Doesn’t Seem Google’s Pixel Fold Is Going to Happen

Other manufacturers are too far ahead

Key Takeaways

  • Google will not release a Pixel Fold phone in late 2021 or early 2022.
  • Competition with Samsung may have scared Google out of the market.
  • Chinese manufacturers will pressure Samsung with new folding phones in 2022.
Closeup on someone holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Onur Binay / Unsplash

A report claims Google's anticipated Pixel Fold phone will not be released in the near future.

Google was expected to announce or release a Pixel Fold phone in 2021. The phone was never officially announced, but leaked documents, supply chain rumors, and Google's debut of Android 12L (a version of Android for folding phones and tablets) suggested the Pixel Fold was underway. But according to a new report from Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC), that is no longer the case.

"DSCC has confirmed with its supply chain sources that Google has decided not to bring the Pixel Fold to market," Ross Young, CEO of DSCC, said in the report on the company's website. "Not in 2021 and reportedly not in the first half of 2022."

Samsung Pushed Google Out of the Market

Young's sources cite competition from Samsung as a key reason for Google's decision to cancel the Pixel Fold. Samsung held 86% of the folding phone market in 2021, according to DSCC, and is particularly strong in North America, a key market for Google. 

But what, specifically, gave Samsung an edge?

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung

DSCC's report points to several weaknesses in the Pixel Fold's rumored specifications. These include the lack of a camera below the folding screen, which works like a front-facing camera when the folding phone is open, and lackluster quality for those cameras that may have been included. 

The Pixel Fold was also unlikely to use a display technology called color filter on encapsulation (CoE). This technology reduces the thickness and power consumption of the display found in Samsung's latest folding phones. 

"Samsung claims its CoE structure, which they call Eco2, reduces power by 25%, resulting in longer battery life," Young said in an email to Lifewire. This would put the Pixel Fold at a disadvantage in battery life.

Alone, none of Google Pixel Fold's shortcomings seem worth canceling the project. Together, they paint a picture of a folding phone that would debut behind Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 in camera quality and battery life. 

"Many of the Chinese brands are expected to have more than one model in 2022."

Chinese Brands Pick up the Slack

The Pixel Fold's cancellation will come as a blow to folding phone enthusiasts. The phone was thought to be a flagship designed to show off the features of Android 12L, which is slated for release in the first half of 2022. It now seems other smartphone manufacturers will be the first to take advantage of it.

That will likely include new folding phones from Chinese brands that will go toe-to-toe with Samsung. "We show Samsung's share falling from 86% in 2021 to 74% in 2022 as it loses share to Chinese brands," said Young. "Many of the Chinese brands are expected to have more than one model in 2022."

These brands include Huawei, Honor, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiamoi. Though not major players in North America, these brands have a reputation for cutting-edge smartphones. The Huawei Mate XS and Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold are already competitive with Samsung folding phones in some areas.

Supply chain reports hint Chinese brands will fight Samsung by flanking it from both sides. "We see Chinese brands adopting in-folding panels in size from 7.1" to 8.1" in 2022," said Young. "We think what is guiding the range away from Samsung's size of 7.6" is the desire to differentiate with something larger and unique/more functional or smaller and lower cost."

The Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold.

Xiaomi

The price of Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3, which starts at $1,799, certainly leaves room for folding phones with a slightly smaller display size to beat Samsung in price. 

On the high end, meanwhile, an 8.1-inch display could provide a noticeable size bump compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 3's 7.6-inch display. 

Young says a larger display could do more than increase display size when the phone is open. It might allow for a larger, more functional cover display. The 6.2-inch cover display on the Galaxy Z Fold has an unusual 24.5:9 aspect ratio and can be awkward with some apps.

Folding phone fans can take solace in this new competition. The Pixel Fold may be canceled, but 2022 will still see several new folding phones give Samsung much-needed competition.

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