After much build-up, Google finally entered the foldable phone market with the Pixel Fold. It’s a similar story to last year’s Pixel Watch, which was Google’s long-awaited Wear OS device. Will the Pixel Fold have the same first-gen issues?
A smartwatch and a phone with a folding display don’t have much in common on paper. In Google’s ecosystem of devices, though, the Pixel Fold and Pixel Watch are two peas in a pod. The Pixel software is cohesive across the devices, and while that’s usually a good thing, it does mean the same problems will carry over as well.
When Minimal is Too Minimal
First, I want to point out that I really enjoy the Pixel UI on phones. I don’t care for Samsung’s One UI much at all, which is why I use a Pixel 7 as my daily phone. However, when it comes to smartwatches, my preference is the exact opposite.
With a phone, everything basically happens inside of apps. You’re constantly switching between apps to do different things. A smartwatch is a very different experience, and the software needs to reflect that. As I mentioned in my Pixel Watch Review, the minimal Pixel UI is great for a simple phone, but it’s lacking in features on a more specialized device like a smartwatch.
For example, the Pixel Watch lacks basic features like the ability to sync Do Not Disturb mode between the watch and connected phone—even if both devices are Pixels. Plus, Google’s companion app is almost useless compared to Samsung’s Wear OS companion app.
This is my worry about the Pixel Fold. It’s not just a simple slab of a phone—a foldable is a specialized device that has different uses. I’ve already seen people mention the lack of multitasking options on the Pixel Fold compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Where else is the minimal Pixel UI going to be restricting?
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Premium Price Without Premium Features
The lack of features leads into another area where I was very hard on the Pixel Watch in my review. Google has priced the Pixel Fold at $1,799. On the surface, that seems pretty reasonable—it’s the same price that Samsung is currently asking for the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
What are you actually getting for that $1,800, though? The Pixel Watch was nearly $100 more than the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, and it was severely lacking in smartwatch-friendly features. If the Pixel Fold has those same shortcomings, it seems like a hard sell for the same price as a device that already has several years of software development for foldable features.
The Pixel Watch felt like Google was trying to skip ahead to a time when they had several generations of watches under their belts and could offer a premium alternative to the Apple Watch. In reality, that was far from the case—the Pixel Watch was very much a first-generation device with first-generation shortcomings.
I worry the Pixel Fold is going to have a similar fate. There will be some good ideas sprinkled throughout, and the software will look very nice visually, but it will ultimately lack much of what its competitors have already figured out.