A Google Pixel Fold is pretty much inevitable. Samsung’s push on the hardware front makes foldable devices the next big Android form factor, and the Android team has already started thinking about foldable devices by including basic support in Android 10 for the first Galaxy Fold launch. Part of the point of Google phones is to give the Android team internal hardware to experiment with and build the next version of Android. So if foldables become the next big thing, Google will have to create one.
That’s pretty much what the rumor mill is pointing to, with Google reportedly planning to combine the best of both worlds currently available on the market: Samsung-style foldable hardware with a docking interface in iPad OS. style for easier multitasking.
First up, the hardware: the Pixel 6 is a good framework to consider when thinking about the upcoming Pixel foldables. Google’s upcoming slab smartphone is very Samsung-esque, with a new “Google Tensor” SoC co-developed with Samsung’s Exynos division and a Samsung modem with mmWave – the Galaxy S21 doesn’t even use a Samsung mmWave modem. . There is a 50MP Samsung GN1 as the new main camera sensor, and the 120Hz display will no doubt be made by Samsung as well. The foldables will likely have a similar composition: a ton of Samsung hardware DNA with Google software.
It sounds like that’s what we’re getting: Google versions of Samsung’s two great folding styles, the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip phones. There have long been rumors of Google’s Galaxy Fold device – a phone that opens into a larger screen tablet – codenamed “Passport.” We’ve seen reports that the device will open a 7.6-inch screen (same as the Fold 3), and several “passport” credentials have been spotted in the Android codebase.
Recently, there hasn’t been much news about the Pixel Passport (not the final name), and there have never been any live images or design leaks of the device, so we started to wonder if the device was still up and running. And since the global chip shortage is still causing all sorts of chaos, it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for Google to push some of its experimental devices to a later date. The latest news from legendary leaker Evan Blass claims the passport is still out this year:
I heard from someone I trust that the foldable Pixel — codename: Passport, retail branding: unknown — will indeed launch before the end of the year. Apparently they’ve been working on this device for over two years, and if the P6 is any indication, it’s worth checking out.
— E (@evleaks) September 20, 2021
Google’s other collapsible news is from 9to5Google, which says a second collapsible, codenamed “Jumbojack” is coming. In addition to the Fold-esque Passport, which is a phone/tablet hybrid, this device is said to be just like the Galaxy Flip, a full-sized smartphone that folds in half like an old-fashioned flip phone. 9to5Google says it has “find several instances where Jumbojack is used as a tester device” for the various special folding modes of devices like the Galaxy Flip.
As for the software, XDA Developers reports that the Android team is apparently working on an out-of-cycle update for Android, which would focus on foldable functionality. We have no idea what this would be called, but the community has dubbed it “Android 12.1” as it would come between Android 12 and Android 13. Part of the foldable software push would be an iPad OS-like taskbar interface, which would show frequently used and recently used apps. XDA’s Mishaal Rahman already enabled the feature in Android 12 Preview 2, but the feature hasn’t improved since then, apparently as it’s being pushed to this release mid-cycle. As Rahman writes:
Google’s internal AOSP codebase includes several improvements to the current barebones taskbar feature. Code changes that implement the taskbar tutorial describe some of the features planned. First, opening the tutorial displays an animation described as a “wave” in which icons are scaled and translated up and then down again. The tutorial then explains how to launch two apps in split screen view by dragging, touching and holding an app icon to one side of the screen to hide the taskbar at any time (docking), and add your favorite apps/predicted apps to the taskbar. Once set up, the taskbar will remain at the bottom of the screen, but will automatically hide itself when an app opens full screen.
It all sounds a lot like an iPad, which I love. iPads completely dominate the tablet market and the new dock/taskbar interface is great for multitasking productivity. Please note that this is foldable telephoneso Google is trying to cram iPad-style multitasking into your pocket.
Rahman even found a small image of the feature in Google’s codebase:
It’s not clear when “Android 12.1” will come out, but a good guess is that Google will release the foldable Pixels and the foldable software in one major release. If all that happens at once, presumably after the launch of Pixel 6 and Android 12, there won’t be many months left in the year. Maybe we’ll register it for December?