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Google's Pixel Fold costs $1,799 and runs last year's Tensor G2 chip

It's basically a foldable Pixel 7 Pro.

Google

Google spoiled one of its biggest I/O announcements last week when it confirmed the existence of the Pixel Fold, its first foldable. Now we have the full details: It will cost $1,799, it runs on last year's Tensor G2 chip, and it's available for pre-order today. The company isn't confirming a specific shipping date; Google has only said the device will be available "sometime next month." That vagueness is unusual but then again, this isn't a normal product launch for Google: It's a leap into an entirely new mobile form factor.

While the Pixel Fold is more expensive than earlier reports suggested, its hardware is mostly what we expected: It sports a tall 5.8-inch external display and a wide 7.6-inch internal screen when it's opened up. They're both 120Hz OLED panels with HDR support, but the external one can get a bit brighter (up to 1,200 nits HDR and 1,550 nits peak brightness, compared to the internal displays's 1,000 nits HDR and 1,450 nits peak). Google adds that the phone's steel hinge is built with a "dual-axis, quad-cam synchronized mechanism."

Google Pixel Fold
Google Pixel Fold (Google)

In his hands-on with the Pixel Fold, Engadget's Sam Rutherford reports that the device has a smooth opening motion. And, notably, he also thinks the Pixel Fold has a far less prominent crease than its main competitor, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 4. Google's pitch for its foldable isn't much different than Samsung's, though: You can get some quick business done with the front screen, and when the desire strikes, you can open it up for a tablet-like experience.

Being able to fold the phone also enables some nifty features, like being able to watch a YouTube video on the top half with playback controls on the bottom. Google also previewed features that take advantage of both screens simultaneously, like being able to show translated text on the external screen while you enter queries on the other side.

None of this seems new for the industry, but it's a big step for Google, a company that has historically played it safe on mobile. With its G2 chip and 12GB of RAM, the Pixel Fold is pretty much just a flexible version of the Pixel 7 Pro. That alone could be disappointing for early adopters: Is it really worth spending $1,799 for something with last year's hardware? But while the company could have waited until it had newer chips available, doing so would have left Samsung as the dominant foldable-phone maker for most of the year.

The Pixel Fold's cameras are a slight step backwards from the Pixel 7 Pro, but they're still more impressive than the Z Fold 4. It has a new 9.5 megapixel external camera and an 8MP internal shooter, while its rear setup features a 48-megapixel main camera, a 10.8MP ultra-wide and a 10.8MP telephoto camera with 5X optical zoom. The 7 Pro, meanwhile, had a beefier 50MP Quad Bayer main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide lens and a 48MP Quad Bayer telephoto. Even its front camera was a bit more impressive at 10.8MP.

A major reason for the lower-spec sensors is the sheer thinness of the Pixel Fold: It measures 6mm thick when opened (12.1mm thick when closed). Google was likely limited by the camera sensors available for slim devices. Although we'd normally bemoan company's aiming to be thin at all costs, that design also helps to balance the Fold's weight (10 ounces). It's a tad heavier than the Z Fold 4, but the weight distribution makes it feel less dense, according to Sam's hands-on.

Google Pixel Fold
Google Pixel Fold (Google)

It remains to be seen if the Pixel Fold is actually a better phone than Samsung's Galaxy Z4. While Samsung's hardware had an incredibly rocky start, it's had the advantage of improving from those mistakes. This is an entirely new category for Google, so we wouldn't be surprised if the company runs into a few hiccups along the way.

The Pixel Fold would have been more instantly compelling if Google managed to price it below Samsung's $1,799 device. But the message from the company seems clear: It's aiming for the premium crowd with the Pixel Fold. And, of course, it's in Google's interests to avoid undercutting one of its premier Android partners.

Follow all of the news from Google I/O 2023 right here.