This article and its photographs were written and taken by Chris Gavula, iTechGear.org Editor
Yeah, I read the Reviews Before I bought it….and?
It’s funny – whenever a new device comes out, there is always a rash of reviews written by pundits or spoken about by influencers on YouTube, and most of these people approach the product from either a tech perspective – it has these specs compared to its competition – or they approach as a journalist and their “use cases” never match mine. The result is stories like “this product destroys that product” or “this product – fails.” These things are always about drawing eyeballs to the page or the online clip or whatever. It’s rarely about telling you what the things are or if it’s any good for the rest of us.
Well, I’m not promising to be any better than anyone else. I’m not first to the table nor the last, I’m sure, but I have had a lot of experience with a lot of devices – good and bad -and I’m going to try and apply what I think I know to the Google Pixel Fold – my first 24 hours or so with the device.
So a little recent history. I am generally an Apple fanboy – and yes, I freely admit it. But I typically have more than one phone in operation, and I have always had some Android devices in my collection. In the past, I have also had Windows Phone and even Palm devices before that. The point is that I’m not new. Today I have the Google Pixel Fold, which I will talk about here, as well as a Samsung Fold4 and the Galaxy S23 Ultra. I also have a Surface Duo 2, which I think I’m only one of a handful of people who owned that device, and I am a big fan of it.
That last is most important because it answers the “why” to my purchase of the Pixel Fold. Honestly, it is the closest to what should have been a Surface 2 successor – spiritually and in its behavior.
I watched a LOT of YouTube videos from various people, and most of them had agendas like I mentioned before. That was disheartening. A few people were positive, which was good, but many people were complaining about the price or “something they heard,” like the fragility of the inside screen. But very few of them talked much about their personal use case or needs and how this did or didn’t meet those needs or used it enough in a “normal” way (whatever that means for them). So I was more confused than ever, but ultimately, I decided to go for it.
I sucked it up and spent the money to buy the Pixel Fold despite the high price (the same price as a Galaxy Fold 5). Foldables have generally not seen many price reductions yet. Although there are some Chinese brands available at lower prices, they often come with other limitations or compromises, so in the U.S., the current state of things is that these kinds of devices are expensive. I decided to go for it anyway because I greatly like the form factor.
All that out of the way now, the device arrived at the house, and I carefully opened it up. I immediately noticed the high quality of the build and the way Google kept the packaging minimal. I saw the same thing when I tried a Pixel 6 Pro last year. Google does an excellent job with this.
The primary device setup and initial activation on my phone carrier went smoothly and efficiently. Next, I used the built-in transfer feature to connect it to my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and transfer my accounts, pics, contact, and apps. I did not have it share SMS messages or anything like that. It took a while to get all its updates, transfer all the data, and install all the apps (except most Samsung-only apps, which aren’t copied). Many of these were arranged on my S23 screen in groups/folders. Unfortunately, while the non-Samsung apps all transferred, none of the folders/groups transferred, so it was like the movers packing up your old house and then dumping everything into the living room of your new home for you to sort out. Yeah – the Android transfer process is not on par with the Apple device transfer process (for several reasons), but at least it got me part of the way there, even if there were hours of cleanup afterward. It also moved my Google account to the new device and implemented some of my basic device settings, but none of the app credentials/accounts moved. So again – it gets you part of the way there, but in a half-complete way. It’s still better than nothing, though.
Once I got everything mostly arranged to my liking, I noticed that I liked the device a lot. I like that the outside screen is slightly narrower than the Surface Duo 2 was (which made the Duo kind of challenging to use as a phone), but it’s still more comprehensive than the Samsung Galaxy Fold 4 (and 5). The narrowness of the Samsung Fold outer screens is probably the most significant negative I had with those devices. I found myself almost always opening the device rather than trying to use the outside screen. I disliked it that much. The Pixel Fold external screen is MUCH more functional and pleasant to use, and I find myself doing a lot on it.
The inside screen is close in size to the Samsung Fold inside screen. The primary difference is that the orientation, by default, is landscape, whereas, on Samsung devices, it’s portrait. I like the pixel Fold orientation better. It fits better with how I use the device, even though some apps are letterboxed. But for me, most apps that I use look and work great.
So where do I use the inside vs. the outside screen? A few apps come to mind: First is the Amazon Kindle app. Reading books is very pleasant on this device (as it was on the Surface Duo). You can operate in dual-column mode, which feels like reading a paperback book. Again, the Samsung was too narrow and awkward when using the dual-column method; when I used the Kindle app, I was happier in single-column mode. As a side note, I should point out that graphic novels / Manga / comic books are incredibly excellent on this device and other large-format devices, and the Kindle app and the sibling Comixology app both do an excellent job on this device.
I also use the inside screen when watching videos (YouTube is especially nice now that Google has allowed the app to operate differently on larger-screen devices). I also play games on the inside screen. I’m a fan of SimCity BuildIt on this device, for example.
Another use case for me is email – I usually use the inside screen to read this because it allows me to show message headers on the left and message content on the right – a lovely way to read email. I think if you do anything where the app has been optimized for the bigger screen, this will become part of your use case or even your justification for this kind of device. It really can make the experience more pleasant.
I have heard some complaints about the speakers’ volume and the audio on phone calls. I haven’t had any real problems with either, but I haven’t used them heavily for that yet, and I suspect if it becomes an issue, I will likely simply start to use a Bluetooth headset or something similar. Trying to use/listen to stuff open air – especially when I am NOT at home -seems like a bad idea. I prefer to keep the sound to myself and not disturb others.
There have been comments, good a bad, about the camera – the short form is that the Pixel Fold does use a similar camera and software to what’s available in the Pixel 7 series devices. I have not used it extensively yet, but based on aggregating what others have said, I think its performance is not quite as good as a Pixel 7 Pro but equal to or better than the cameras in the seven and 7a. That still puts it at the top or near the top regarding comparable foldable devices, so that’s more than acceptable in my book.
The Pixel Fold does run stock (for Pixel) Android 13 out of the box. And it is pretty basic, but it does run well. It has a few limitations. People have complained that the outside and inside screens can’t be configured separately. That doesn’t bug me because I like switching screens’ continuity. However, if I were to change one thing, I would like more flexibility in dealing with the Google Search bar. I want to move or remove it altogether, but that doesn’t seem like an option. I’ve read online that it can be done, but it impacts the Google Search features in general, which I don’t necessarily want to do. Hopefully, they will make it easier to do what I want.
A few more thoughts. I put the essential PIxel Fold Case on the device when I popped the SIM card into it and turned it on. Note – the case uses sticky portions, so if you remove it, you may have to reapply the adhesive somehow, and that’s never fun, so you might want to think about that. I recommend a case, though, since all the online reviews show that the device can and does scuff and scratch pretty easily. I doubt the cases protect against that, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt.
I am not foolish, so I am still concerned with some early reports I saw about possible inside screen damage. I am being overly careful and hope I don’t have similar issues, but I won’t know until I’ve had it for a while. In the meantime, Google offered “protection” coverage either monthly or a single payment for two years. I bought the 2-year coverage. The co-pays are still a little high, in my opinion, but I felt that with these foldable devices, it is a good idea to have some insurance instead of a hefty bill if the inside screen fails.
Also – there were mentions of overheating and bad battery optimization. I understand you need to give it a week or so for the battery optimization to learn your usage, so right now, it’s no better or worse than the Galaxy Fold 4. And the processor does run warm sometimes, but it hasn’t seemed unreasonable yet, and the device performance seems excellent so far – no lags to delays of any kind yet.
So overall, I’m enjoying this device, despite the high price and initial concerns I had. I am slowly getting all my apps logged into and getting my screens organized as I like them. This is usually a several-day to several-week process for me on new devices. It’s always a grand adventure! I like the device, and now I’m considering trying the Android 14 beta on it since people seem to feel it’s pretty stable now and apparently brings more improvements to large-screen devices. So the adventure will hopefully continue and we will see where this takes us next!