Google takes its first step toward a Pixel Fold

The company's new Android 12L update is geared toward large screen devices, including folding ones, which seems to pave a path that could lead to a Google-branded foldable.

For almost as long as we’ve heard about a Pixel Watch, rumors have sprung up time and time again regarding a foldable Pixel phone from Google. With a design similar to the Galaxy Z Fold, the device was even reported to potentially debut this year. That obviously hasn’t happened, and it’s unlikely it will given the fact the Pixel 6 series seems to be Google’s primary focus at the moment. But don’t be surprised if this particular device makes an appearance in 2022, powered by Android 12L.

Google’s new Android 12L update, announced during the company’s Android Dev Summit, is meant to run on large-screen devices to bring the same refreshed experience as Android 12 on smartphones to bigger, more versatile hardware. Some of that hardware will indeed fold, as Google says the software is built to better adapt Android 12 and its Material You UI to flexible screens.

For a Pixel Fold to exist, Google would have to ship software that’s compatible with the unique hardware. That software is now here, and it’s current roadmap indicates it’ll be commercially available in H1 2022. That could mean we’ll finally get to see a foldable Pixel phone, and today’s announcements lay the groundwork for what will be a familiar user experience to anyone who’s used a recent Pixel phone.

Android 12L takes Material You and applies it to a larger canvas. Google says any device with a DPI of 600 or more will automatically switch over to the new layout which consists of multi-column interfaces for the notification pane, Quick Settings, the home screen, and more. There’s a new dock that can be permanently displayed like on Windows and macOS to give you quicker access to your apps, and every app you have on your device will work with split-screen multitasking.

In addition, developers will be able to customize how their apps look if they aren’t formatted properly on whatever device you’re using by changing the color of the letter/pillar boxes, adding rounded corners, and more.

These are promises Google is making which sound like the easy way out of “we need to push developers to update their Android apps for more than one screen size”. For years, Android tablets and other large-screen devices that use Android apps have been pegged with crappy app support due to developers’ lack of interest in optimizing their software for difference screen sizes. With Android 12L, Google seems to want to do all the heavy lifting itself and fix those issues as best they can.

The software will run on tablets and foldables alike, and it’ll be available on Chrome OS. Exactly how it gets implemented on Chrome OS remains unclear.

There will be a beta period for Android 12L that’ll last until around May of 2022, during which Pixel smartphones will gain access to it. The only tablet currently slated to receive the beta is Lenovo’s P12 Pro, and it remains unclear if that list will ever expand.

That being step, this is a clear step in the direction of an eventual Pixel foldable. Just as Google uses its latest Pixel phones to showcase the current version of Android, it makes sense for the company to use its own flexible hardware to exhibit Android 12L on.

The update could also signal a renewed focus on the tablet market. Google hasn’t made any strides in better software support in years, despite companies continuing to ship Android-powered tablets that have their own layer of multitasking features on top. I wouldn’t go as far to say Google could be working on its own tablet, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of questioning.

If anything’s clear, though, it’s that Google finally has the software it needs to ship a foldable Pixel. Whether that comes sooner or later remains to be seen, but we know it’ll be eventually.

Intel just unveiled its lineup of 12th-gen Alder Lake chips, the company’s latest innovations as it strives to catch up with performance gains made by both AMD and Apple. My good friend Rich Woods at XDA has a very comprehensive rundown of the new processors, including an explanation of Intel’s use of hybrid technology.

[The chips are] built on the Intel 7 node, which was previously called Enhanced SuperFin. But the most notable change is that they use Intel’s hybrid technology, offering both big and little cores.

The idea of having powerful cores and efficient cores is not new; indeed, ARM chips have been doing it for years. The idea is that tasks that require more power can use those performant cores, while tasks that don’t require that much power can use the efficient cores, thus saving on energy usage.

Historically, this has been a way to preserve battery life on mobile devices. The last and only previous time Intel showed us its hybrid technology was with Lakefield, a penta-core series of chips that were made for foldable and dual-screen PCs. It wasn’t very good, but these 12th-gen ‘Alder Lake’ processors are in an entirely new ballpark.

Real-world use will determine whether these chips offer a meaningful improvement over the 11th-gen series. Intel is certainly trying new things here with the use of a hybrid architecture, better clock speeds, and improved efficiency. I’ll have to get one of these processors in a laptop or desktop to know if they’re the real deal, so stay tuned.

(By the way, it’s also worth staying tuned to Rich at XDA – he’s always working on something cool over there. You should follow him on Twitter, while you’re at it.)

More news

Google is shipping the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro with an update you’ll need to install right out of the box.

If you have a Pixel 6 on the way, you’ll be greeted by an update that can take between 25 and 30 minutes to install, according to the company. It’s to ensure you get access to “all the features,” and I have no idea what that means. Ben Schoon at 9to5Google has more details.

You can now transfer all of your WhatsApp messages from iOS to Android with a fresh Google Pixel.

Google says the Pixel and all new phones shipping with Android 12 can use the migration feature. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but it’s something that hasn’t been possible for a long time.

Samsung wants your Windows-powered Galaxy Book to feel more like one of its tablets or phones, so it’s updating its apps with One UI.

Robert Carnevale at Windows Central has an article up that goes over this push from Samsung to slowly spread its own user interface to more and more platforms.

Samsung will soon let owners of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 test Android 12, at least in South Korea.

forum post confirms the beta will soon roll out to the devices, but it remains unclear if those in the US will gain access to it. I kind of hope we do – I’m very curious to see how it works on my Z Flip 3.

Adobe is introducing simplified versions of Photoshop and Illustrator for the web.

You’ll have to be a subscriber to use them, but you’ll be able to access many of their respective features right from a web browser without having to install heavy software. Adobe has a full blog post up about the new versions, and Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge has a good article summarizing everything.

Spotify says it’s the number one podcast platform in the world.

The claim was made during the company’s Q3 2021 earnings call. Also announced was the company’s acquisition of 19 percent more subscribers year-over-year, totaling 381 million monthly active users and 172 million paid subscribers. That’s much more than what Apple Music and Amazon Music have been reported to have. Jon Porter at The Verge covers the news in fine detail.

Apple dropped the first iOS 15.2 beta with a very interesting security feature.

The feature plays into Apple’s bigger picture of helping you keep tabs on what data apps collect. Juli Clover at MacRumors has a round-up piece with everything new in the beta, including the new App Privacy Report feature.

Apple Music is finally available on the PS5.

Honestly, I wish I knew what took Apple so long to release these apps. It’s pretty ridiculous. Anyway, the app supports Apple Music’s entire catalog (obviously) as well as 4K music video playback. Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac has details.

Instagram’s swipe-up link replacement is now rolling out to everyone.

“Link stickers” are the way of the future, according to the company. I’m not sure what makes it better than a simple swipe up, but whatever. What’s important is that it’s rolling out to everyone, not just those with 10,000 followers or more. The company has more details in a blog post.

Amazon’s own Fire TVs will soon support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.

The company made the announcement just as the TVs go on sale. It’s unclear what “soon” means, but at least it’s coming eventually rather than never. Jon Fingas at Engadget has a good article detailing the news.

TCL made a soundbar exclusively for Roku TVs for $179.99.

It won’t work with a Roku streaming box or stick, just with Roku-branded TVs. David Gonzales at Android Police has a good rundown of what this puppy packs.

Google signed over 45 carrier agreements so the Pixel 6 would be everywhere.

That’s quite impressive, and it highlights how dedicated Google is to ensuring the Pixel 6 series sells. Abner Li at 9to5Google has some additional details.

Some “loyal” LG customers are getting $65 off a Pixel 5a.

This is clearly a ploy by Google to try and get LG smartphone owners to switch post-LG phone-apocalypse. It’s a good phone at least, so if you do get an email with the offer inside, it might not be totally worth turning it down. Adrian Diaconescu at PhoneArena detailed the new promo in an article.

From the Matridox newsletter. Subscribe to get articles like these directly in your inbox!