This is the canceled Pixel Fold that wasn't enough for Google


The Google Pixel Fold launched relatively late compared to other manufacturers' first-generation foldables. By the time it was finally released in mid-2023, Samsung had already launched the fifth version of its book-style take on a foldable phone (and introduced a second take with the more popular Galaxy Z Flip series), and several other companies had also made their debut. However, the situation could have been very different – Google had another prototype ready a year before the original Pixel Fold, but decided to scrap it because it wasn't “good enough”, as Google's head of design for hardware products, Ivy Ross, explained in a 2023 episode of the Made by Google podcast.

While the existence of this canceled smartphone is a pretty well-known fact, we've never actually seen it in pictures or learned the full specifications, but that changes today. Photos of a mysterious Pixel Fold-like device first surfaced in a cool XDA forum thread (unfortunately the original images have now disappeared, but we have copies), leading to speculation that it's either a fake or an early prototype. Thanks to an anonymous source inside Google, Android Authority We can confirm that this is indeed the cancelled Pixel foldable codenamed “Pipit” and our first look at its specs.

Before we begin, it's worth mentioning that the devices codenamed “Pipit” and “Passport”, which were rumored to be the canceled Pixel foldable, are actually the same device. Although they were separate projects at some point, they eventually converged into a single device that continued to be called “Pipit”.

Familiar Design

Pixel Fold canceled Pipit prototype featured

The cancelled Pixel Fold has an oddly familiar look; the only feature clearly differentiating it from the final version is a (mostly) seamless glass bar running across the full width of the device, which closely resembles the Pixel 6. The released Pixel Fold has a small camera island made of polished metal, which matches the look of the Pixel 7 Pro.

Other than that, the form factor hasn't changed much. The unusual aspect ratio is the same, the frame and hinge look almost identical, and even the matte back glass was already present (the carbon texture on top of the device is simply a skin added by the vendor).

(We apologize for the image quality of the photos below. This is the best quality we could salvage from the photos removed in this thread.)

Unfortunately, the unit being discussed in the thread has a broken internal screen, so we can't compare it to the first-generation Pixel Fold. However, it's fair to assume it looks similar, if not exactly the same.

Ordinary glasses

If the “Pipit” were to be released, it would come a few months after the Pixel 6 series, so obviously, its specs are a generation behind the first-gen Pixel Fold, which is built on the basic configuration of the Pixel 7. Instead of the Tensor G2 with Exynos Modem 5300, the device came with the first-gen Tensor and Exynos Modem 5123, which was notable for a number of issues.

Likewise, the device had an outdated camera setup. While the first-generation Pixel Fold more closely resembled the Pixel 7a with its upgraded cameras, the “Pipit” had an older setup with an older Sony IMX363, which debuted on the Pixel 3 in 2018! The other sensors are similarly downgraded, and the telephoto lens is missing entirely. I've compared the camera specs below.

Pixel 6a (codenamed “Bluejay”) Prototype codenamed “Pipit” Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”) Pixel 7a (codenamed “lynx”)

primary

Pixel 6a (codenamed “Bluejay”)

Sony IMX363 (12 MP) – 1/2.55”

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

Sony IMX363 (12 MP) – 1/2.55”

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

Cropped Sony IMX787 (48 MP) – 1/2″

Pixel 7a (codenamed “lynx”)

Sony IMX787 (64 MP) – 1/1.73″

Ultrawide

Pixel 6a (codenamed “Bluejay”)

Sony IMX386 (12 MP) – 1/2.9″

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

Sony IMX386 (12 MP) – 1/2.9″

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

Sony IMX386 (12 MP) – 1/2.9″

Pixel 7a (codenamed “lynx”)

Sony IMX712 (13 MP) – ~1/3″?

Telephoto

Pixel 6a (codenamed “Bluejay”)

,

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

,

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

Samsung 3J1 (11 MP) – 1/3″

Pixel 7a (codenamed “lynx”)

,

Selfie (external)

Pixel 6a (codenamed “Bluejay”)

Sony IMX355 (8 MP) – 1/2.8”

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

Sony IMX355 (8 MP) – 1/2.8”

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

Samsung 3J1 (11 MP) – 1/3″

Pixel 7a (codenamed “lynx”)

Sony IMX712 (13 MP) – ~1/3″?

Selfie (internal)

Pixel 6a (codenamed “Bluejay”)

N/A

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

Sony IMX355 (8 MP) – 1/2.8”

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

Sony IMX355 (8 MP) – 1/2.8”

Pixel 7a (codenamed “lynx”)

N/A

Another area where the “Pipit” differed from the released Pixel Fold was the external display. The device had a slightly smaller display at 66 x 128mm compared to 67 x 130mm on the Pixel Fold. The resolution was also slightly different at 1,080 x 2,100 pixels compared to 1,080 x 2,092.

Prototype codenamed “Pipit” Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

size

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

66x128mm

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

67x130mm

Resolution

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

1080×2100 pixels

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

1080×2092 pixels

Refresh Rate

Prototype codenamed “Pipit”

10Hz – 120Hz

Pixel Fold (codenamed “Felix”)

10Hz – 120Hz

One thing that has surprisingly remained the same is the internal display – this remains a completely unchanged panel. Interestingly, however, Google has developed a prototype version of the device with support for stylus input. Although it seems like this idea was eventually scrapped – the last prototype to include this concept was the “PIPIT EVT 1.0 Stylus”, while other versions of the device reached the DVT stage much later – it’s still interesting to see that Google was exploring something like this.

Making a good tool

google pixel fold hands on 4 1

Chris Carlone / Android Authority

Although the Pixel Fold that has arrived on store shelves is an upgrade to the “Pipit,” it feels incremental, which raises a question: What went wrong? Why wasn’t the “Pipit” as good?

Of course, this is pure speculation, but we can make a good guess by looking at the broader context in which it would have been released. “Pipit” would have been announced at Google I/O 2022, right around the same time as the canceled Pixel Tablet, the first-gen Tensor (codenamed “Tangor”; the device that was shipped is codenamed “TangorPro”) and the Pixel 6a. This would have made it one of the first devices to run Google’s big-screen-optimized version of Android — 12L. It really couldn’t have been a better fit, so why didn’t it?

The Pixel 6 series had a messy launch. A big reason for this was the buggy release of Android 12. While the release of Android 12L fixed some things, it was still nowhere close to being stable. Not only that, but a lot of features were also postponed, making 12L less than what it should have been.

If “Pipit” was released would you buy it?

15 votes

It seems that Google decided to sell both its tablet and foldable a year early to make sure the software was ready and to make hardware changes where necessary. What happened after shipping was still not perfect by any means, but it's probably better than what we could have seen had Google just gone ahead with “Pipit.”

Even after being cancelled, the “Pipit” was a success of sorts: our sources told us that plenty of Googlers used the prototype units as their everyday devices, and the first-generation Pixel Fold definitely built on the hardware and software created for the cancelled prototype. Hopefully the upcoming Pixel 9 Pro Fold will continue this generational improvement.

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