In the next few months, Google will be presenting a number of new pixel products that were officially announced or at least teased in mid-May in a rather unique prospect. However, Pixel fans will have to wait much longer for a product and it may even become vaporware: the foldable Pixel Notepad smartphone has been postponed for reasons that are not known.
Foldable smartphones are still real attractions because despite millions of devices sold, they are still rarely found and, as a non-owner, you will probably see a device being folded up or unfolded much more rarely. Although the foldable devices can show strong growth in sales, it remains to be seen how much is based on curiosity and a must-have and how many users really see any advantage over a normal smartphone or tablet.
The big manufacturers were already talking about foldable and rollable devices ten years ago, with prototypes being shown again and again that did not come onto the market after all or where only the display, but not the rest of the device, was changeable in shape. Google has also been active in this area for a long time and already made the first adjustments for foldable displays in the beta phase of Android 10 – which is now three years ago.
But a Google smartphone with a foldable display has not yet existed and it doesn’t look as if that will change in the foreseeable future. Because the Pixel Notepad, which has been circulating for a long time, is likely to have been postponed until at least summer or even the end of 2023. But even after that, you have to put a big question mark.
Pixel Notepad as an offshoot of the Pixel 6
There is a lot of evidence that the Pixel Notepad, then known as the “Pixel Fold”, should already appear as an offshoot of the Pixel 6. As of summer 2021, there have been reports of a foldable smartphone that is expected to hit the market in fall 2021. It later became clear that the schedule could not be kept and that it should only be ready around Christmas 2021. That would have been a good fit because the Pixel 6 was still brand new and the Christmas business is very important for such a device.
But it shouldn’t come to that. We now know that no foldable Pixel will come onto the market in early 2022 or spring 2022 either. We also know that Google postponed the device for at least a year because of dissatisfaction. But more on that later. The fact that Google already had the smartphone firmly in the nearer roadmap is shown by many discoveries in Google apps and most clearly by Android 12L, which was specially designed for foldables. The operating system was not necessary because all the important features in this area are coming to Android 13 and accordingly there will be no Android 13L either.
What was Google unhappy with?
One has to wonder what could have made Google so dissatisfied that warranted a long postponement. Because according to everything we know, the postponement must have taken place very shortly before the start of production. Because the smartphone is to be developed in close cooperation with Samsung, who is the market leader in this area and has a great deal of expertise, I don’t assume there will be any quality problems.
But what else could it be? Of course, after a long development period, you can be caught up by the market and no longer consider the product to be suitable, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Because there was no significant further development in the foldables at the hardware level. And on the software level, Android 12L has just been launched, Android 13 will be launched shortly and you can always add more.
Notepad vs tablet?
It’s quite possible that Google’s tablet plans got in the way. The first Pixel Tablet has already been announced for next year and this announcement alone could have closed the vacuum that had existed in the area of devices with large displays until then. Google does not make such an announcement primarily for user attention, especially not with such a long time lag, but also to underline current developments and strategies towards partners and developers.
Has Google Overestimated the Foldable Market?
Of course, press releases and official blog posts are always formulated positively, but whenever it came to foldables, there was a real enthusiasm between the lines. At Google, foldables are or may have been very important and may have significantly overestimated the market. As already mentioned at the beginning, the market has yet to prove that the current success is sustainable and does not have to be pushed into the drawer with the ephemeral 3D displays or VR devices of the first two decades.
Maybe you don’t see much benefit in the foldable displays at the moment, which is also my personal attitude at the moment. One must not forget that foldables are still in the niche and Google is still a niche manufacturer. And a niche product within a niche isn’t something that Google could make a profit on at reasonable retail prices — but that’s what it’s all about.
Is it still coming?
Google had the chance to get in very early – but didn’t use it. Two years later, you had the chance to surf the success of the first foldable generations – and didn’t take it. Now it’s the strongest growth area and again it’s not being used. What are the chances that there will even be a Google foldable? And where can a foldable be placed between the large pixel smartphones, the upcoming tablets and the expected tablet-smart display hybrids? As of today, I don’t see a great need among Google users.