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Google can’t fix the Pixel Fold’s biggest problems until the 2nd-gen model is released

Published Jul 10th, 2023 9:23AM EDT

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The Pixel Fold is one of the most exciting foldable smartphones you can buy right now. It’s also one of the most likely to break, considering what we learned in the past few weeks. The display is prone to accidental damage, which is probably the number one concern with any foldable phone.

Even more problematic is the discovery that you can accidentally unfold the Pixel Fold too far. Such a bend would be catastrophic for the handset. We now have an explanation for the problem, and it turns out that Google almost certainly can’t fix these durability issues without redesigning the device. That means the soonest we’ll see any solutions is on a new Pixel Fold 2

The Pixel Fold problems started when an early reviewer discovered that a tiny particle of dust in a particular screen location pierced through the plastic and ultra-thin glass layers on top of the OLED panels. Early Pixel Fold buyers also discovered screen issues of their own. These seem to be issues that a screen protector can’t prevent.

Then, YouTuber JerryRigEverything put the Pixel Fold through their standard durability test. That’s when the bending problem surfaced. It looked like the Pixel Fold’s aluminum frame isn’t durable enough to withstand bending.

Google's Pixel Fold can fold the other way around, and the bend will destroy the foldable display.
Google’s Pixel Fold can fold the other way around, and the bend will destroy the foldable display. Image source: JerryRigEverything

The YouTuber followed up with a teardown of the Pixel Fold, which provided answers.

Apparently, the durable hinge that Google advertises for the Pixel Fold is made of stainless steel, though not all of the components are actually steel. The phone’s frame is made of aluminum. This combination isn’t good enough to prevent the kind of bending that JerryRigEverything showed us.

While that’s an intentional durability test meant to see whether you can bend the Pixel Fold and an experiment others won’t repeat in the wild, it still goes to show that accidents are possible. Just like the infamous iPhone 6 bend tests showed you could bend those handsets.

The YouTuber explained Google’s compromises as the only way to deliver a phone that’s lighter and thinner than other foldables. Of the hinge, he said that Google’s is a “super cool and extremely efficient design,” one that “functionally definitely gets the job done.” The aluminum frame isn’t sturdy enough, however.

He also explained that cutting corners might have been Google’s only way to compete against Samsung while using Samsung parts to make the phone. Milling soft aluminum is cheaper and easier than stainless steel. Not to mention that a stainless steel frame would add weight to the Pixel Fold.

Overall, JerryRigEverything said he thought Google did good, except for the aluminum frame.

With that in mind, there’s probably no other way to fix the Pixel Fold’s durability than to come up with a new design. Something that Google has to keep in mind for the second-gen handset. On that note, maybe Google will want to try bending the Pixel Fold 2 in-house before YouTubers get their hands on the Pixel Fold.

The good news for foldable phone fans is that Samsung will unveil the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 later this month. On top of that, Oppo will launch the OnePlus V Fold, the first OnePlus foldable to hit the market. While you wait, you can always check the Pixel Fold teardown below to see how Google manufactured this thing.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.