Consumer hardware isn’t always a foregone conclusion for I/O. In fact, after the last few pandemic events, nothing much feels like a foregone conclusion these days. After what felt like a universally off year for consumer electronics, however, we’ve got big hopes for developer shows like I/O and WWDC.
Google’s budget Pixel 7a has looked like a slam dunk for some time now, while the long-threatened Pixel Tablet seemed a distinct possibility (at the very least some stage time, if not a full launch). In recent weeks and months a foldable phone has begun to look increasingly likely.
Some important background here. First, Google announced foldable screen support for Android back in 2018. Obviously, Samsung was both the big partner and recipient in those days, and Google wanted to make Android development as frictionless as possible for other OEMs in exploring the form factor.
The following year, Google foldable patents surfaced. Now, we’re all adults here, who implicitly understand that patents don’t mean a company is working on a product. That said, it’s another key data point in this story. In the intervening years, foldables have begun gathering steam, even outside of the Samsung orbit. I was genuinely amazed by how many different models there were populating the halls of MWC back in March.
Google, of course, went through its own hardware transformation a couple of years back. After years of struggling and a few identity crises, the company got serious about building a flagship with the Pixel 6, right down to its in-house silicon. The Pixel saw significant market share growth, but remains a single-digit drop in the bucket of the overall North American smartphone market.
A new spate of rumors show a book-style foldable that’s rumored to be on the I/O schedule roughly three weeks from now. The form factor has been compared to Oppo’s recent foldable, in contrast with the narrower Samsung Fold variety. It also evokes Microsoft’s erstwhile Duo — though that system opted for a split rather than foldable screen. Rumor on the street is that Google is considering the “Pixel Notepad” name. Maybe it’s just the years of Galaxy Notes, but that screams “stylus” to me.
Another rumor puts the price around $1,400 — pricey by any reasonable measure, but smack in the middle of the Galaxy Flip ($999) and Fold ($1,800). Other rumors put the price much closer to the Galaxy Fold’s.