Google’s $1800 Pixel Fold Really Has No Place in the Smartphone World
- Google’s Pixel Fold costs $1,800 and runs on its Tensor chips.
- A folding phone is supposed to do the job of a phone, plus a tablet or laptop.
- But this one costs the same as a phone and a laptop.
Folding phones will never be more than a big, expensive, unwieldy, brick-like niche.
A folding phone seems like the perfect do-everything device, letting you carry a pocketable phone that transforms into something bigger when needed. And now, with Google’s Pixel Fold, it seems like they are finally going mainstream. But are they? Does the combination of high price and compromised utility mean that folding phones are just a short-lived gimmick, destined to the same fate as keyboard-based smartphones like Blackberries?
“Folding phones seemed like a great idea on paper, but given the steep price tag of the Pixel Fold, it might be one of those ideas that’s best left as an idea. With many people shunning the latest version of other smartphones because of price, it seems like the absolute worst time to unveil an $1800 phone, folding or not,” Kyle MacDonald, VP at mobile device deployment company Mojio, told Lifewire via email.
What Good Is a Folding Phone?
Think about how you use your phone vs. how you use a tablet, iPad, or laptop. Your phone is great because you can grab it and look at it. I might be in a pocket, on a desk, or slung over your shoulder on a string or strap, but the point is, it is 100 percent ready to go at all times. And with always-on displays, you can often glance to get info without even waking it.
Then, think about the times you choose to use your iPad or laptop instead. The iPad’s advantage is its bigger screen, which is better for reading or for doing more typing. A laptop is even better at getting stuff done, with its keyboard and the ease of arranging everything you need in floating windows.
The lines blur. Younger people who started out on phones can get everything done just fine, plus phone screens can be pretty big. And the iPad can itself sometimes feel like little more than a big phone, making the laptop the only option for some users.
The question we need to ask about folding phones, then, is whether they add enough extra utility without also compromising what makes a phone so great. And they don’t.
A folding phone has one big advantage. It can offer a double-sized screen. That’s it. It could, theoretically, at least, compete with a tablet, except that an iPad is more than twice the size of a folding phone (apart from the iPad mini, of course). But it does this at the expense of everything that makes us love our phones-their pocketability, and their ease of access. Plus, with two screens to power instead of one, battery life suffers unless you make the thing even thicker and heavier.
“Folding phones seemed like a great idea on paper, but given the steep price tag of the Pixel Fold, it might be one of those ideas that’s best left as an idea.
Hands-on reports show Google’s Pixel Fold runs hot, and its Google-designed Tensor chips are sluggish compared to the Qualcomm chips in most Android phones. And then we get to the price. This thing costs $1,800.
Now, gadget prices tend to come down over the years as they get easier to manufacture and sell more units, but we’ve had folding phones for a while now, and the prices haven’t dropped. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is also $1,800, and its smaller Flip Fold is $1,000.
Plus, two screens (and the batteries to power them) will always be more expensive than one, and a hinge will always be bulkier and more delicate than no hinge.
We started out wondering whether a folding phone could do the jobs of bigger computing devices without too much compromise, and the answer was a definitive “No.” But the Galaxy Fold and Pixel Fold cost the same.
You could buy an iPhone and an iPad, or even an iPhone and a MacBook Air, for around the same price as a single Pixel Fold. Neither device is compromised, and you’re not forced to carry both at the same time. To be honest, as soon as I did this calculation, it was hard to take the idea of an $1,800 folding phone seriously anymore.
“You could buy 3 Google Pixel 6’s for the same price as one Pixel Fold without getting any appreciable performance improvements aside from that folding screen. While I’m sure it’s going to be a very nice phone, that price point is a non-starter for this to be a mass product,” Ben Michael, tech lover and attorney at Michael and Associates, told Lifewire via email.
Folding phones may indeed get cheaper, more reliable, and even thinner, but folding phones will forever remain a niche, not the main show.
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