Leaks indicate the Pixel Fold may resemble the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. | Image: Dan Seifert / The Verge
During the “Pixel Fall Launch” event, Google formally launched the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro as well as its Pixel Pass. Beyond that, however, the tech giant didn’t divulge much more about other new products — like Google’s first folding phone. Google previously confirmed in 2019 it’s working on prototyping foldable device technology, has applied for patents on foldable screens, and we’ve since reported on a number of leaks suggesting the Pixel Fold might arrive as soon as this year.
For example, Korean industry site TheElec suggested Samsung was going to produce folding OLED panels for the device this very month — and that’s just one of many recent leaks. Here’s a catch-up on everything else we think we know about the Pixel Fold.
The Pixel Fold was rumored to launch by the end of 2021
Internal documents from 2020 suggest a “Passport,” a name used internally for one of the Pixel Fold designs, would launch during the fourth quarter of 2021. That’s a prediction that was repeated by TheElec in mid-2021, as well as reliable leaker Evan Blass in September. That’s why some predicted Google would show off the Pixel Fold during the “Pixel Fall Launch” event, which obviously it didn’t. Of course, we still have a little over two months left of 2021, so there’s still a possibility of seeing it this year.
A diagram from Google’s 2019 patent application filing was one of the earliest reports suggesting it’s experimenting with foldable device tech.
Google apparently has two potential foldable designs
The public first found out about the “Passport” codename in August 2020 after leaked internal documents referred to the device accordingly. That was the only Pixel Fold we’d heard of for over a year, and the one that would supposedly launch in 2021. In September 2021, however, 9to5Google’s sources reported Google is also testing a second foldable Pixel smartphone dubbed “Jumbojack.”
We don’t know when this second device will be released, if ever. In fact, we don’t know whether the “Jumboback” is a second type of Pixel foldable device, or an internal prototype Google is using to build out foldable phone features. What we do know, however, is that both seem different from each other.
One folds more like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip, the other like the Z Fold
There’s some speculation the “Jumboback” codename name is a reference to Jack in the Box’s Jumbo Jack cheeseburger. This implies the phone may fold “hamburger style” like a powder case, as Samsung’s Z Flip does. That differs from the Passport’s alleged “hotdog” style, which folds like a passport similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
The “Jumboback” may fold in this Samsung Z Flip’s “hamburger” style.
Interestingly, the “Passport” design’s folding display might even have the same screen size as Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3. A June 2021 report from TheElec indicates the phone could come with a 7.6-inch folding display panel that folds inward.
Photo by Dieter Bohn / The Verge
The “Passport” design, meanwhile, may fold like the Samsung Z Fold.
Samsung could produce its OLED panels and may own a part of the Fold’s screen
That same report from TheElec also suggests Samsung would start producing folding OLED panels in October for the “Passport” device. Google may also use Samsung’s proprietary ultra-thin cover glass, which is bendable (and is technically produced by Schott). Samsung worked closely with Google to support foldable screens in Android to begin with.
The Fold may come with a new foldable-friendly version of Android — might that delay its launch date?
In September 2021, 9to5Google’s sources revealed the Jumbojack foldable device due to references in a future version of the recently released Android 12, which 9to5Google says could be Android 12.1. Incidentally, Android 12.1 is an update that may also offer several foldable-focused improvements, an analysis of leaked code by XDA Developers suggests.
According to the publication, these Android 12.1 enhancements include a better split-screen UI and a new taskbar to easily access and use multiple apps using both screens simultaneously. The lock screen could also make better use of horizontal space, showing, for example, notifications on one side and the clock on the other, while placing Quick Settings and notifications panels side-by-side.
Photo by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge
Android 12 launched on October 19th and offers more design customization options.
Will the Pixel Fold, or at least the Jumboback, need to wait to launch until Android 12.1 is ready. Is that why we have yet to see the Pixel Fold? Android 12 only just released, after all.