Can Google’s Pixel Fold really crash?

I don’t give a damn about bezels. Just let me take that part out of Google’s new $1,799 Pixel Fold. They are fine. And I absolutely agree with the squat form factor – having this phone/tablet hybrid feel like a notepad in your hand when closed seems like a much better solution than Samsung’s tall boy.

The Galaxy Fold 4 is too narrow for us big-handed humans, and when opened, its boxy inner screen leaves sizable black bars when watching videos. In his Pixel Fold hands-on, my colleague Dan Seifert found that Google’s wider aspect ratio feels more natural for multitasking, and should make for a better entertainment device, too.

There’s actually a lot of promising stuff about the Pixel Fold. I’m not worried about the software or the cameras. It may not offer the same size sensor as the 7 and 7 Pro, but I still rely on Google’s computational photography to capture images on the first try more than on any other manufacturer’s phones. I’ve come to enjoy Android’s colorful Material You UX, and I think we’ll continue to see developers release apps optimized for foldables.

But I do have a few issues with this $1,800 gadget and they come down to performance, reliability, and customer service. At the moment, the three remain total unknowns.

Google’s Tensor chips aren’t the most efficient and can get hot

Google’s own brand processors routinely follows Qualcomm and Apple in benchmarks —sometimes substantially— but they are more than powerful enough to provide a smooth smartphone experience on a day-to-day basis. It seems that’s all Google really wanted. They are perfectly adequate.

Except in those moments when they are not.

As someone who has owned a Pixel 6, a Pixel 6A, and more recently a Pixel 7, I can attest that both the Tensor G1 and G2 have proven tendency to heat up. No always. Some days are better than others. But when things heat up, Pixel phones often disable features like 4K video recording or even something as simple as a camera flash. Are you using your device while it’s plugged in? Expect slow charging speeds if the battery percentage increases. The Pixel 7 hasn’t gotten as hot as the 6 series in my experience so far. But then again, these phones haven’t even faced their first summer yet – the Pixel Fold arrives just as temperatures are rising in the US.

If you look around the very active pixel subreddit and other social networks, similar reports are not uncommon. With Tensor G2, Google overcame the woeful cellular reception challenges encountered by some Pixel 6 and 6 Pro owners. But the simple truth of the matter is that these chips aren’t nearly as efficient as Qualcomm’s latest and greatest.

If I’m being honest, I expect Samsung’s next Galaxy Fold to completely outperform the Pixel Fold. But that won’t matter to everyone.
Photo by Dan Seifert/The Verge

When the Galaxy Fold 5 launches this summer, likely powered by some variant of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, we could see a significant divide between it and the Pixel Fold when it comes to thermal performance. A cooler processor tends to result in better battery life. And the Fold’s battery estimates already look pretty rosy when you consider that it houses two 120Hz displays that can put out some very intense brightness.

The Tensor’s quirks, usually attributed to its Exynos DNA, are somewhat excusable with phones costing between $400 and $900. But if an $1,800 foldable starts to overheat and disable software features during normal summer activities, the people will lose it.

If there’s one central element of the Pixel Fold that’s giving me pause, it’s silicon. I’m doing my best to believe that Google has thought of all this, made some great tweaks for this form factor, and it’s not going to become a thing. We’ll start finding out at the end of June.

How are you supposed to fix this?

I hasten to admit that those of us who live in or near New York City are totally spoiled when it comes to easy solutions to our technological dilemmas. There are many Apple stores within a radius of a few miles, the only two Google Store locations are located here, and samsung 837 can provide fast scheduled repairs even for your foldingwhich covers screen protector replacements (yes, the Pixel Fold has one of those) and other hardware issues.

But there will be plenty of Pixel Fold buyers who live far from this city, San Francisco, or any other major metropolitan center. And its repair options for the Pixel Fold are untested at the moment. Samsung may not have the same expansive retail presence as Apple, but it has at least partnered with Best Buy for authorized repairs.

In the past, Google has partnered with uBreakiFix, owned by Asurion for your extended warranty plan. That same arrangement appears to continue with the Pixel Fold, with coverage at $15 per month or $279 for two years of coverage (including accidental damage).

Now, I’m not exactly a Genius Bar or Geek Squad champion, but uBreakiFix reviews are often mixed, and if you want the best experience, one pro tip I’ve picked up is to make sure you’re visiting an Asurion corporate location.

If you’re curious, here’s what Google says about service fees for repair visits:

For Pixel Fold, Pixel 7a, service fees for screen repairs are $29. For Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a, the service fee for screen repairs is $29*, while the service fee for other repairs or replacements (including mechanical/ electrical and all other accidental damage) ) costs $49 for Pixel Tablet, $49 for Pixel 7a, $129 for Pixel Fold, $49 for Pixel 6a, $79 for Pixel 7, $99 for Pixel 7 Pro, $99 for Pixel 6 and $149 for Pixel 6 Pro.

uBreakiFix says that “most” repairs can be completed within 45 minutes. But since the Pixel Fold hasn’t launched yet, we don’t know if that will hold true for Google’s foldable. Will only certain locations have the right parts and tools? Will Google’s default response send clients a new Fold, which will likely require other $1,800 hold on a credit card?

For the money it’s asking for, I expect Google to do well with Pixel Fold customers and focus on top-notch service. But the company has yet to establish such a reputation. And considering that its standard phones continue to have issues, like the camera glass breaking randomly on some Pixel 7 and 7 Pro units, the stakes are high on how the Fold fares in terms of hardware reliability. When you’re spending over $2,000 on a phone after taxes, you deserve serious treatment.

I still can’t wait to try one

Again, because of its design, sleek software, and foolproof camera, the Pixel Fold immediately appeals to me more than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Do I want to give Google’s first foldable a spin? Surely. I’m curious how other aspects of your hardware, like speakers and haptics, will be affected.

But I am also lucky to work in the edge, where I can spend time driving a Pixel Fold without parting with $1,800 of my own money. As it stands, and as tempting as the whole package looks, I don’t think you’d be able to hit that pre-order button if you didn’t. Perhaps that pause will fade when the first reviews roll in and we can confidently take another step into the foldable future.


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