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Why I Returned My Pixel Fold After One Week?

I was really excited by the prospect of a proper folding phone like the Pixel Fold. The front screen was the right dimensions to make it usable and convenient for everyday use. But then the foldout screen turned the phone into a tablet sized entertainment and multi-tasking powerhouse. I've always had desires to reduce the number of devices and thought that this phone might be able to take the place of a tablet or even laptop which would offset the $1800 price tag. 

I decided to go to each carrier and figure out who was offering the best deal. Ironically, Verizon who I have been with forever had the worst deal. They would only give me the $70 trade-in value for my 3.5 year old Samsung Note 10. T-Mobile offered an $800 upgrade promotion but the winner was AT&T who offered $1,000 which made the new phone somewhat affordable. Plus I had family already on a family plan with AT&T so it was easy for me to join and continue to save under a family plan setup.

The store didn't have the 512GB version in stock so they ordered it for me. When it arrived, I was so excited, I rushed to the store to activate it and start playing around. However, after using it for a week, I started to realize the negatives of the phone outweighed the positives and the promises of it being able to replace other devices did not materialize. I returned it within the 14-day trial period (but had to pay a $55 restocking fee), and now I'm back to waiting on either the iPhone 15 or just going with my favorite phone at the moment, the Samsung S23.

Here are the reasons why the Pixel Fold turned out to not be a fit for me:

Weight - the Pixel Fold is heavy. I couldn't really tell in the store with all the security plugs attached to it, but I noticed it right away when I opened the box. It weighs in at 283g compared to my Note 10 at 168g. That's a 68% increase in weight. One morning, I was going through my emails and newsfeeds and my hand started to get fatigued. I caught myself actually using two hands to provide relief. This is when I started to doubt the phone would be a fit for me.

Bulkiness - the Pixel Fold is also bulky. Because it is essentially three screens, all of that takes up more space. From a design standpoint, they did do a few things right by making the front screen a perfectly manageable size unlike the Galaxy Fold which is too long. In fact, based on height and width, the Pixel Fold is actually smaller than my Note 10 which I liked. But the issue was the depth. It has some girth. I could see it more noticeable in my pant pocket. "Is that a Pixel Fold in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?". And the combo of the bulkiness and weight just made for an unpleasant experience of carrying the phone around and taking it in and out of my pocket a dozen times a day.

Multitasking on the foldout screen - the final straw for me was how it didn't deliver on the promise of multi-tasking using the foldout screen. Don't get me wrong, the foldout screen is epic and when viewing a single app, it is an amazing entertainment experience. Also, that crease in the middle is perfect to view two apps side by side. What bugged me was not being able to change apps quickly on one side. The phone does have a tray like a computer to access recently opened apps and those can be dragged easily on one side or the other to create the dual screen. But if you then want to change to another app, you have to reopen the tray and hope it's there or go digging deeper into your app database. You can't just scroll through open windows like you can with a single screen. The phone does remember dual screen configurations so if you have say Gmail and Chrome in one instance and Text and Calendar in another, you can quickly switch between those two views. But if you wanted to keep Gmail open on one side and quickly switch between Chrome, Text, and Calendar on the other, that was very challenging and time consuming. I also tried a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse setup which worked great, but I found myself having the same frustrations of trying to keep an app open and static on one side while flipping efficiently through apps on the other side. I'm sure the Android and Pixel teams can solve this with software updates, but I'll just wait until they do before reconsidering a foldable phone. 

No Samsung Dex Equivalent - one of the neatest features of my Note 10 is how I can turn it into a full-fledged desktop computer by simply plugging it into a TV or monitor using a USB-C to HDMI dongle and pairing it with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I realized this is better than a folding phone to turn it into a multi-tasking machine, and I've had it this entire time over the last 3.5 years. However, Pixel has yet to develop something equivalent. When I plugged my HDMI dongle into its USB-C port, nothing happened. I have fallen in love with the Dex feature and is one reason I have not yet gone to an iPhone. If iPhone 15 lacks no major update including a Dex equivalent, I think I'll stick with Samsung.

Battery Life - another important feature of a new phone is getting more battery life than your current phone gets today. Unfortunately, that was not the case for my Pixel Fold. When I would get home after a day of use, I would be surprised how little battery I had left. Sometimes I would have to charge it to just make it through the evening before going to bed. I at least need a phone that gets through a normal day's work without recharging and Pixel Fold did not check that box.

Proximity of volume button and power button - the Pixel Fold has a somewhat deep inset power and volume button especially with a protective case. And both are actually close to the same size so it was difficult to tell which was which and to press them without physically looking at the buttons. Sometimes during the week I need to adjust the phone volume for Bluetooth headphones by putting my hand in my pocket but I struggled doing it right. I'm sure I would have gotten used to it eventually but was a small annoyance out of the box.

Pin requires pressing enter - I liked the fingerprint reader feature to unlock the phone. See note on that below. But sometimes inputting a pin is required or more convenient to unlock the phone. Another small annoyance is after entering the pin successfully, it didn't unlock. I had to take one extra step by pressing the enter button. Again not that big of a deal and something I would have gotten used to. But why not save a keystroke if you can?

Marques Brownlee Review - Marques Brownlee is one of my favorite tech reviewers. He always calls it like it is and doesn't seem to have any loyalty or agenda - just good, thorough reviews. He too was impressed with elements of the Pixel Fold, but ultimately it fell short for him as a phone for today. Check it out here: 

Jerry Rig Everything Review - my other favorite tech reviewer is Jerry Rig Everything. This guy proves out how durable a phone is. Well, turns out the Pixel Fold is not that durable. In order for the screen to fold like it does, it is made out of a plastic material that is very susceptible to scratching. I didn't want to see what my phone would look like after a year of being exposed to dust, dirt, objects, and other debris my phone goes through. Plus, not that I would do this, but he wanted to test the foldability and hinge strength. When he did, the entire phone broke becoming totally useless. Knowing how I treat my phones, I'm going to need something more durable for everyday use.

What I liked - There were two features that I really liked, but they were quite minor in the grand scheme of things. They were the fingerprint reader location right on power button and the flawless integration with Pixel buds. With the fingerprint reader, since you need to hit the power button anyway, it saved a step in unlocking the phone by reading my fingerprint at the same time. 

For the Pixel buds, I got a deal at AT&T for a new pair for $50 (normally $100). Figured that was a good enough deal to give them a try since AirPods Pro are 4x that at $199. I've never loved the AirPod experience on an Android. I couldn't check battery life, syncing wasn't automatic, and the "Hey Google" integration was poor. Well Pixel Buds on the Pixel Fold fixed all of that. 

Right when I powered on the Pixel Buds, the Pixel Fold was already in the process of recognizing and syncing them without me even needing to go into the Bluetooth settings. I could check the battery life easily. And my favorite part, while on a bike ride, I was able to use the "Hey Google" feature to play a customer playlist I created on Spotify without taking the phone out of my pocket. This is an important safety feature keeping me more focused on the road. Since returning the Pixel Fold, I've now connected the Pixel Buds to my Note 10. They too paired right away and I can check battery life easily, but the "Hey Google" feature is not as flawless. It could not find and play that same playlist.

I'll be looking for both these features in my next phone, but much like Marques Brownlee's conclusion, the Pixel Fold is not yet a fit for me.