Foldable smartphones don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. A leaked document obtained by 9to5 Google hints that not only is Google developing Android builds for a Pixel 5a, it’s also futzing around with a foldable Pixel and possibly two other devices.
In all fairness, a foldable Pixel is not a new rumor. Last year, CNET reported that Google was experimenting with a prototype foldable device—a fact that was confirmed by Google’s Mario Queiroz. At the time, Queiroz seemed nonchalant. His comments to CNET had a distinct “Yeah we’re mucking around with this but don’t expect it on shelves anytime soon” kind of vibe. The leaked document, however, indicates that Google is developing an Android build for a potential foldable phone.
The document reportedly refers to several unannounced hardware by codenames. The foldable Pixel is purportedly called “passport,” and is explicitly referenced as a foldable device. Meanwhile, the other three codenames are “barbette,” “raven,” and “oriole.” While 9to5 Google posits that barbette may refer to the Pixel 5a, which hasn’t been announced yet, it’s not abundantly clear what the raven or oriole devices might be. However, an interesting note is that the passport, raven, and oriole are all labeled with “Q4 2021.” That could be any number of things but it all may hint that perhaps a foldable Pixel might be a year out from some sort of announcement.
This is some interesting stuff to chew on. At a glance, it would appear that Google has a full pipeline of Android projects it’s working on. But, like patents, just because Google may be tinkering around with a foldable Pixel and developing software for it, it isn’t a guarantee that it’ll ever see the light of day. Google has killed hardware projects before—RIP Pixel Watch—so it’s possible that it’ll nix a foldable Pixel if it doesn’t work quite the way Google wants, or isn’t likely to compete against say, the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 or Microsoft’s forthcoming Surface Duo.
In general, there’s been no lack of Pixel news as of late. In the past week, Google has not only announced the budget Pixel 4a, but it also decided to discontinue its current flagship phones, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL. It also teased the Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5, and a goof on the Google France blog may have leaked that we can expect to hear about the Pixel 5 on October 8th.