Foldable devices started to hit their stride in the last year or two, with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, Huawei Mate Xs and Moto Razr 5G all showing great promise for things to come.
Now, rumours are appearing that suggest Google could be preparing its own entry into this emerging market, with a Google Pixel Foldable. We round up all the news and speculation about this potentially exciting new device.
When will the Google Pixel Fold be released?
There’s no solid information about any release date as yet, as Google hasn’t even confirmed that a foldable device will be launched. But in 2020 9to5Google reported that it had seen leaked internal documents from Google that suggested a foldable device would appear in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile industry insider Ross Young predicted that the foldable will launch in the second half of 2021. The mostly reliable leaker Jon Prosser has also weighed in on Twitter, confirming that he thinks the Pixel Fold is real, and claiming it will launch "late this year / early next year."
A slightly more specific prediction comes from The Elec, which reports that Samsung will begin production on the phone's OLED panel for Google in October, and that the phone will be announced in Q4 2021 - i.e. October-December. That Q4 prediction was echoed by David Naranjo, a senior director at Display Supply Chain Consultants.
This new phone has the codename 'Passport' and if it appears in October then this would match with the usual flagship launch window that we’ve seen with both Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 in the past couple of years, suggesting it could join the Pixel 6 at launch.
While the Pixel Fold was a no-show at Google's I/O developer conference in May, it did appear in the first public beta of Android 12, as spotted by 9to5Google. Or rather, its codename did, along with a model number - GPQ72 - believed to be tied to the phone's Japanese variant.
It's worth noting that this still isn't conclusive proof that the Pixel Fold will ever launch. The same list also contained a model number for 'Needlefish', a Pixel codename from 2019 that was believed to be tied to a 5G Pixel 4 model that never materialised. Since Needlefish never launched, the Passport model number appearing here doesn't prove anything - but it does add to the evidence that Google is at least working on a foldable phone.
How much will the Google Pixel Foldable cost?
In truth, we have absolutely no idea on this front. There’s no past record to go on and pricing is still somewhat nebulous for this class of device. One thing that’s pretty certain though is that it won’t be cheap.
Whereas the Pixel range does offer good value for money, all of the foldable devices that have been released so far have cost well over £1000/$1000. To see what we mean, here are a few prices for foldables that have launched in the US and UK so far:
- Motorola Razr Flip 5G - £1399/US$1399
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G - £1399/$1399
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 - £1799/$1999
- Huawei Mate Xs - £2299 (not available in the US)
With this in mind, any device Google launches in 2021 is likely to start at over a grand, so you might want to start making use of that old piggy bank in preparation.
What features will be in the Google Pixel Foldable?
Obviously, the main addition to the Pixel feature set will be a folding screen of some kind. Whether that’s the side-by-side approach adopted by the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Huawei Mate X2 or the vertical orientation used by the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola Razr 5G remains to be seen. There’s also the possibility that Google opts for the more conventional two-panel design that Microsoft debuted with its Surface Duo or a scrollable display as found on the sadly cancelled LG Rollable.
Getting the display right will be crucial, as we’ve already seen how hard it is to avoid creasing in the display where it folds or the panels just outright failing as with the original Samsung Galaxy Z Fold.
One early leak suggests that Google will stick closely to the path followed by Samsung's Fold series - so closely, in fact, that it's going to buy a Samsung screen. The Elec reports that Samsung is selling folding displays to Google - along with Xiaomi and Oppo - for 2021 devices. Google has reportedly purchased a foldable 7.6in OLED - the same size as that used in the Fold 2 and the Fold 3.
In a follow-up report The Elec stands by that prediction, and adds that the display will use an ultra-thin glass (UTG) coating. That's the tech that Samsung has used in all of its foldables following the first Z Fold, and since Samsung is supplying the display here, it's no surprise to see UTG will be included.
There are also a couple of different paths that Google could take in regard to the rest of the specs in its debut foldable. Samsung and Huawei's models have all been filled to the brim with cutting-edge processors and other components, which probably did nothing to help with the exorbitant prices. Motorola opted to launch the initial (2019) Razr with a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 710, much to some people’s chagrin, and moved it up to a Snapdragon 765G for the Razr 5G.
If Google wants to keep anywhere near the mid-tier pricing that the Pixel range offers, then we may see the latter approach in the Pixel foldable. But remember, we’re talking mid-range pricing for foldables, not normal handsets, so it will in all likelihood still remain an expensive device.
One more outlandish possibility is that Google will follow Samsung's plans for an under-display camera in its foldable. LetsGoDigital spotted a Google patent for a novel solution to the tech, which uses a moving mirror under the display, capable of pointing either at a camera lens or at a second display. So when you need the camera, light is reflected into the lens, and when you don't need the camera light is reflected from the auxiliary display to fill the gap.
There's no concrete reason to believe that this patent, filed in September 2020, is for the upcoming foldable. However, early renders of the Pixel 6 series based on leaks reveal pin-hole selfie cameras on those phones. It could be that this tech is intended for 2022's Pixel 7 series, but there's at least hope that it's being readied for a flagship foldable.
There’s no clear data on what we can truly expect with the Pixel foldable at the moment, but we’ll be updating this article as new information becomes available, so be sure to check back regularly.
If you can’t wait to get the latest smartphone technology in your hands, check out our guide to the best phones coming in 2021, or our round-ups of the latest news and rumours for the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6, also both expected to launch this year.