Sunday, June 4, 2023 | 01:29 pm

Finally, the Pixel Fold Applies Some Much-Needed Pressure to Samsung

Finally, the Pixel Fold Applies Some Much-Needed Pressure to Samsung

It had been rumored for a while now that Google is going to launch a competitor to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold. That finally happened yesterday with the official announcement of the Google Pixel Fold. The device had been leaked quite thoroughly leading up to the launch so it didn’t exactly come as a surprise.

This device is perhaps one of the more serious competitors of the Galaxy Z Fold that we’ve seen so far. It’s interesting to note that there’s a lot of Samsung technology inside the device. The Google Pixel Fold’s cover and foldable display are from Samsung Display. The custom Tensor G2 chip that Google has used for this device is also made by Samsung, the Korean giant has collaborated closely with Google on its Tensor project.

On paper, the Google Pixel Fold ticks most of the boxes. The 7.6-inch foldable panel and the 5.8-inch cover display place it in the Galaxy Z Fold’s league. These panels are sufficiently bright and both feature a 120Hz refresh rate. These are Samsung panels, after all, so it wasn’t expected that there would be a major difference in these stats compared to the panels used inside the Galaxy Z Fold devices.

The Pixel Fold also materializes a major change that we expect to see with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 later this year. It has a waterdrop hinge which enables the two halves of the device to shut completely flat. This allows the Pixel Fold to be 12mm thin when folded, considerably thinner than the 16mm Z Fold 4. Samsung is also expected to use the waterdrop hinge for the Galaxy Z Fold 5 so we can look forward to a similar improvement in profile later this year.

Samsung’s IPX8 water resistance rating for its foldables has remained unmatched by the Chinese competitors. Google’s new foldable phone has an IPX8 rating as well so it matches Samsung in another crucial aspect. The hinge is also capable of keeping the display open at various angles, this is similar to Samsung’s Flex Mode.

Samsung hasn’t really focused on providing the best camera technology on its foldables as that remains limited to its Galaxy S Ultra models. The Pixel Fold takes it up a notch compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 with its periscope 5x optical zoom camera. It remains to be seen if a similar upgrade will be offered with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Furthermore, the software processing of Pixel phones has generally been better than other Android manufacturers, so it’s entirely possible that the Pixel Fold may retain the lead in this department even when the Galaxy Z Fold 5 comes out.

What it doesn’t have is a stylus like the S Pen. The Google Pixel Fold doesn’t have support for one and while the Galaxy Z Fold 5 will support the S Pen like its predecessors, you still won’t be able to store it inside the device. Samsung has decided against a dedicated S Pen slot on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 because apparently it didn’t want to make the device thicker. The Pixel Fold compensates for its lack of the S Pen with some nifty software features like the live translator mode and Magic Eraser. We can expect the Android OS to be more optimized on Google’s own device as well.

Google isn’t making any effort to undercut Samsung on price. It costs $1,799, the same as the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and with no price cut expected, it’s likely that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 will cost the same. What’s great now for customers who want to spend that much money on a new phone is that they’ll have more options.

Samsung’s ecosystem still offers a lot of benefits for customers to consider the Galaxy Z Fold over the Pixel Fold. Customers can also expect to get better deals and trade-in values from Samsung. The company will usually throw in a pre-order gift of free earbuds or a discounted Galaxy Watch as well. Samsung’s self-repair program, industry-leading software support, and global repair network are other great reasons to choose a Galaxy Z Fold phone over the Pixel Fold.

That’s not to say there won’t be any pressure from the Pixel Fold. I’d argue that it puts some much needed pressure on Samsung. The company’s foldable phones have largely had smooth sailing for the past few years. There haven’t been any real competitors. Many Chinese OEMs have made competitors but the crucial difference is that they haven’t been available widely, and haven’t been allowed in the US.

The US is Google’s back yard so the Pixel Fold competes against the Galaxy Z Fold in one of the most lucrative smartphone markets on the planet. Customers in the US now have another option to consider. This means Samsung will have to push harder to win their hearts and minds in the hopes that they don’t switch over to the Pixel Fold.

Competition is always great for consumers. It pushes companies to do better and offer customers with more incentives to consider their products. While it’s unlikely that this will lead to a reduction in prices, there are many other ways that Samsung can sweeten the deal that Google can’t match.

What’s more important is that it will push Samsung to do better, particularly in the camera department. The cameras are perhaps one of the most important factors that inform purchase decisions these days. If there is a noticeable and significant difference in the performance, people wouldn’t mind jumping over, especially when you consider that changing from one Android device to another is far more easier than going from an iPhone to an Android device.

Samsung certainly has its work cut out for it. There are considerable expectations from the company to deliver with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. We wouldn’t have to wait for too long to find out if it does that. Based on reports, it appears that the Unpacked event for the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Galaxy Z Flip 5 will be held in the last week of July. Expect the devices to hit the market a couple of weeks after that.