News broke this week suggesting Google isn’t going forward with its rumoured foldable phone and has cancelled the project – at least for now.
When I first read this news my initial feeling was a distinct lack of surprise. I felt that if Google was going to release this mythical Pixel Fold phone, the perfect time would have been alongside the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Even if it wasn’t ready to be put on sale, a tease or initial announcement would have been welcome.
But once that lack of surprise passed, my strongest feeling about this news was disappointment.
I’m a big fan of Google’s phones. I’ve used every Nexus and every Pixel phone to date and while they all have their quirks, they’re charming and user-friendly in a way many Android phones are not. They also have the best version of the Android software with quick updates. The prospect of some of this coming over to a foldable was tempting.
The foldable phone space is currently, at least in the UK and USA, dominated by Samsung and Google deciding against releasing its own rival means there’s even less competition for Samsung. Ultimately this isn’t a great thing.
Samsung’s foldable line of phones has improved immeasurably since they were first announced. The original Fold was, to put it mildly, awful and while the follow-up was much better I still found it hard to recommend. With the Z Fold 3 – and the cheaper Z Flip 3 – Samsung made a foldable phone that is easily one of the best phones around.
Galaxy Z Fold 3
Yet, the competition in this foldable sector is so minimal at the moment there’s nothing really pushing Samsung forward to continue with these sizeable yearly upgrades – both in hardware and software. We’ve seen it before with the base iPad – when the competition isn’t up to much the innovation can stall.
The only real competition for the Samsung foldables is the Moto Razr, and while Razr is a neat phone it is nowhere near as ambitious as the Fold or the Flip. Hopefully, Motorola keeps going with it though, as with a few tweaks it could be an alternative to the Z Flip 3.
Huawei has also made a number of foldable phones and the latest Mate X2 seemed a well-made device during my short time with it. But, due to its ongoing issues with the US Government and its inability to ship phones with Google services included it’s always going to be a hard recommendation.
For these foldable phones to get better, both in terms of hardware and software, we need lots of competing products pushing everyone to do more. That just isn’t the case yet, and it could do these foldable devices harm in the long run.