There’s no denying that the foldable phone form factor spices up the somewhat boring smartphone market. As with any new phone, there are usually awesome, new features and there are failures; and the Pixel Fold is no exception. After actually spending some time with it as my primary phone, I have some thoughts that I’ve arranged into 3 things I really like, and 3 things that I really don’t, ultimately leading to the conclusion that that phone that I’ve waited so long for isn’t for me. At least not yet.
Things I really enjoyed about the Pixel Fold
The Screens: The most obvious and notable feature of the Pixel Fold is its screens. When folded, the outer screen measures 6.2 inches and comes in at a normal smartphone aspect ratio of roughly 18:9, making it feel like a smartphone should in the hand. This was my primary beef with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold and Google has fixed this issue 100%, making task on the outer screen a total pleasure to take care of.
Unfolded, the device boasts a gorgeous 7.6-inch screen that feels pretty close to something like an iPad Mini when opened up. Clearly, the big inner screen is the main novelty of this phone, and like other foldable phones before it, there’s something a bit awe-inspiring when you crack it open and – a bit like magic – have a huge screen in your hands that was in your pocket a few minutes prior.
With both screens at 120Hz and having plenty of brightness, the screens on the Pixel Fold are a delight to use. When the content fit the screen and was made for a layout of this size and proportion, it was really fun to use and enhanced things quite nicely.
Speakers: The Pixel Fold has a very nice audio setup, too, thanks to high-quality speakers that really make content consumption a very pleasing experience. This is one of the standout features I’ll miss for sure, and whether you’re listening to music, making a call, or watching a movie, the sound quality on this phone/tablet hybrid is always top-notch.
Tablet UI on the inner screen: The inner screen of the Pixel Fold features the same thoughtful tablet UI that we saw in the Pixel Tablet and I really love it. In its unfolded state, the larger screen behaves like a tablet, letting users multitask with simple drag-and-drops and dividing the screen in two with ease.
In apps that are made to take advantage of a larger screen (like Gmail, Messages, etc.), being able to open up the larger screen and triage messages with ease in a two-column format was a very useful thing. Drag-and-drop between open apps in the multitasking view was also useful on a few occasions and is an activity that I think many users could find great utility in. Overall, I like where Google is headed with the tablet UI in Android and it was intuitive and simple to use from the get-go.
Things I really didn’t like at all
Inner screen inconsistencies: Despite the things the larger, inner screen gets right, it does come with some pretty significant shortcomings. There are glaring inconsistencies with both apps and web content when things are blown up and more pixels become available.
First, many apps don’t scale well on the larger screen, making the choice to open up the Pixel Fold a questionable one on many occasions. Big-name apps like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook don’t have a large-screen UI and you end up looking at a phone-sized app window with large black bars on each side when using them on the bigger display.
And then there’s the issue with web content (which is the bulk of what I look at on my phone). While the mobile web has come a long way, this screen size sits in a sort of no man’s land, being too big for a phone layout and too small for a full desktop look. What you get is phone-sized websites stretched all the way tot he edges of the phone’s large screen, providing not only a poor reading experience, but some seriously awkward layouts, too.
Gaming woes: As a guy that loves getting into mobile games, I’ve found that the Pixel Fold to be sub-par at this activity. My main complaint is the gyroscope that seems to have problems accurately detecting which way is up. I’ve reached out to Google and I can’t yet tell if the issue is the phone or the games, but the Fold reports the gyroscope as 90-degrees off-axis in most games. That means as you move the phone up and down, the character’s POV moves left and right. And if you use gyroscope for aiming on games all the time like I do, that makes them basically unplayable.
And then there’s the Tensor G2 processor. For casual gaming, it’s fine. But for more demanding games, this process can’t really keep up. Games like Fortnite are pretty bad and others like Call of Duty Mobile (that plays well on most phones) cause the Tensor G2 to sputter and get quite warm within only a few matches. Simply put, if you are looking for a folding phone to enhance your gaming experience, the Pixel Fold isn’t it.
Outer screen preference: Finally, despite the allure of the large inner screen and the tablet UI, I found myself actually using the outer screen most of the time. And it just came down to ease of use for me. For most things I do on my phone, the simple outer screen arranged the content better and felt like less of a task to do. As a matter of fact, I actually found myself trying to purposefully find things to do to engage the inner screen simply out of a desire to make carrying this phone make sense.
And in the end, I just didn’t. Instead, I largely used the phone from the outer display and rarely found the need to actually open it up. And after weeks of using a small-screen smartphone that is twice as thick as something similarly sized and spec’d (like the Pixel 7a), the allure of the Pixel Fold really began wearing off on me.
And for a device that costs $1800, that just can’t be the case for someone like me. Now, many of you might find enough utility in the apps and websites already taking advatage of this form factor that something like the Pixel Fold makes a ton of sense. And if that is you, there’s a great chance that you’ll love this phone. It is well-made, beautiful, and an engineering marvel. But it’s just not a good fit for someone like me. At least not right now. With some app updates, gyroscope fixes, and a trend towards web content making sense on a device like this down the road, I could see myself giving it another go.