Alphabet Inc Google introduced a $1,799 foldable smartphone, a new entry-level Pixel phone and a tablet for the home, the latest attempt to stimulate hardware sales in an arena filled with Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
Launched on Wednesday Google I/O conferenceTHE Pixel Fold is Google’s first entry into the growing category of foldables and features a 7.6-inch main display and a 5.8-inch external panel. Google touts it as the thinnest foldable in the markets where it will be sold, which includes the US, UK, Germany and Japan.
The company also released its first Pixel-branded tablet and a $499 Pixel 7a, which drops the 2022 flagship phoneFeatures at a cheaper price point. All three devices use an in-house chip known as the Tensor G2.
The move into the pricier foldables category marks a shift in strategy for Google, which until now has focused on reducing the cost of rival devices. The Pixel Fold is Google’s most expensive handset to date, matching the price of Samsung’s latest Galaxy Z Fold 4 and including high-end specifications such as 512 gigabytes of onboard storage. Samsung remains the leader in sales of foldables – with 79% of the market last year, according to IDC – having started the category four years ago with the Galaxy Fold.
Foldables make up just 1% of smartphone shipments. IDC estimates that shipments will more than triple from 2022, to approx 50 million units per yearin 2027. That’s still less than 4% of the market, but accounts for the $42 billion slice because they charge higher prices.
“Foldables are a pricing nightmare,” said Neil Mawston, director of research at Strategy Analytics. “We predict that foldables will account for an outsized 5% of all smartphone wholesale revenues worldwide this year.”
In a presentation, Google said that the foldable’s distinguishing features are the screen technology and cameras. The company is building a library of AI-powered camera features — like its Magic Eraser, which can remove unwanted elements in photos for smoother compositions — that it says will make its hardware a leader. However, Samsung’s same foldable device has slightly better image sensor specifications.
Foldable phones usually have an external display for quick tasks and can be folded open into a tablet-sized interior. Google’s Pixel Fold is wider than Samsung’s latest model, with users complaining that its narrowness makes it difficult to use. The Pixel Fold also includes features such as face unlock, a fingerprint scanner and a promised 24 hour battery life.
Google boasts that its device’s hinge is stronger than competing products and that more than 50 of its own apps are optimized for the foldable display.
Google is also banking on two more conventional devices as it tries to redevelop the hardware market. The Pixel 7a looks like last year’s Pixel 7, but uses more basic components and trims down the features list. Its screen is 25% brighter than the previous model and has a faster, 90-hertz refresh rate. There’s also face unlock, improved camera zoom, and a 64-megapixel rear camera, making it one of the more impressive low-end smartphones.
A year after notification the product, Google shared more details about its tablet. The device’s specifications – including the company’s G2 processor, 128GB storage, 8MP front and rear cameras and hardware design – at this point are dated compared to rival devices. Its price – $499 – also eclipses some iPad models, although Google’s device has a dock in the house to stand it upright. While docked, the device will be focused on watching video, controlling appliances and viewing photo slideshows.