For months, over-confident leakers claimed Google planned to release a Pixel foldable phone alongside the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in fall 2021. Unfortunately, the Pixel launch event came and went without a foldable, but all isn’t lost; we’re confident Google is actively developing the Pixel Fold and that it’ll arrive in early 2022.
Google hasn’t announced a foldable phone yet — or even that it’ll be called the Pixel Fold — but it tipped its hand when it announced Android 12L, a new OS due out in early 2022 that improves the Android experience on tablets and foldables. So just as the Pixel 6 and Android 12 launches coincided with one another, the 12L release could signal when to expect Google’s next phone.
Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola all pioneered the category of foldable phones, pushing out expensive prototypes to eager consumers. But with the arrival of the superb Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, Samsung changed the conversation around foldable phones, proving they can offer a premium experience that slab-shaped phones can’t.
Put plainly, Google is entering the foldable market as other companies have begun to refine and master the formula. It won’t have as much leeway for failure and experimentation as Samsung and company did with their first attempts.
What will the Pixel Fold look like, when will it arrive, and could it have more than one design? We’ll answer all your questions with all the leaked info we could scrounge up. But based on what we’ve heard, we’re confident it will join the ranks of the best foldable phones; as for whether it’ll compete with the Z Fold 3, we’ll have to wait to learn more.
Google Pixel Fold: Release date
We don’t have any hard info on when the Pixel Fold will launch, now that the rumors about it appearing alongside the Pixel 6 have proven false. Yet a recent Google Camera APK deep-dive revealed references to the code “isPixel2022Foldable,” which pretty clearly indicates a foldable will arrive next year.
We first heard of the Fold, codenamed “passport,” from a leaked internal Android document, which referenced the Pixel 5a, 6, 6 Pro, and foldable Pixel as 2021 releases. The first three phones did ship this year, while the latter must have needed more time to gestate.
Since then, we learned that Samsung would ship Ultra-Thin Glass to Google in the second half of 2021 — the same glass used in the Galaxy Z foldable phones. So all signs point to the Pixel Fold being real and in production, even if it isn’t ready yet.
That delay may have to do with Android 12L. According to the Android developers, they “optimized the home screen grid and polished the fold-unfold transition, so that users move seamlessly from a single exterior screen to the larger unfolded screen, reinforcing continuity while preserving their choices.” Based on their public timeline, the devs will push 12L out no sooner than March 2022.
The Fold wouldn’t launch without these tools, so we expect a spring 2022 launch for the foldable as early as March 2022. But Google may wait after the Android 12L code release to fix bugs and perfect Pixel-only features, which could cause delays. We could even see the Fold appear at Google I/O 2022 in May.
Google Pixel Fold: Models
Google may have two foldable phones in the pipeline. One is the actual Google Pixel Fold that has been the subject of multiple leaks. The other is more of a mystery.
As we already explained, Google has been working on its “Passport” Pixel foldable phone since 2020, if not earlier. The most recent Pixel Fold leak revealed a new foldable codename — “Pipit” — but this likely refers to the same device, which will have a similar horizontal-folding, tablet-sized display to the Z Fold 3.
But code leaks suggest that Google may have another foldable Pixel phone, codenamed “Jumbojack.” A recent report from 9to5Google noted that Android devs had used this mysterious Pixel foldable for a variety of software tests based on the “posture” of the phone, such as “half-opened” or “flipped.”
These two codenames evoke a passport opening horizontally and a Jumbo Jack cheeseburger opening vertically, respectively; so in theory, Google could release either or both foldables after the new Android 12L software is ready. However, internal documents have only pointed to “Passport” coming out anytime soon.
That could mean Jumbojack won’t ship until later in 2022 or 2023 or that it is currently only a prototype without a hard release date. Android devs make software for more than just Pixel phones, and Jumbojack could have been their way of testing software features for sandwich-folding phones like the Z Flip 3.
Google Pixel Fold: Pricing
No rumors or leaks have touched on Fold pricing, so we’ll rely on educated guesswork. Surprising everyone, Google has launched the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro at affordable price points: $599 and $899, respectively. Google might follow this trend and make the Pixel Fold a reasonably affordable device to undercut the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Still, it’s going to be expensive, no denying that.
Most premium foldables fall in the $2,000 range, with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 falling just under that threshold at $1,800. The Pixel Fold is rumored to have a 7.6-inch display using the same display tech as Samsung’s foldable. So we wouldn’t be surprised if the foldable Pixel costs at that level, given the components seem too expensive for Google to price it much cheaper than Samsung did.
Perhaps the Google Tensor chipset will prove more affordable than flagship Snapdragons, making the Pixel Fold more attainable. But we’ll have to wait and see.
Google Pixel Fold: Availability
Samsung plans to make its Z foldables available in over 100 countries. But Google has always taken a more measured strategy for its phone availability. For example, the Pixel 6 is available in just nine countries — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States — with three more to come in 2022 (Spain, Italy, and Singapore). Meanwhile, the Pixel 5a only shipped to the United States and Japan.
It’s unlikely that the Pixel Fold will sell outside of Google’s typical markets. So depending on where you’re based, you may have to stick with Samsung for your foldable fix.
Google Pixel Fold: Design
We’ve heard very little about the codenamed “Jumbojack” foldable, so we’re focusing our design speculations on the “Passport” foldable Pixel due out this year.
Multiple reports have indicated that the primary foldable Pixel will have a 7.6-inch foldable display with Ultra-Thin Glass, using the same display materials as the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Also, like that phone, it should have an in-folding design that closes inward. Based on various leaks and patents, we’ve generated several photoshopped images that should give you an idea of how the Pixel Fold could look.
Google patented a foldable design (via Patently Apple) back in 2018 that shows off a clever three-screen design with a hinge and a smaller rectangular display that slides out to increase the footprint of the device. However, most patents don’t end up reflected in their company’s final designs.
It’s not clear whether the foldable Pixel will have a cover display like the Z Fold 3. No leaks we’ve seen have referenced one, and Google may very well stick to its main 7.6-inch display and leave the back of the phone for the camera module. If that’s the case, we wonder whether that will bring the price down a bit.
We’ll also have to wait and see whether the Pixel Fold will have a built-in slot for a stylus. Google could design a new, more compact Pixelbook Pen to go with its foldable. If the Pixel foldable doesn’t have stylus support, that’ll give the Z Fold 3 another edge.
Lastly, the recent Pixel Fold camera leak indicated it could have a 12MP sensor that — like the Z Fold 3 and its 12MP main sensors — would ensure the phone remains relatively thin when folded, compared to most thick flagship cameras.
Google Pixel Fold: Specs
All signs point to the Google Pixel Fold using Google Tensor as its SoC. People diving into the Android 12 beta source code found references to “Passport”, which will use the same hardware as the Pixel 6 lineup.
Google Tensor is a custom silicon platform made by Google and Samsung LSI, and it’s confirmed to appear in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It’ll have performance on par with 2021 flagship chipsets, enable special AI tools like Magic Eraser (seen above), and allow Google to support Pixel phones for more extended periods. In theory, the Pixel Fold could get four OS updates to Android 16 and five years of security updates through 2027.
Google has begun to develop a Google Tensor successor chip codenamed “Cloudripper,” which could theoretically appear in the Pixel foldable phone. But there’s a much higher chance Google will save the new chip for the Pixel 7 instead.
Given that the Pixel 6 Pro has 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage, we’d expect the Pixel Fold to hit similar numbers for its memory so that it doesn’t look underpowered compared to the much-cheaper Pro.
DSCC CEO Ross Young, who broke the news that the Pixel Fold would use Samsung Display tech, specified that it would have a 120Hz refresh rate with LTPO tech for variable refresh rates (VRR). A 7.6-inch screen with the fastest refresh rate on any phone is something to get excited about. What we don’t know: the screen resolution or what kind of screen protector it’ll have.
Google Pixel Fold: Software
Android 12 arrived on October 19 alongside the Pixel 6, bringing with it some substantial feature updates and a snazzy design language called Material You. The Pixel 6 has an updated Security Hub, Pixel Call Screening, voice typing, Instant Translation, and other AI-backed tools, and the Pixel Fold will get all of these tools and more.
Still, it’s Android 12L that’ll define your experience with the Pixel foldable phone.
The folded Pixel will work like any portrait or landscape-oriented phone. But it adds a multi-window layout for all apps for split screens, so when you open up your phone you’ll immediately see more content from that app all at once.
You can also place your favorite apps in a taskbar, then drag-and-drop them into one half of the foldable display so that you can multitask with ease. You’ll be able to reveal or hide the taskbar at any time with a long press, so you’re not constantly losing screen space to use it.
We’ll have to wait and see how “stock” Android performs on foldables and how it compares to unique software developed by competitors like Samsung — which uses similar tools with One UI 3.1.1.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.