The Pixel Fold is Google’s best chance to make a smartphone that matters

I love Google’s Pixel devices As far as the nerd is the next gadget, but I think we all know they don’t quite sell like hot cakes. Google had just a three percent share of the North American smartphone market in May 2022, according to market research firm Canalys, and anecdotally it’s much easier to spot an iPhone or Galaxy S in the wild than a Pixel.

But that didn’t stop Google (the Pixel 7 Pro is pretty good), and now, judging by the rising tide of leaks and leaked mockups, the search giant may have found a new opportunity: the foldable. Foldable phones are still quite new, and they might be where Google can fully immerse itself in the smartphone conversation (outside of Andorid) that it’s not yet an active participant in. Here’s how foldable devices could be good for Google, the company might be good for foldable devices, and the company might end up winning over Android tablets.

The fold may not stay forever

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a mold that can be broken and perfected.Ian Carlos Campbell/Inverse

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is as close to a household name as a foldable glass device, but the choices Samsung has made with the hardware so far shouldn’t be seen as static. There’s a real chance a device from a company like Google can still make a name for itself by perfecting the work Samsung has already done.

Other manufacturers like Oppo have already improved Samsung’s designs by reducing the crease or creating screens with completely different aspect ratios. Based on sample cases shared by YouTube creator Dave2D, it looks like Google could take a similar approach with a random all-in device (5.79-inch external display, 7.67-inch internal display) with plenty of bezel width to hide the internal webcam.

If Google’s design tweaks make the “Pixel Fold” cheaper than Samsung’s $1,799 phone, it might already have a winner, but I think it’s a better choice for a smartphone that’s rounder, flatter, and easier to hold in one hand. It also makes the device more intuitive. I haven’t used the new Oppo Find N2, but I did use Oppo’s first foldable phone, and immediately found it more pleasant to hold than a Samsung phone, even if it made sense for taking notes. Google may have a chance to create the final foldable form factor for North America.

The rising tide raises all boats

Android already has foldable support, but Google could do more.The Google

References to Google’s foldable device first appeared in the Android 13 beta released late last year. Naturally, Google has also accommodated foldable devices since before the launch of Samsung’s original Galaxy Fold, making it easier to create Android apps that can accommodate switching between different screen sizes on the go.

With its own look at the game, Google can make Android a better OS for foldable screens, perfectly optimizing everyone’s experience no matter what device they own. The Pixel line, along with Google’s attempt to break Android’s monopoly and prove it can be a hardware powerhouse, is meant to be an expression of its own perfect version of the Android/Google experience. With the Pixel Fold on the market, Google could have a much greater influence in guiding the foldable phone conversation.

Someone, think of tablets!

The Pixel Tablet and Android tablets as a whole can only benefit from Google’s foldable.The Google

Or, at least, it might be the thing that gets Google thinking about big screen experiences on Android. With the Pixel Tablet just around the corner, the company has already taken the time to update some of its most popular apps for the sake of a big screen, but with a phone that can become a small tablet, Google can create a feedback loop for tablet design for developers. Either target the Fold and get an app that works at least better on the Pixel Tablet, or build an app with the Pixel Tablet in mind and get an app that works just fine on the unfolded Pixel Fold.

In either scenario, there will be more interest in larger screens and more reason to build Android tablet apps, a space that has been sorely lacking compared to Apple’s iPad. So even if the Pixel Fold doesn’t make Google the smartphone competitor it wants, there are several ways Android as a whole can benefit.

And if Google announces the device at the currently expected time at this year’s Google I/O developer conference, we could see the fruits of that labor as early as this fall.

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