Sometimes it’s the simple decisions that make the biggest difference. With the Pixel FoldGoogle made some choices that make it the best folding phone you can buy Even though Samsung has been selling foldables for five years, its big Galaxy Z Fold foldable has been making the same mistakes every year, and Google has taken advantage of those weaknesses to keep going. Even better for Google, it’s not clear that Samsung will change some of these fundamental flaws.
There are two types of foldable phones in the market. One is a smartphone that folds up small, like the old flip phones our ancestors used. Another is a smartphone that opens wide, hiding a tablet-sized display inside. Samsung does the same.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Motorola Razr Plus 2023 are examples of the former flip phone idea. These phones are fun, compact, and cost just over half as much as their larger Fold siblings.
The Google Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 4 fall into the latter category, and they actually look more like foldable tablets than smartphones. They are big, heavy, and expensive. In fact, these ‘Fold’ phones are the most expensive smartphones you can buy. You can get the best iPhone, in fact you can add 1TB of storage to an Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, and still spend hundreds less than you would on a Google Pixel Fold.
Google has folded the Fold in the right direction
Both the Google Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 4 have a 7.6-inch display inside. Looking at the two phones, you wouldn’t expect the internal display to be the same size. They look remarkably different. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is very high. The Pixel Fold is shorter and more squat.
In fact, it is exactly the same aspect ratio and diagonal. Google makes its screen 90 degrees. This was the first big thing that Google got that Samsung didn’t.
The Pixel Fold is very usable when it’s open or closed. The external display is 5.8 inches, compared to the 6.2-inch screen on the outside of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but it is actually larger in area. That’s because it has a wider aspect ratio, while the Z Fold 4 is very tall and narrow.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 measures around a 21:9 aspect ratio on that external display. The Pixel Fold is closer to 17.5:9, which is wider. You get more than half an inch of extra screen space with the Pixel Fold, but more importantly, you get a more comfortable width.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s narrow display doesn’t work for normal smartphone use. Web pages are drawn too narrowly, making the text smaller or the page less informative. After using the Z Fold display for just a few moments, you’ll want to open the phone and use the big screen. The big screen is great. The narrow screen feels weird.
The interesting thing is that Samsung and Google both fold an internal display of the same size, but by folding on a different axis, Google gives us a wider, more normal-looking aspect ratio for the external display this. Apps look great on a wide screen, and reading is easy.
The Pixel Fold has a camera that isn’t the worst
Both Google and Samsung make great camera phones, but for some reason the Galaxy Z phones don’t get the same imaging quality as … well, any Samsung flagship. Foldable phones take the worst photos of any expensive Samsung you can buy, worse than the base model Galaxy S23and not even close to powerful Galaxy S23 Ultraour best camera phone picks.
Google, on the other hand, already relies on a lot of software tricks for good imaging, so even its cheapest phones take great pictures. The main camera on the Pixel Fold is almost as good as the Pixel 7, and the zoom can be seen up to the Pixel 7 Pro with its 5X telephoto lens. This puts the Pixel Fold somewhere in the middle for camera capabilities, not at the bottom of Google’s heap.
What puts the Pixel Fold ahead of the Samsung Z Fold 4 is the Tensor G2 chip and all the cool photo editing tools that Google powers exclusively on its Tensor devices. Google’s Tensor chips haven’t been a standout feature, except for image editing tools. Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser are some of the coolest smartphone features around, and they’re even better used on the large Pixel Fold display.
Keep it simple to do more
While the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Pixel Fold seem to be made for multitasking with nice big internal displays, the Pixel Fold is a bit limiting, and this could be to its advantage. With the Pixel Fold, you can run two apps side by side. That’s it. You won’t fill your screen with tons of tiled apps in countless open windows and floating bubbles.
On Samsung phones, especially the big Galaxy Z Fold 4, you can run yourself into opening as many apps as you want. You can run probably a dozen apps in minimized windows, side by side, and as pop-up buttons, all at once. There are side panels that swipe from a hidden tab on the side. Then you can whip out your S Pen and write sticky notes on top of everything.
It can be quite messy. These features are so complex that they’re buried under Settings then under Advanced Settings and then under a menu titled “Labs.” If this is the Labs, what are we really? The test subjects.
Google’s phone may seem simplistic at first, but it gets the experience right. Since the external display looks great and has a useful aspect ratio, running two apps on the internal display feels natural, like having two phones side by side.
Samsung won’t accept defeat, but will it change?
That’s not to say the Google phone is perfect, and it still has a lot to learn from Samsung. Full-screen apps look better on the large internal display on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 than on the Pixel Fold. In fact, we had similar problems with how the apps looked to us Pixel Tabletso clearly Google has a big issue with the screen.
Additionally, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is imminent, if past launch history is our guide. We don’t expect big changes in the next generation, but Samsung can always surprise us.
Google seems to have a big advantage over its Android rival/partner at the moment. Of course, the next Samsung phone will have better cameras than the last, but will they match Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S series? Probably not, if Samsung wants to keep costs down.
More importantly, unless Samsung changes the overall shape of its device and makes a more usable external display, it won’t have a phone that’s as enjoyable to use as both a phone and a tablet, open and closed, as the Pixel Fold .
Google thought it had to bend the internal display the other way around. Let’s see if Samsung is bent the other way itself.
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