In Depth

Google foldable phone rumours: leaked designs, plus possible release date and pricing

Search giant’s product chief confirms prototype folding handsets are in the works

The Pixel 3a budget smartphone may have stolen the limelight at Google’s I/O tech conference on Tuesday, but the company also quietly confirmed that it had developed prototypes for a foldable phone. 

Speaking to CNet ahead of the I/O event in California, Google’s product chief Mario Queiroz said the search giant is experimenting with the idea of a foldable version of its Pixel devices.

“We’re definitely prototyping the technology. We’ve been doing it for a long time,” he told the tech site. 

However, he argues that there isn’t “a clear use case yet” for the technology and that a Google version of a foldable “needs to be more innovative” than current handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X

“The use case is going to need to be something where you go, ‘Hey, I definitely need to have this.’ Right now, you don’t need to have a foldable. It’s kind of a ‘nice-to-have’,” he concluded. 

It’s no surprise that Google is looking into a foldable phone, says The Verge. The company announced last November that its Android mobile software would support bendable devices, ahead of the Galaxy Fold’s reveal the same month.

There has also been “a lot of hype” around the technology following the Galaxy Fold preview last November and the Huawei Mate X’s unveiling earlier this year, the tech site says. 

What will it look like?

Google hasn’t announced any specific details about its foldable prototypes, but leaked documents posted by Patently Mobile reveal what the devices could look like.

The first patent shows a device that bends horizontally, as opposed to the vertical bending of the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, the tech site reports. 

The next is a peculiar design where the phone sports two folds, splitting the display into three sections, adds Patently Mobile.

The designs aren’t exactly “revolutionary”, but TechRadar says it’s “interesting that there’s no sign of a notebook-type foldable like the Galaxy Fold or Huawei Mate X”.

When will it come out?

Details about the handset are thin on the ground at this stage and there’s no official word yet on a release date. 

It’s unlikely that the phone will appear anytime soon, though. Queiroz told CNet that Google is prototyping “many other new hardware technologies”, not just foldable displays. 

And given that the company has yet to find a foldable design that would bring the desired wow factor to the market, it may be several years before a bendable Pixel phone reaches the market. 

How much will it cost?

Pricing will be announced when - or if - Google releases a foldable handset. 

Given that the search giant’s smartphones are often cheaper than its main rivals, we expect its foldable phone to cost slightly less than the £1,800 Samsung Galaxy Fold and the €2,299 (£1,980) Huawei Mate X.

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