Google gets into the foldable phone game       

Google Pixel Fold

As ever Google’s I/O event threw up hordes of announcements and updates related to the tech giant’s estate of interests – one of which was a flashy looking foldable phone called the Google Pixel Fold.

Foldable phones have been around a while, though haven’t necessarily taken the world by storm yet. The idea is you can wander around with your mobile in your pocket and when you get to your train or wherever you like to sit, you can flip it open and enjoy a double screen to watch a film or doom scroll social media at twice the volume.

Google’s sortie into the market in the shape of the Pixel Fold has a hinge which it boasts is the ‘most durable hinge out there’, a Tensor 2 processor, and many Google apps are optimised to take advantage of the larger screen.

A lot of the pitch seems to be around camera functions. It has various fancy features found on other Pixel models, such as Super Res Zoom with 5x optical zoom, Real Tone, Night Sight and Portrait and has 10-bit HDR video capabilities. It is also claims to offer the highest quality selfie on a Pixel ever – high praise indeed – if you use the exterior screen as your viewfinder and the 48-megapixel main camera to take the snap of you eating something or standing in front of something.

When Android 14 drops later this year, the Pixel Fold will be updated with a dual screen interpreter mode, which simultaneously uses the inner and outer screens to translate live conversations. The benefit of which is you’ll be able to have inter-language chats without having to huddle around a single screen.

Meanwhile ‘Tabletop mode’ means you can stand it up like a small laptop, and with a future update YouTube will play on the top half and display playback controls on the bottom half. Also when you pre-order the foldable in the US you’ll also get a free Google Pixel Watch, which is nice.

There were of course other things launched at Google’s I/O event. As well as the Pixel Fold, the anticipated Pixel Tablet was launched, alongside the newest in its high end non-foldable phone range, the Pixel 7a.

A lot of the announcements – and there were a lot – were around AI. These include a new Large Language Model called PaLM 2 which will power Google’s updated ChatGPT rival Bard; Music LM which generates music based on a description you give it; AI art generation functionality in Bard; auto-generating phone wallpaper; AI functions in its Google Workspace suite of office software, the Universal Translator, and much more besides.

To return to the subject of Google’s foldable phone, innovation in the smartphone sector, once the most dynamic and exciting area of tech, is a bit sluggish these days and it’s often hard to see what new blowers actually do above and beyond previous generations. The uniformity of the black slab format, the duopoly of iOS and Android, and a high baseline of technical capability means realistically any handset you pick is basically going to do whatever you want it to and in a very similar way to any other.

The one thing people would probably jump at would be some sort of quantum leap in battery life – but short of a breakthrough in lithium ion battery technology there doesn’t seem to be much action there. There have been quirky attempts at doing something new of course in the past, but foldable or extendable phones look like the most likely area to become popular, since there are conceivably all sorts of practical applications in doubling the size screen. Early models looked a bit questionable, but if they take off it could be good news for operators offering upgrades as well as for the manufacturers.

Here’s Google’s launch video:


Get the latest news straight to your inbox. Register for the newsletter here.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.