Google has been working on foldable displays for a long while, but it won't be releasing a foldable Pixel anytime soon. Sometimes the right move is no move at all, at least for now.
Android support for foldable displays was unveiled just before Samsung announced the Galaxy Fold late last year and Pixel development lead Mario Queiroz just told CNET that Google has been prototyping foldable display technology "for a long time". But, don't get your hopes up. It doesn't mean a Pixel Fold is coming soon.
Queiroz says that he doesn't think there's a clear use case for the technology yet. While foldables give more screen space, he doesn't believe it's enough to attract consumers. Foldable displays are a "nice-to-have" but they have to be more innovative to become a need-to-have, according to Queiroz.
It's a good idea for Google to wait to launch a foldable smartphone until there's a clear and compelling problem that the technology solves for the consumer. Plus, while your competitors are scrambling to be first to attract prestige and snatch up market share, there's an advantage to hanging back and learning from their mistakes.
There are a ton of disadvantages of being first to market with an innovative product, as Samsung has just experienced with a number of the Galaxy Fold review units breaking after a lot of positive hype. The first mover has to educate the market on how the technology works and why they need it, not to mention bear the high R&D costs of lots of trial and error and figure out how to manufacture at scale.
Even if the Pixel phones tend to be on the conservative side in terms of features, Google is no stranger to the challenges that come with pioneering tech either. If you remember, Google Glass had some significant bumps in the road, including consumer concerns about privacy, unclear expectations and health dangers. Perhaps Google has learned its lesson, or merely recognizes that the pros don't outweigh the cons of launching a foldable smartphone at this stage.
Google made the right call by choosing to wait until the technology is ready, and more importantly, until there's a clear consumer problem that foldable smartphone screens can solve.