Google canceling Pixel Fold isn’t bad news, it’s a chance to embrace Samsung


Last updated: November 16th, 2021 at 19:25 UTC+01:00

Samsung was the only OEM to truly stake its reputation on foldable smartphones. The original Galaxy Fold stumbled out the gate. Many questioned the logic behind launching such a device. Others felt that it was a novelty that would die out.

Little did they know what Samsung had in store. Merely a few months later, Samsung came out with the Galaxy Z Flip. It reinvented clamshell phones for the modern era and elevated their designs to a status of high fashion. The company would go on to follow it up with the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Then came the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. They’re the world’s first water resistant foldable smartphones. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is also the first foldable to have support for the S Pen. It’s even the first Samsung smartphone with an Under Display Camera.

In just two years, Samsung has shown the world that it’s serious about the foldable category. It’s not just making these devices to prove a point. Much like it did with the Galaxy Note series, it’s pushing the industry into a whole new direction with its foldable smartphones.

That’s one of the reasons why we hear that many other OEMs are now thinking about launching their own foldable smartphones. Such is Samsung’s dominance in this market right now, though, that they will certainly have a hard time catching up.

Perhaps that is what Google has realized. With the launch of the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google has shown that it’s getting serious about hardware. The new devices come with Google’s first in-house designed mobile SoC. So it wasn’t surprising to hear that the internet search giant was thinking about foldable phones as well.

Rumors had suggested that the device would be called the Google Pixel Fold. No actual evidence emerged to support the theory that Google had a foldable phone in the works. However, when it announced Android 12L, to many it felt like the clearest indication yet of its future plans.

That may no longer be the case, though. Recent reports claim that Google has cancelled the Pixel Fold that it was planning to launch in mid-2022. It apparently believed that the device wouldn’t have been compelling enough against foldables from Samsung and other OEMs.

Even if the Google Pixel Fold was launched in 2022, would Google have been able to do the device justice? Smartphone sales still don’t account for much more than a rounding error on the company’s balance sheets.

This isn’t a big area of business yet for Google. It neither has the retail and carrier partnerships that Samsung has to push devices nor does it have its own massive retail footprint. It probably wouldn’t have been able to match Samsung when it came to marketing and ensuring the availability of the device across the globe.

There’s one advantage that Samsung now has in the foldable market that no other OEM does. It has a proven track record. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 have already broken all of its previous foldable sales records. The technology has improved considerably and will only get better in the coming years.

Google can better service the foldable market not by launching its own device but by working with Samsung on improving the software. Android 12L is a step in the right direction. Announced last month, Android 12L is a modified version of its mobile OS that will improve the UI design and features on foldable smartphones and tablets.

Software is key to enabling a good user experience on foldable smartphones. There’s only so much that Samsung can do within the confines of One UI. It can’t touch the underlying Android OS. True change will come when Google ramps up initiatives like Android 12L to enable foldable smartphones to provide users with more value.

Google and Samsung have worked together on enhancing the software experience for foldables before. They’ve done it for apps like Duo and YouTube that were among the first to support Flex Mode. There’s no reason why this partnership can’t be expanded further.

In Samsung, Google has a proven partner that’s fully committed to the foldable segment. Samsung is dominant in this market. It has a truly global reach that’s the envy of many of its competitors.

Google should think of this as an opportunity to be locked in an even tighter embrace with Samsung, instead of trying to make a foldable smartphone just for the heck of it.

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