Allison Johnson Reviews the $1,800 Google Pixel Fold

Allison Johnson, writing for The Verge:

Google has optimized a bunch of its own apps to work in the Fold’s unfolded tablet mode, and they’re great. Gmail, YouTube, Photos — they all make use of the full screen by putting information in sidebars and vertical columns. Chrome has a desktop-like interface, complete with tabs at the top of the window and the ability to load the full versions of websites. Google Meet readily moved a tiled view of attendees to the top part of the screen when I set the phone up in an L-shape, sliding the controls to the bottom half of the display. I didn’t have to fiddle with anything — it just worked.

A lot of third-party apps don’t take advantage of the whole inner screen, though, which stinks. Instagram is just a phone-sized app with black bars on either side. Same with Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and even Google-owned Fitbit. You can double-tap the blank space on either side to quickly slide the app to the left, right, or middle, which is nice. TikTok plays its vertical videos in the middle of the screen but at least uses the extra space on either side to move all the text that’s usually right on top of the video out of the way. Even so, it feels like a lot of wasted space when you’re not watching a video or multitasking.

This form factor seems more appealing to me than flip phones, but still, I have not an iota of envy from my perch on the iPhone side of the fence. It’s good that Google has tweaked so many of its own Android apps to fully embrace the tablet-sized folded-out screen, but if most of the third-party apps you most use don’t, that seems like the end of the discussion right there.

It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem: third-party developers aren’t going to spend time embracing these foldable screens unless there are a lot of phones in use sporting them, but users aren’t likely to buy them until there’s widespread support for them in the apps they use most. If this is a great form factor then Google should stand behind it with a push that declares that foldable screens are the future of Android, or at least the future of Pixel phones. Otherwise it all seems like a waste of time.

The other problem, I’ll reiterate, is cases. The overwhelming majority of people put their phones in protective cases. The more expensive a phone is, the more likely people will see the need to “protect” it with a case. This phone starts at $1,800 for 256 GB of storage, and costs $1,919 for 512 GB. (The iPhone 14 Pro costs $1,200/$1,400 for the same amounts of storage.) But foldable phones can’t be put in cases. They’re targeting a niche within a niche within a niche — people willing to spend $1,800 on a phone, without using a case, with a foldable display.

Update: Turns out, there are cases for the Pixel Fold: a $60 silicone case from Google itself, and a “coming soon” leather one from Bellroy. Another Update: Some cases from Spigen, starting at $60, and a collection from Android Police of others.

Monday, 26 June 2023