Google’s folding smartphone project would be scrapped


Expected by the end of the year, Google’s first folding smartphone may never see the light of day. The “Pixel Fold” would not be competitive enough and the American giant would be faced with excessively high manufacturing costs.

After the announcement of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro and then Android 12L, all eyes were on a hypothetical “Pixel Fold”. Behind this name, which is not official, hides a folding smartphone designed to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold or Huawei Mate X. Google has never officially mentioned this project, but the clues have multiplied in recent months and a presentation before the end of 2021 was even mentioned. Absent from the last event of the Mountain View firm, the Pixel Fold however had a new argument to convince us of its existence: Android 12L.

The operating system variant seems tailor-made for the folding smartphone. It is indeed intended for tablets and folding devices with large screens, even if the Pixels will be the first to welcome it. However, it seems unlikely that the “Pixel Fold” will be there for the release of this version, as Ross Young explains. The analyst and CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC), an analysis firm specializing in display suppliers, says Google simply abandoned its project or decided to postpone it indefinitely. “Bad news for those waiting for the Google Pixel Fold. We learn that they have canceled orders for parts and decided not to put it on the market ”, says Ross Young, generally knowledgeable on the subject.

The analyst puts forward two elements to explain this turnaround. Google would fear the lack of competitiveness of its device in this niche market currently dominated by Samsung. According to rumors, the Pixel Fold was to take the format of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with an LTPO OLED panel of the same size and a variable refresh rate up to 120 Hz. However, it should not have a front sensor on board under the screen or have a design element that allows it to stand out. In addition, the latest information relayed by 9to5Google mentioned a photo part that is indented compared to the Pixel 6.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (here alongside the 1st Z Fold) is still waiting for its competitors. © L’Éclaireur Fnac

The Pixel Fold would therefore have had very few arguments to stand out, in addition to showing a certain technical delay in the face of Chinese competition. In addition to Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei have positioned themselves in this segment and several manufacturers such as Honor or Vivo should launch a folding smartphone in the coming months. In addition, Google – like its competitors – must face a shortage of components and the rise in costs would have pushed the firm to review its plans. In the meantime, it is Samsung which is taking advantage of the situation to establish its domination in this sector: the market share of the South Korean giant is expected to reach 86% in 2021, against 83% last year.

With Google canceling and other brands delayed / downsizing due to the chip shortage, Samsung’s 2021 foldable phone (not panel) market share should be 86%, up from 83% last year. They certainly out-executed vs. other brands in 2021. Huawei is # 2 at 10%.

– Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) November 16, 2021

Abandonment or simple setback?

According to Ross Young, we should not wait for the Pixel Fold before at least June 2022. Rather than completely abandoning its project, it is likely that Google will wait for a more favorable period to launch its folding smartphone. Until then, the firm will be able to refine its project and the new version of its operating system.

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