Google Pixel Fold Review: A Promising Start, but Not Perfect – CNET

Over the last four years, phone-makers like Samsung, Huawei and Oppo have tried to perfect making a tablet that folds down into a phone and fits in your pocket. Now, it’s Google’s turn with the Pixel Fold, which starts at $1,799 (£1,749) and ships on June 27.

With its first foldable phone, Google manages to avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve seen in early models from other companies. It looks almost like a regular phone when closed, making the Pixel Fold more usable in “phone mode” than the taller and skinnier Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. The cameras on the Pixel Fold are also top-notch, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice photo quality to get a foldable screen. That’s one area where Microsoft’s foldable phone, the Surface Duo, notably fell short. 

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Google Pixel Fold is the tech giant&#8217;s first foldable phone.&nbsp;</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

But after using it for a few days, there’s one major problem Google hasn’t solved. It hasn’t answered the overarching question of why foldables should exist in the first place. Having a giant screen in your pocket can be useful, but is it $1,799 useful? That’s more than the average monthly mortgage payment in, for example, Ohio or Indiana, according to a study from LendingTree.

Google isn’t alone; Samsung’s phone-tablet hybrid costs the same. But it just reiterates that foldable phones like the Pixel Fold still lack broad appeal. Until companies like Google and Samsung can get the price down, tablet-size foldables are likely to remain a niche.

But that doesn’t mean the Pixel Fold doesn’t have promise. 

It can fold completely shut

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold has no gap near the hinge.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

The Pixel Fold has a wider shape than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, making it look more like a passport or a Moleskine notebook than Samsung’s phone. It’s more comparable to the Oppo Find N than Samsung’s foldable in terms of its overall appearance. It also resembles Microsoft’s Surface Duo, although that phone consists of two screens joined together rather than one foldable display. 

The Pixel Fold shuts completely without a gap, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which has a space near its hinge. This gives the Pixel Fold a sleeker look when closed, although both the Z Fold 4 and Pixel Fold have the same IPX8 durability rating. That means they should be able to withstand some immersion in water even if neither are considered dust proof or waterproof. 

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Watch this: Review: The Google Pixel Fold Has Room to Improve

The camera bar on the Pixel Fold doesn’t protrude as prominently as the Galaxy Z Fold’s, which enables it to rest on tables and surfaces without wobbling when closed. 

But be warned; the Pixel Fold is still a cumbersome phone. The wide cover screen definitely works in the Pixel Fold’s favor (more on that below), but it also means you may struggle to use it with one hand. 

Its giant front screen is a big deal

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold&#8217;s front screen makes it feel more useful as a video player and regular phone.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

One of the biggest drawbacks with foldable phones is the learning curve. Their thickness and unusual shape can make the switch from a standard phone to a foldable device feel jarring. Luckily, the Pixel Fold’s wide cover screen makes the transition a little easier. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot to get used to. But having an external display that’s similar in shape to the screen on a regular, nonfoldable phone goes a long way toward making apps and settings menus feel more natural. That’s especially true when it comes to typing; using the keyboard on the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s cover screen felt cramped by comparison. 

The Pixel Fold’s 5.8-inch external screen also makes it much more useful as a video player. Even though it’s technically smaller than the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s 6.2-inch cover screen, the Pixel Fold’s proportions feel more suitable for video compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s elongated display.

That goes for the interior display, too. The Pixel Fold has a feature called Tabletop mode, which as the name implies adjusts the software accordingly when opening the phone like a laptop. It’s similar to Samsung’s Flex mode, which shifts an app to the top portion of the screen when folded halfway.

Many apps aren’t supported yet, but thankfully some streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu work in this mode. Google Meet also works in Tabletop mode, so you can take video calls without having to hold up your device. This worked effortlessly: When calling a colleague over Google Meet, the app conformed to fit the display as soon as I bent the phone halfway. However, the internal camera’s location makes it difficult to position the Pixel Fold at an angle that doesn’t feel awkward for video calls in this mode.

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold has a Tabletop mode.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

The downside to Tabletop mode is that the Pixel Fold can be challenging to operate in this position. I usually find it easier to pick up the Pixel Fold and either close it or open it fully to switch apps or play another video. This makes me appreciate the touchpad mode Samsung added to its foldables last year, which lets you turn the bottom portion of the screen into a trackpad so that you can more easily manipulate apps running on the other half of the display. 

While I prefer the Pixel Fold’s shape, Samsung’s phone has the upper hand when it comes to the interior screen in other ways. Colors tend to pop more on the Galaxy Z Fold’s 7.6-inch AMOLED display, and the thinner bezel gives it a sleeker look overall. The Pixel Fold does have a noticeable crease running down the middle of the screen when opened. It’s visually similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s, but feels a bit flatter to the touch compared to Samsung’s.

Its software is all about multitasking

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold runs Android 13.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

Google is positioning the Pixel Fold as a multitasking machine, and it’s easy to see why given its giant interior display. You can use apps in split-screen mode and drag and drop content between apps. Google only allows you to open two apps at once, while you can cover the Z Fold 4’s internal display with up to four apps. 

Some might find that to be a drawback, but I personally don’t open more than two apps at a time in everyday use. On a phone like the Pixel Fold or Galaxy Z Fold 4, I prefer dedicating that entire inner display to one app so that I can get a more immersive view. 

There were times when split-screen mode came in handy. I had to reset a password to one of my app accounts, and I loved being able to quickly pull up Gmail for my login code without having to jump between apps. It’s also nice being able to keep an eye on Slack while I’m doing something else on my phone, like listening to Spotify, browsing email or scrolling through social media. 

But the Pixel Fold is missing an important feature that Samsung offers: the ability to pin apps together so that you can launch them in split-screen mode in one tap. The Pixel Fold will keep apps paired while they’re open, but there’s no way to keep it that way for future use. 

As is the case with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, you can also drag and drop content between apps on the Pixel Fold when using split-screen mode. This worked well when I moved a picture from Google Photos to a text message in the Messages app and an email in Gmail. But there were times when it took a couple of tries to successfully drag a YouTube clip to Messages. Given that foldables already have enough of a learning curve, I hope this gets sorted out shortly. 

Even when they function at their best, I don’t think split-screen apps are compelling enough to convince someone to buy a foldable phone. I’m so accustomed to switching between apps on the single-screen phones that operating a multi-app mode requires me to think about apps in a different way. Returning to the home screen or app switcher to hop between apps feels instinctual at this point. It’s hard to break a decade-plus long habit, as I imagine it will be for others switching to their first foldable phone. That’s not specific to the Pixel Fold, but perhaps it’s telling of why foldable phones are taking so long to gain widespread popularity.

It’s also worth noting that many apps look tiny on the Pixel Fold’s inner screen. While big names like Netflix, TikTok, Calm, Slack, Discord, Outlook, WhatsApp, Roblox, Amazon and Candy Crush Soda Saga fill up the Pixel Fold’s big display, some equally popular apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Uber, Candy Crush Saga and Seamless look like floating windows in the center of the screen. (These apps run in a full-screen view on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, by the way.) For the most part, apps transitioned between the front and inner screen without issue. There was one instance when Discord didn’t conform when moving between the tablet-size inner display and the cover screen, but it worked properly the next time I used the app.

What I’m looking forward to the most, however, is seeing how the front and interior screen work together in the future. When Google unveiled the Pixel Fold, it demonstrated a feature called dual screen interpreter mode, which enables the front and inner screens to work simultaneously during language translation. The app would show translations on both sides of the phone so that the participants could see each other’s words in their preferred language on screen. Since this feature is coming in Android 14, I wasn’t able to try it yet. 

It has great cameras

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold&#8217;s camera bar.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

The Pixel Fold has three cameras: one for regular, ultrawide and telephoto shots. While the Pixel 7 Pro has a similar camera setup, they aren’t the same. The Fold’s telephoto camera has a 10.8-megapixel sensor compared to the 48-megapixel one on the 7 Pro.

Overall, I was really impressed with the Pixel Fold’s camera. Like other Pixel phones, the Fold provides a great balance of color that’s natural but still bold while capturing plenty of detail. Photos taken on the Pixel Fold’s main and ultrawide cameras also looked colorful and crisp, whether I was shooting in daylight, at night or indoors. 

Pixel Fold, Pixel 7 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 4 camera specs

Google Pixel Fold Google Pixel 7 Pro Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
Rear cameras 48MP main; 10.8MP ultrawide; 10.8MP telephoto 50MP main; 12MP ultrawide; 48MP telephoto 50MP main; 12MP ultrawide; 10MP telephoto
Front camera 9.5MP 10.8MP 10MP
Inner camera 8MP N/A 4MP

Even though the Pixel Fold has a lower resolution telephoto camera, zoomed-in photos looked roughly the same as those taken on the Pixel 7 Pro in my testing. Both phones can zoom optically up to 5x, which is slightly closer than the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s 3x optical zoom. But the Pixel 7 Pro can zoom digitally up to 30x, while the Pixel Fold can only reach a 20x digital zoom. 

Pixel Fold

A photo of a plant on a shelf taken with the Pixel Fold's zoom at 5x.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold has a 5x optical zoom.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Pixel 7 Pro

A photo of plants on a shelf taken at a 5x zoom on the Pixel 7 Pro.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of plants on a shelf taken at a 5x zoom on the Pixel 7 Pro.&nbsp;</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, I thought the Pixel Fold sometimes rendered skin tones in a more accurate and flattering way, as you can see in the photo below. Colors also looked too blown out in photos taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 compared to the Pixel Fold in some scenarios. 

Pixel Fold

A photo of a man with a beard sitting in a restaurant

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="29"></p> <p>A photo of my husband, Dan, taken on the Pixel Fold.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Galaxy Z Fold 4

A photo of my husband in a restaurant taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of my husband in a restaurant taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

But in some cases, Samsung punched up the color a bit more, as shown in the images below.

Pixel Fold

Two tacos on a wooden plate

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of tacos taken on the Pixel Fold.&nbsp;</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Galaxy Z Fold 4

A photo of two tacos sitting on a wooden plate taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of tacos taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

The Pixel Fold also fares well in low light. All three phones were capable of capturing a flattering photo of me outside of a restaurant at night. Samsung’s photo is the brightest of the three, but I prefer Google’s photos since both the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Fold made my face look a bit softer. That said, if you’re interested in brightness alone, Samsung wins this round.

Pixel Fold

A photo of a woman taken outside on the sidewalk with the Pixel Fold.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of me taken on the Pixel Fold.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Pixel 7 Pro

A photo of a woman standing on a sidewalk at night taken with the Pixel 7 Pro.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of me taken outside a restaurant on the Pixel 7 Pro.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Galaxy Z Fold 4

A photo of a woman standing outside on a sidewalk taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of me taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Take a look at some other photos taken with the Pixel Fold below.

A photo of flowers taken on the Pixel Fold

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of flowers taken on the Pixel Fold.&nbsp;</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

A photo of an outdoor restaurant taken on the Pixel Fold

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of an outdoor restaurant taken on the Pixel Fold.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

A photo of a plant taken in a dark room on the Pixel Fold

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of a plant taken in a dark room on the Pixel Fold.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

A photo of the outside of a bakery taken on the Pixel Fold

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A photo of the outside of a bakery taken on the Pixel Fold.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

A street corner in Astoria, Queens

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>This photo was taken with the Pixel Fold&#8217;s ultrawide camera.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

What sets the Pixel Fold and other foldables like it apart from regular phones, however, is their ability to stand on their own when folded halfway. The Pixel Fold, Galaxy Z Fold 4, Motorola Razr Plus and other foldables essentially have a built-in tripod, making it easier to capture steady shots or group selfies.

When using the camera app in Tabletop mode, the viewfinder shifts to the top portion of the display when camera controls are situated on the bottom. Samsung has been offering this feature for a while, so it’s nothing new. The Z Fold 4 can even show photos right after they’ve been taken on the bottom portion of the screen alongside the camera controls. That makes it easier to see if the photo you just captured is to your liking. 

But the advantage that Google has when taking photos comes down to the size and shape of the Pixel Fold’s display. The folded portion of the screen that serves as the camera viewfinder is much taller on the Pixel Fold, giving you more space to see what your shot might look like as you’re setting it up.

If you take a lot of selfies you’ll have plenty of options on the Pixel Fold. There’s a 9.5-megapixel front camera above the cover screen, and an 8-megapixel inner camera when you open up the device. That’s double the resolution of the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s 4-megapixel interior camera, which is under the screen. Compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the selfie taken on the Pixel Fold’s inner camera looks more natural and has a bit more detail. But Samsung dialed up the color of my hair, which honestly made for a more flattering photo.

Pixel Fold

A selfie of a woman taken on the Pixel Fold against a brick wall

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A selfie taken with the Pixel Fold&#8217;s interior camera.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Galaxy Z Fold 4

A selfie taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4's interior camera

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A selfie taken on the Galaxy Z Fold 4&#8217;s interior camera.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Given its foldable shape, you can also use the Pixel Fold’s rear cameras to snap selfies, using the cover display as a viewfinder. You definitely capture more detail in selfies by using the Pixel Fold’s rear camera, but doing so can feel awkward. It requires two hands, and feels almost like taking a photo with an iPad. 

Front camera

A selfie showing a woman in front of a brick wall taken on the Pixel Fold

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A selfie taken with the Pixel Fold&#8217;s front camera.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

Rear camera

A selfie taken on the Pixel Fold's main rear camera showing a woman against a brick wall

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>A selfie taken with the Pixel Fold&#8217;s main rear camera.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Lisa Eadicicco/CNET</span>

It has solid performance and battery life

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold has Google&#8217;s Tensor G2 processor.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

The Pixel Fold runs on Google’s Tensor G2 processor, the same chip that powers the Pixel 7 lineup. Performance is smooth; the Pixel Fold launches apps quickly, runs games like PUBG Mobile and Shadowgun: Legends with ease, and shifts between the front and interior displays almost instantly. The back of the phone got a little warm after gaming for about 10 minutes to the point where it’s noticeable but not uncomfortable.

The benchmarks tests that CNET usually runs to test general computing and graphics performance weren’t available at the time of writing. We’ll update this review with those results at a later date.

But the Tensor G2 is about more than just performance and speed anyhow. Google’s custom chip enables it to bring specific features to its devices, such as Photo Unblur, which sharpens photos that are blurry or fuzzy. That holds true for the Pixel Fold too, which has Photo Unblur among other Tensor-powered features.

The Pixel Fold’s battery life is probably enough to get you through a full day, but you’ll want to pack a charger if you have a particularly busy schedule. 

After roughly six hours of use, the Pixel Fold’s battery dropped to 70%. During that time, I had the always-on display and high refresh rate settings turned on, and I turned off adaptive brightness. While I left the brightness at 50% most of the time, I turned it up to around 80% when outdoors to more easily see the screen. During that half-day period, I streamed Spotify for about a half hour, took a few photos and a short video, browsed social media, read emails and sent text messages. 

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>The Pixel Fold supports 21-watt fast charging.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

Battery life will always vary depending on how you use your device, which is why I’m being specific about the device’s settings and the types of apps I’ve been running. Whether you’re using the tablet-size interior screen or the cover screen will also play a role.

We ran CNET’s battery test, which involves streaming YouTube over the course of three hours and checking the battery percentage at each hour, on both the interior and exterior screen. The Pixel Fold was down to 83% after running the three-hour test on the front screen, while it dipped down to 69% on the inside screen. 

The battery test results from the cover screen are on par with the Galaxy S23 series and slightly better than the Pixel 7, while the inside screen’s results are lower than most phones we’ve tested (except for the Sony Xperia 1V, which has a 4K screen). But that’s to be expected since the cover screen is smaller than the displays found on many of today’s phones, while the interior screen is more comparable to a tablet than a phone. 

However, the Pixel Fold performed well during CNET’s battery endurance test, during which I streamed video, browsed social media, took a short video call and played games over the course of 45 minutes to see how much these tasks would drain the battery. The Pixel Fold’s battery dropped from 100% to 95% during that time. Compared to other phones CNET has tested this year, those results are about the same as the Galaxy S23 Plus’ and Lenovo ThinkPhone’s. For this test, I used a mix of the interior and exterior display depending on which screen was best-suited for the task at hand. For example, I scrolled social media and played Candy Crush on the front screen, while I used the inner screen for playing PUBG Mobile, watching YouTube and making a video call in Tabletop mode. 

The Pixel Fold supports 21-watt fast charging, although you’ll need a compatible power adapter to achieve those speeds. Google recommends using its 30-watt adapter, although you’ll have to purchase it separately. The Pixel Fold went from 0% to 41% in 30 minutes, which is commendable but not as impressive as some other nonfoldable phones, such as the Lenovo ThinkPhone, which went from 0% to 92% in the same time period thanks to its 68-watt charging (and included charger in the box). There’s also 7.5-watt wireless charging on the Pixel Fold, which replenished the battery from 26% to 35% in 30 minutes. 

Google Pixel Fold overall thoughts

Google's Pixel Fold phone

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>Google&#8217;s Pixel Fold still feels like a first-generation product.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">James Martin/CNET</span>

Google gets a lot right with its first foldable phone. The wider cover screen makes it feel immensely more useful for the tasks it’s best suited for, like watching videos and taking photos hands-free without a kickstand or tripod. The exterior display also feels much more natural when using apps compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which is narrower than your average phone. Like its standard Pixel phones, Google excelled with the Pixel Fold’s design, especially when it comes to the gapless hinge.

But the Pixel Fold still feels like a first-generation product. Some major apps, like Instagram and Uber, aren’t optimized to occupy the full screen. Google’s drag and drop functionality, which is for transferring content between apps in split-screen mode, felt a little hit-or-miss in my testing. And above all else, the Pixel Fold is an expensive device at an eye-watering $1,799, making it difficult to recommend. 

The Pixel Fold reminds me a lot of the Pixel Watch. It’s a polished-looking execution of a product category that’s existed for years, but it doesn’t necessarily push the industry forward. At least not yet. Google typically updates its Pixel products with new features over time through software updates, and I suspect that will be the same for the Pixel Fold. I think the best parts of the Pixel Fold are still to come.

How we test phones

Every phone tested by CNET’s reviews team was actually used in the real world. We test a phone’s features, play games and take photos. We examine the display to see if it’s bright, sharp and vibrant. We analyze the design and build to see how it is to hold and whether it has an IP-rating for water resistance. We push the processor’s performance to the extremes using both standardized benchmark tools like Geekbench and 3DMark, along with our own anecdotal observations navigating the interface, recording high-resolution videos and playing graphically intense games at high refresh rates.

All the cameras are tested in a variety of conditions from bright sunlight to dark indoor scenes. We try out special features like night mode and portrait mode and compare our findings against similarly priced competing phones. We also check out the battery life by using it daily as well as running a series of battery drain tests.

We take into account additional features like support for 5G, satellite connectivity, fingerprint and face sensors, stylus support, fast charging speeds and foldable displays among others that can be useful. And we balance all of this against the price to give you the verdict on whether that phone, whatever its price is, actually represents good value. Please note that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 was reviewed using CNET’s old scoring system, so its review number score isn’t directly comparable to the one the Pixel Fold has been given in 2023.

Pixel Fold Specs vs. Samsung and Honor

Google Pixel Fold Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 5G Honor Magic Vs
Display size, tech, resolution, refresh rate, brightness Internal: 7.6-inch OLED, 2,208 x 1,840 pixels; external: 5.8-inch; 2,092 x 1,080 pixels, 60-120Hz Internal: 7.6-inch AMOLED, 2,176 x 1,812 pixels; external: 6.2-inch, 2,316 x 904 pixels Internal: 7.9-inch, 2,272 x 1,984 pixels, 90Hz; external: 6.45-inch, 2,560 x 1,080 pixels, 120Hz
Pixel density External: 408 ppi; internal: 380 ppi External: 402 ppi; internal: 374 ppi External: 431 ppi; internal: 381 ppi
Dimensions (inches) Closed: 5.5 x 3.1 x 0.5 in; open: 5.5 x 6.2 x 0.2 in Closed: 6.11 x 2.64 x 0.62 in; open: 6.11 x 5.12 x 0.25 in Closed: 6.31 x 2.86 x 0.51 in; open: 6.31 x 5.57 x 0.24 in
Dimensions (millimeters) Closed: 139.7 x 79.5 x 12.1 mm; open: 139.7 x 158.7 x 5.8 mm Closed: 155.1 x 67.1 x 15.8 mm; open: 155.1 x 130.1 x 6.3 mm Closed: 160.3 x 72.6 x 12.9 mm; open: 160.3 x 141.5 x 6.1 mm
Weight (grams, ounces) 283g, 9.98 oz 263g, 9.27 oz 261g, 9.21 oz (orange); 267g, 9.42 oz (black & cyan)
Mobile software Android 13 Android 12L Android 13
Camera 48-megapixel (main), 10.8-megapixel (ultrawide), 10.8-megapixel (telephoto) 50-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (telephoto) 54-megapixel (main), 50-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 9.5-megapixel (cover screen), 8-megapixel (inner screen) 10-megapixel (cover screen); 4-megapixel (inner screen, under display) 16-megapixel (cover screen); 16-megapixel (inner screen)
Video capture 4K 4K 4K
Processor Tensor G2 Snapdragon 8 Gen Plus 1 Snapdragon 8 Gen Plus 1
RAM/storage 12GB + 256GB, 12GB + 512GB (US, UK, Germany) 12GB + 256GB/512GB/1TB 12GB + 512GB
Expandable storage None None None
Battery 4,821 mAh 4,400 mAh 5,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Side Side Side
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack None None None
Special features 5G (mmw/Sub6), IPX8 rating, 5x optical zoom, dual sim, estimated 24-33 hours battery life 5G, 30x space zoom camera, IPX8, 25-watt fast-charging (no in-box charger) 3x optical zoom, 66-watt bundled fast-charger
US price off-contract $1,799 $1,800 Converts to $1,740

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