fewer show sizes and virtually similar facet ratios has meant it is sometimes been the simpler platform for builders to work on. However Google has labored laborious through the years to make Android a better subject on which to play, and it might do the identical for foldables. 

So might a folding Pixel telephone be simply one other gadget for builders to wrestle with? Maybe not. If Google is dedicated to folding display expertise in its product lineup, then it is secure to imagine that we are going to see some key updates in Android which can be particularly tailor-made to folding telephones and totally different kind components. I might prefer to see software program that does a greater job of routinely resizing apps, dual-screening when utilizing a big show just like the Z Fold 4’s or constructing extra tips into default apps that reap the benefits of inside and outer shows. 


The tall and slender dimensions of the Galaxy Z Flip current one other dilemma for builders.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Furthermore, Google will possible work extra carefully with its key developer companions like Samsung, serving to them not solely optimize their present apps for folding gadgets, but in addition create fully new ones that may solely be finished with telephones of this kind. These partnerships might be essential to serving to Google create a compelling first-generation foldable, particularly since non-folding Pixel telephones account for simply over 2% of smartphone market share within the US, based on analytics agency StatCounter. By comparability, Samsung has virtually 30% share within the US.

Pixel telephones have a tendency to supply a wonderful Android expertise packaged in good {hardware} that prices tons of lower than flagship iPhone or Galaxy S telephones. Google partnerships might be key to getting a Pixel foldable off the bottom at an inexpensive worth. A less expensive worth is important to getting a bigger viewers that will incentivize builders to create extra fold-centric apps.

After all, there are a variety of “ifs” and “coulds,” and we do not know for positive if Google will launch a foldable. We additionally do not know whether or not Google has a technique in place to encourage adoption by working with software program builders. Google may even should depend on extra than simply its recognizable title to catapult the class into the massive leagues. Let’s not neglect that Microsoft’s Floor Duo 2 is not precisely ubiquitous, and neither is Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold.

However I am remaining hopeful, if solely as a result of I must be. Customary smartphones have turn out to be more and more uninteresting and repetitive. For somebody who writes about telephones for a residing, that is an issue. Foldables current a possibility to do issues in a distinct and extra thrilling approach, however it is going to be as much as Google whether or not or not the class prospers. 

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