Google is 'absolutely' thinking about foldable phones, the company's Pixel chief says
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Google's head of its Pixel division, Mario Queiroz, said the company is "absolutely" thinking about use cases for foldable phones, although it doesn't have anything to announce right now.
- For foldable phones to resonate with consumers, device makers need to come up with more compelling use cases, he said.
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It didn't take long for 2019's most prominent smartphone trend to take shape.
In February, Samsung and Huawei, the two largest smartphone manufacturers in the world by market share, took the wraps off their new foldable smartphones - the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, respectively. Since then, Motorola has also hinted that it has a foldable phone in the works.
Google, too, is interested in foldable phones, although you shouldn't expect to see a foldable Pixel phone anytime soon.
Mario Queiroz, Google's general manager and vice president of product management for Pixel, said that he's not convinced there's a compelling use case for foldable devices just yet.
"I don't think that the product is quite innovative enough yet," he said in a recent interview with Business Insider. "Just folding your phone, that's interesting, and turning it into a tablet, there's some incremental benefit to it, but it's not like that breakthrough thing where you say, 'Wow this is something that's very different.'"
When asked if Google is thinking about what those "breakthrough" use cases might be, Queiroz said: "Oh we certainly are thinking about that, absolutely," but didn't elaborate further.
Google did, however, announce during its I/O conference on Tuesday that Android Q will support foldable phones.
Queiroz compared today's foldable phones to the mobile devices made by Palm and BlackBerry that set the stage for the modern smartphone, adding that foldable technology will be "important" for Google down the road.
"There will be different takes at it, and over time those killer use cases will come together," he said. "So I think it's healthy for there to be different executions of it, and it's a technology that will definitely be important to be part [of], including our product line, but we don't have anything to announce today."
While there's been a lot of hype about foldable phones over the last couple of months, none of the models from large manufacturers like Samsung and Huawei appear to be ready to purchase yet. Huawei said it will release its Mate X foldable device in the middle of 2019, which includes a flexible screen on its exterior that can be folded in half.
Samsung was supposed to launch its Galaxy Fold on April 26, a phone with a 4.6-inch screen on the front that opens up like a book to reveal a 7.3-inch display on the inside. But a small number of reviewers reported that the screen on their unit had broken after just two days of use, and Samsung has since pushed back the phone's release to an undisclosed date.
Queiroz says he believes it's a good thing that the industry is learning about the limits of foldable technology, but not at the expense of the consumer.
"It needs to be done in a way where things aren't going to break, of course," he said. "But I think it's a good thing, and I think foldable displays are going to be part of new product experiences."
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