Has the Google Pixel Fold even launched?
The launch of the Pixel Fold should have been a momentous event for Google, but instead, we’re seeing limited inventory, slipping ship dates, and other factors that are ruining the occasion.
All out for a big deal
In the grand scheme of Google hardware, the Pixel Fold is a big deal. It’s a product that’s been in development for several years and has gone through at least two other iterations before being deemed ready for public consumption.
The $1,799 price plays a role in its status as a marquee product, but to me, it’s notable because this will be Google’s last big form factor and product category launch for quite some time. “Android Foldables” as a new device category was announced by the OS team in late 2018. We’ve been expecting Google to make a Pixel version since then. Roughly four years after Samsung launched the first foldable, Google’s turn is finally here.
Especially with the report that Google is not developing the Iris smart glasses anymore, nothing else comes to mind. A flip-style Pixel would still be just another foldable. Even a “Pro” Pixel Tablet with an accompanying keyboard/stylus that challenges the iPad productivity-wise won’t make that big of a splash compared to what the moment for the Pixel Fold should have been. Meanwhile, Google has made Pixelbooks before (if they ever decided to restart that after canceling the Tensor version).
In terms of genuinely new product categories, we might have a tracker to look forward to, but that literally isn’t a big deal in terms of a hero product, which should be aspirational and demonstrate the start of the art even if it isn’t yet suited to the average consumer.
What is a launch
For hardware, I’d define a launch as a product reaching (virtual or physical) store shelves and being ready to purchase and ship, as well as pre-orders getting delivered.
By that metric, the Pixel Fold hasn’t fully launched.
Let’s rewind. Since the announcement at I/O last month, Google has never explicitly provided a launch date. Availability for the Pixel Fold was always described to us as June, with no specific date given.
The June 27 date we have is from those that pre-ordered on the Google Store and got that ship date. That being said, review embargoes dropped the day before, and factory/OTA images were posted on Tuesday, which lines up with how Google typically handles a launch. Additionally, the Android team highlighted foldable apps that day.
Some Google Store Pixel Fold pre-orders got their devices yesterday, with more arrivals over the next few days. However, it seems that the vast majority of purchases from the company’s official store did not. There are countless reports of orders being “automatically” canceled and some of those buyers getting $250 in Google Store credit, as well as being told that new orders they place today will be prioritized later on. Others are having their delivery dates slip back from the original June 27 timeframe into July.
Most carrier orders, which only just opened last Tuesday, are not shipping until mid-July. New orders placed today from the Google Store are not seeing delivery until firmly into August. In fact, the Pixel Fold is still listed as available for pre-order by Google as of right now.
In the absence of a Fold
Seeing written and video reviews of a product and having to wait over a month to buy is not a great experience for the customer.
This is even before taking into consideration that demand for an $1800 product is vastly different from a mass-market $900 phone. The fact that Google is having trouble keeping up on a niche product is not a good look. At the least, it should be able to serve the enthusiast market. Everyone that’s decided they want to pay Google $1799 should be able to get a Pixel Fold right now.
Even worse, however, is that even with the quite-small pool of Pixel Folds in people’s hands today, we’re already seeing reports of the foldable screens breaking. This signal-to-noise ratio is playing an immensely outsized role in shaping the news cycle.
We don’t know why any of this is happening (be it assembly defects or QA issues), but whatever the case, I think Google should have pushed back everything about this launch. I’m not sure if they explicitly wanted to have the Fold come a week after the Pixel Tablet to make a statement about their large screen offerings, but the foldable could have certainly waited until July or later.
There is certainly the optics of releasing a product powered by the Tensor G2 so close to the next chip in the fall, but it would be much better than what’s happening now.
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