A Google Pixel Fold is pretty much a must. Samsung’s emphasis on the hardware front is making the foldable the next big Android form factor, and the Android team has already started thinking about foldables by including basic support in Android 10 for the Galaxy Fold launch. Part of the point of Google Phones is to let the Android team experiment with the in-house hardware and build the next version of Android. So if foldables are going to be the next big thing, Google needs to make one.
As the rumor mill is pointing to, Google is reportedly planning a combination of the best of both worlds currently available on the market: Samsung-style foldable hardware with an iPad-OS-style dock interface for easy multitasking.
First, the hardware: the Pixel 6 is a good framework when considering the upcoming Pixel foldable. Google’s upcoming Slab smartphone is very Samsungy, 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 the Samsung mmWave modem. There is a 50MP Samsung GN1 as the new main camera sensor, and the 120Hz display will undoubtedly be made by Samsung as well. The foldable will likely have a similar makeup: a metric ton of Samsung hardware DNA with Google software.
Looks like this is what we’re getting: Google’s versions of Samsung’s two big foldable styles, the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip phones. Google’s Galaxy Fold device—a phone that folds into a tablet with a large screen—has long been rumored with the codename “Passport”. We’ve seen reports that the device will open up to a 7.6 inch display (similar to Fold 3), and several “passport” references have been seen in the Android codebase.
Lately, there hasn’t been a ton of news about the Pixel Passport (not a last name), and there have never been live images or design leaks of the device, so we were starting to wonder if the device was still happening. And with global chip shortages still causing all kinds 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 the legendary leaker Evan Blass Claims that Passport is still coming out this year, though:
Heard from someone I trust that the foldable Pixel – codename: Passport, retail branding: unknown – will actually 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’ll be worth a look.
— E (@evleaks) September 20, 2021
Google has other foldable news 9to5google, which says that a second foldable, codenamed “JumboJack”, is coming. With the Fold-style Passport, which is a phone/tablet hybrid, the device will be like the Galaxy Flip, a regular-sized smartphone that folds up in half like an old-school flip phone. 9to5Google says it found “multiple instances of the jumbojack being used as a tester device” for various specialized folding modes of devices like the Galaxy Flip.
On the software side of things, XDA Developers The report states that the Android team is apparently preparing an out-of-cycle update for Android, which will focus on foldable functionality. We don’t know what it will be called, but the community has called it “Android 12.1”, as it will be between Android 12 and Android 13. Part of the foldable software push will be the iPad OS-style taskbar interface. , which will 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 because it’s being pushed into this mid-cycle release. As Rahman writes:
Google’s internal AOSP codebase currently has several improvements to the barebones taskbar feature. The Code Changes Implementing Taskbar’s tutorial describes some of its planned features. First, entering the tutorial will see an animation described as a “wave” in which the icons scale and translate and then come back down. The tutorial then explains how you’ll be able to launch two apps in split-screen view by dragging an app icon to one side of the screen, touch and hold (docking) to hide the taskbar at any time, and add your favorite apps/projected apps to the taskbar. For. Once setup, the taskbar remains at the bottom of the screen but will automatically hide itself when an app enters full screen.
It all feels like an iPad, which I think is great. The iPad completely dominates the tablet market, and the new dock/taskbar interface is great for multitasking productivity. Keep in mind it’s getting foldable phone, so Google is attempting to cram iPad-style multitasking into your pocket.
Rahman also found a small picture of the feature in Google’s codebase:
It’s unclear when “Android 12.1” will be out, but a good guess is that Google pushes out the foldable Pixel and its foldable software in a major release. If it’s all happening together, perhaps with the launch of the Pixel 6 and Android 12, there aren’t many months left in the year. Maybe we’ll pencil it in for December?