Google Pixel Fold Review: finally, a folding phone you can enjoy using even without unfolding

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Google Pixel Fold Review

Google Pixel Fold Intro


Google had to make this phone.

Foldable phones are definitely a thing now in 2023 and that is largely thanks to Samsung's four years of relentless efforts, but also since we only have Samsung in this game (in Western markets at least), this has resulted in only one form factor and only one extremely high price point. At first, this was not a problem, but a few years in, the lack of choice has become a real issue.

I am among those foldable phone believers who thought foldable phones will replace traditional smartphones, but in the past few years, all my hopes have only come crashing down with every new release. And my biggest disappointment has always come from a compromised front screen, a form factor that was not quite right and a phone too big and bulky to carry around comfortably.

So, the Pixel Fold is here to do one simple thing: finally, give users a different form factor. Finally, give users the choice to use a folding phone... without having to unfold it every time. Unfolding the Pixel Fold is an option, not a mandate.

Let's see if this changes the game as I hoped it would. 

Google Pixel Fold
6.7

Google Pixel Fold


The Good

  • Gets the foldable design right
  • Front screen is a lot more useful than on Galaxy Fold
  • Beautiful and clean interface with no bloatware
  • Pixel camera look
  • Decent battery life

The Bad

  • Long-term durability is iffy
  • Gets hot even with ordinary tasks
  • Screen is very delicate, scratches from fingernails
  • Screen is also very reflective, has a crease
  • Pricey

What’s new about the Google Pixel Fold
  • Google's first foldable phone
  • Wide front screen, you can use the phone comfortably without unfolding
  • Very sturdy hinge
  • Google has some cool new software features
  • Google Tensor chip inside
  • Larger battery than Galaxy Fold 4
  • Thinner than Galaxy Fold 4
  • Triple rear camera including 5X zoom
  • Pricey

Table of Contents:

Google Pixel Fold Specs

Tensor G2 chip inside, but what else?


Here is an overview of the Pixel Fold specs against major rivals:


The particular specs highlights that we noticed about the Pixel Fold is that it's slimmer than the Galaxy, while it has a nearly 10% larger battery capacity too. No laws of physics were broken, though, as it does weigh more.

Pixel Fold Design

Slim and elegant, with passport like size, but heavy


Foldable phones are a new category and unlike traditional candy bar smartphones, there is no consensus yet on the ideal size and form factor.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series, the most popular folding phone, looks like a TV remote when folded, or in other words it's tall and narrow. The front screen is also extremely narrow, so everything looks squeezed and the keyboard is too small for comfort. In other words, you don't really want to use this phone without unfolding it first.

The Pixel Fold is completely different. It comes with a 5.8" OLED screen, technically smaller than the 6.2" size on the Galaxy Fold 4, but in reality because of the wider dimensions, you can comfortably use the Pixel Fold without unfolding.

I don't know about you, but at least half the time I check my phone, it's for notifications or something else that literally takes a second, and in those cases, I don't need to be bothered to open the phone. The Pixel Fold works with me here, while I always feel like I am fighting the Galaxy Fold and its weird size in those cases.

Design-wise, the Pixel Fold is actually noticeably thinner than the Galaxy Fold, and it's also less tall, and I found it fits easier in my pocket. I feel a discomfort carrying the taller Galaxy Fold 4 in my pocket, but less so with the Pixel Fold, however it's still quite the heavy phone at 10 ounces (283 grams).

The big concern about foldable phones is always the durability. Our own Nick T had his Galaxy Z Fold 3 break after just nine months of use, and the risk of having a foldable phone break on you seems much higher than with a traditional phone.

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Fortunately, I have not had issues with the Google Pixel Fold in about two weeks of use, but it's summer here and on a few occasions I had to leave it at home rather than risk having it at the beach.

The hinge on the Pixel Fold is another key component. It's very sturdy, with a smooth travel and the phone shuts with a nice thump that reminds me an expensive car, the sound is really satisfying.

One curious design detail is that when unfolded the phone defaults to a state where it's not exactly 180-degree flat, but just a bit less than that. You can push it ever so slightly to get it to a flat 180 state, though. This hasn't bothered me while using the phone, but it's kind of noticeable and a bit strange.

Finally, one look at the back of the Pixel Fold and you know it belongs in the Pixel family with that typical camera bar on the back of the phone. I like that Google phones have some personality.


The phone comes in a choice of two colors: Porcelain and Obsidian, or essentially a white and a black version. Nothing too crazy or colorful.

Pixel Fold Display

A tablet-sized main screen, but a delicate one that may scratch even from fingernails


We've already mentioned the big advantage of the wider front screen on the Pixel Fold, but flip it open, and you are treated to a tablet-sized 7.6-inch main display which has beautfiul colors.

Many have complained about this huge bezel all around, but honestly, after just a day or two I stopped noticing it and actually appreciated having some space to hold the phone without any accidental touches.

The bigger issues with the main screen are two: first one is just how delicate it is. You definitely don't want to use anything sharp with it and even pressing firmer with a fingernail might leave a permanent mark. However, if you don't abuse it much, you should not have huge issues, but just keep in mind that issues on foldables often appear after a few months of use and we cannot quite predict those in this review.

The second problem with the screen is that it's extremely reflective! This makes it quite hard to use outdoors as those reflections get in the way.

Oh and one more thing is the crease which is there. Some people are really sensitive to that, and we sure wish it wasn't there too, but we would not say this has been a deal-breaker for us.

Display Measurements:



You can see in our display measurements that the screen is quite color accurate and reaches a good amount of peak brightness. Both the outer and the main screen run at up to 120Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth scrolling.

And for biometrics, Google uses a fingerprint scanner built into the power key on the side of the phone, just like Samsung does with its Fold series. It's fast and works well most of the time, so really no complaints there.

Pixel Fold Camera

Triple camera, with a Pixel look


A phone this thin simply doesn’t have enough space for a full-fledged camera system and that’s why Google had to use this bulging camera hump. Well, at least it gives the phone some personality.

It houses three rear cameras: a 1X main (wide) shooter, a 0.6X ultra-wide camera and a 5X zoom periscope style lens.

This looks much like the camera system on the Pixel 7 Pro, but there are some differences. For starters, the Pixel Fold’s 48MP main camera uses a smaller sensor size compared to the Pixel 7 Pro, and a smaller sensor typically results in photos with slightly lower quality, especially at night. The Fold also uses a 10.8MP 5X zoom telephoto camera and that one also has a smaller sensor size than the 48MP 5X zoom one on the Pixel 7 Pro (the sizes are 1/3.1” vs 1/2.55”).

At least the ultra-wide cameras are of a similar size on the Pixel Fold and Pixel 7 Pro, but they are in fact different sensor and the Pixel Fold does not get as wide as the 7 Pro.

Google Pixel Fold
PhoneArena Camera Score
BEST 153
132
PhoneArena Photo Score
BEST 160
142
Main (wide)
BEST 85
76
Zoom
BEST 27
21
Ultra-wide
BEST 25
19
Selfie
BEST 30
27
PhoneArena Video Score
BEST 147
123
Main (wide)
BEST 79
71
Zoom
BEST 24
12
Ultra-wide
BEST 23
17
Selfie
BEST 28
22

Main Camera



Looking at the quality of photos, though, you can hardly even tell about the smaller sensors. The Pixel Fold captures images with that typical “Pixel” look, with excellent, wide dynamic range and a great amount of detail. White balance is on point too practically every time.

Photos might not be quite as vivid as your typical smartphone shots, but we don’t think that’s bad. Some people may like that look and others may dislike that, so it’s a personal preference.

The typical crushed shadows from the Pixel 7 Pro are now lifted slightly and we think despite the smaller sensor, the Pixel Fold sometimes manages to capture even better looking shots than its non-folding sibling.



In low-light, however, you do notice occasionally a bit less detail and a different way to handle flares from lamps.

Zoom Quality



The Pixel Fold also does an excellent job with zoomed photos. Images at 5X and even 10X look great, with a good amount of detail, even if a tiny bit less detailed than the Pixel 7 Pro. The quality is among the best we’ve seen on a flagship at these zoom levels.

However, since the Pixel Fold lacks a 3X zoom lens, close-range zoom (2X to 4X) does not look as good and detail on those shots is a bit muddy.

Similarly, you still have the familiar issues with portrait mode, which just looks bad on all recent Pixel phones, including this here Pixel Fold.

Ultra-wide



The ultra-wide camera on the Pixel Fold is slightly narrower than the one one the Pixel 7 Pro.



That makes it a bit less versatile, but on the other hand, you have cleaner edges and overall the quality is excellent.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

You can record up to 4K60 video on the Pixel Fold, and you can freely switch between all the cameras while recording.

Overall, video quality is very good with a look again nearly identical to what you get from the Pixel 7 Pro.

Our only complaint is the stabilization: footage from the Pixel Fold appears a bit shaky, even while using the main 1X camera, and it became very unstable when you zoom in. You need to be extra careful and hold the phone with two hands while recording video. That is one area where the Pixel 7 Pro does a better job, and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is even further ahead when it comes to this.

Videos at night and in low light on the Pixel Fold look decent, but noise creeps in more than on other flagships, so there is a certain drop in quality compared to the regular Pixel 7 Pro.

Pixel Fold Performance & Benchmarks

Hot in quite the literal sense


The Pixel Fold is powered by the Google Tensor G2 chip, and that's the same chip that Google uses in the Pixel 7 and even the budget Pixel 7a series.

We think this choice is quite controversial: after all, this phone costs $1,800 and... it comes with the same chip you use on a $500 phone? That doesn't quite sit right.

The Tensor G2 is a perfectly decent chip on its own, but make no mistake — it is no match for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which is expected to power the Samsung Galaxy Fold 5! So if you care about performance in the long term or running more intense tasks, or gaming, well... the Pixel Fold is just not the fastest around.

But worse yet, the Pixel Fold tends to overheat easily, and sometimes even with ordinary tasks. While usually the phone runs smoothly, once this happens you will see all sorts of stutter and hiccups.

Performance Benchmarks:


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Google Pixel Fold1483
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 41388
OPPO Find N21360
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Google Pixel Fold3568
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 43950
OPPO Find N23860
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Google Pixel Fold1641
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 42105
OPPO Find N22819
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Google Pixel Fold1203
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 41524
OPPO Find N21703

Another issue we noticed is that in some games and apps buttons would occasionally not respond to a touch. The phone was still operational, it was just this weird glitch happening quite a few times. In one of the games we tested, the button you use to fire a weapon would not work at all. We had to press a very particular edge of that button to finally get it to function.

And more demanding games will definitely make this phone sweat as it gets hot easily, so there might be better options for gamers.

As for the rest, the base Pixel Fold model comes with 12GB of the latest LPDDR5 RAM and the base model has 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, or you can step up to 512GB of storage for a slightly higher price.

Pixel Fold Software and Android version

Can Google match Samsung's multitasking features?


Another thing special here is the Google Pixel Fold software.

This is Google's first foldable and it comes with a number of cool features that make use of the folding form factor:
  • Tabletop mode - Just place your Pixel Fold on a table and open it halfway to watch videos. This works great with YouTube, one half of the screen shows the video and the other gives you quick controls (the controls will come with an app update).
  • Tabletop mode for photography - You can leave the phone on a table, set a timer and take a picture of you and a group of friends without the need for a tripod. This also works great for astrophotography as you can point the cameras towards the sky and take a photo of the Milky Way!
  • Rear Selfie Camera - Use the exterior screen as a viewfinder and take a selfie using the main cameras of the phone for the best selfie quality ever on a Pixel

Coming up with Android 14 later in the year are the following features:
  • Dual Screen interpreter - use both screens to translate a live conversation and the person you talk to will see your translated sentences on the outer screen.

But most importantly, you have real and very usable split-screen multitasking! You can put two apps side by side on the Pixel Fold and you can have them at either a 50/50 or a 66/33 split. There is no option to have floating apps or a third app like on the Galaxy Fold, which might annoy some power users, but we did not really miss those niche features in our experience.

What we did notice much more is how many popular apps are still not optimised for foldables, and it's now been nearly four years! Instagram is one of the worst offenders, launching in a letterbox, but many others too. The only thing you can do is move them left or right instead of center, but that's a real shame.

Those apps that do support the foldable format are most Google apps and you can really appreciate the design improvements.

When it comes to updates, Google promises five years of security updates and three years of major Android OS software updates. Decent, but not quite the best in the industry.

Pixel Fold Battery

All day battery, but man, charging is slow!

Google Pixel Fold
( 4821 mAh )
Google Pixel Fold
Browsing
13h 38m
Average is 15h 4m
Video
7h 22m
Average is 9h 55m
Gaming
6h
Average is 7h 24m
Charging speed
21W
Charger
47%
30 min
1h 39m
Full charge
Ranks #65 for phones released in the past 2 years
Wireless Charging
7W
Charger
0%
30 min
0h
Full charge

The chunky weight of the Pixel Fold is certainly a disadvantage, but on the flip side, it enables a nearly 10% larger battery than you have on Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 4.

The Galaxy Fold 4 comes with a 4,400mAh battery, and the Pixel Fold ups that number to 4,821mAh. That's a big increase and especially for such a thin phone.

The Pixel Fold officially battery life numbers are the following: 24 hours on average, or up to 72 hours in a low power mode. We feel these estimates are in line with our experience. We would get through an average day easily, but we couldn't stretch this to a day and a half or two days. 

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Google Pixel Fold13h 38 min
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 412h 43 min
Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Google Pixel Fold7h 22 min
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 48h 47 min
OPPO Find N29h 31 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Google Pixel Fold6h
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 44h 28 min
 
Interestingly, the Pixel Fold does great on our lightest, web browsing test, but when you push it just a bit more with video streaming it falls behind the pack.

Pixel Fold Charging Speeds



Pixel phones have one of the slowest charging speeds in the industry, and the Pixel Fold is definitely not changing that.

Google recommends its 30W charger, but the phone only supports up to 21W wired charging speeds, which definitely feels very slow for such a large battery. As a reminder, the Pixel 7 Pro supports 23W charging speeds, not much different.

Pixel Fold Charging Speeds (using Google's 30W charger):
  • in 15 mins — 24%
  • in 30 mins — 47%
  • full charge in — 1 hour 32 minutes

In our experience, charging was quite slow and if you use your phone while charging it would drop to a snail pace.

You also have support for wireless charging, but again at sluggish 7.5W speeds.

Pixel Fold Audio Quality and Haptics


Folding phones have a larger size and with that comes an opportunity to use higher quality loudspeakers than traditional slab phones.

The speakers on the Pixel Fold are boomy and a bit more impressive than on the Pixel 7 Pro, but it's not quite a massive change in quality.

We also have roughly the same haptics experience here as on the Pixel 7 Pro. Vibration feedback is nice for typing, but I found it a bit too weak and I missed a few calls simply because I did not feel the vibration in my pocket.

Pixel Fold Competitors



The Pixel Fold's biggest rival is clearly the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but even more so the Galaxy Z Fold 5 which is expected to arrive in August, just a couple of months after the Pixel Fold. That phone will deliver a number of improvements, including a new and more powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip that wipes the floor with the Tensor G2 chip. That phone, however, will still be taller and not quite as comfortable as the Pixel Fold.

The Oppo Find N2 is another great alternative. It is also a foldable phone that opens like a book, but it's a much more compact design and lighter weight too. It lacks the periscope zoom function, but is otherwise extremely cool. Unfortunately, you cannot officially buy that phone outside of China.

Pixel Fold Summary

Finally, some real competition for the Galaxy Z Fold!


It's great to see Google joining the foldable phone space.

Samsung seems to have gotten way too comfortable with the Fold series, releasing very minor updates, and we are glad that Google finally addresses the elephant in the room: the form factor!

The Pixel Fold makes my life easier because it doesn't force me to open it for every single notification, and I also appreciated the thinner design, and the camera experience.

But I am not sure I will stick with it. I love the idea of foldables and having a large screen is nice, but most of the time what I NEED is to have a light-weight phone that I can carry around and that is tough enough to keep up.

Worse yet, the $1,800 price is way too high for a first-gen device where you just cannot be certain about its durability after a few months or a year.

As it is now, the Pixel Fold is the foldable phone I have enjoyed using the most so far, yet it still feels like a niche rather then the mainstream.

If you really like foldables, you should not miss this release. Even if you don't end up buying it, you should try this out and experience this new form factor.

But if you are on the fence about the whole foldable thing and don't have an endless money supply, it's hard to justify the full price and it would be wise to wait out and see whether any durability issues will surface over the next couple of months.

 *Disclaimer: You may notice review scores have changed on PhoneArena! Since September 20th, we have started using a new scoring system. Learn more about the new PhoneArena Smartphone Review Rating system here.

Pros

  • Gets the foldable design right
  • Front screen is a lot more useful than on Galaxy Fold
  • Beautiful and clean interface with no bloatware
  • Pixel camera look
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Long-term durability is iffy
  • Gets hot even with ordinary tasks
  • Screen is very delicate, scratches from fingernails
  • Screen is also very reflective, has a crease
  • Pricey

PhoneArena Rating:

6.7

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