One disadvantage? It seems like it’s hard to fold the Pixel Fold completely flat. Because the hinge takes force to move, and generally, you don’t want to force a $1,800 device to do anything that could break it, you might notice many hands-on photos and videos outside of Google’s official ones don’t show the Pixel Fold completely flat. Michael Fisher (MrMobile on YouTube) reports the hinge is the cause. It’s possible to get the Pixel Fold completely flat; it just doesn’t feel comfortable to do.
Add in the extra bump the Pixel Fold’s camera bar adds, and you wouldn’t exactly have the flattest surface to write on if you were going to town with a stylus. It would work, sure, but it wouldn’t feel as well thought out as the other part of the device.
Another possibility is the glass that makes the Pixel Fold possible in the first place. Foldable glass is dramatically thinner than what you’d find on a traditional smartphone and much more prone to cracks and scratches. Samsung has the receipts to prove it from the original Galaxy Fold. It’s not the kind of thing you want to take risks on with the unpredictable jabs of a stylus.
Methods for interpreting pen inputs vary. The one Google has supported the longest, which seems to be the standard across Android tablets (including the new Pixel Tablet) and Chromebooks, is USI. The Universal Stylus Initiative is an organization specifically in charge of managing the USI standard (USI 2.0 is the latest) with the promise that if you buy a USI stylus, it’ll work across devices as long as they’re USI certified.
The dream of USI 2.0 is getting something akin to the wireless charging, pressure-sensitive experience of the Apple Pencil, on a stylus you can use on more than just the iPad. The methods for accomplishing this usually require some kind of communication between the display and the pen itself, with a digitizer integrated into the display. The issue with Google’s foldable is there simply might not be enough room. Samsung had to completely redesign the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to add S Pen support in the first place, an added complication that Google might not think is worth it.
It’s possible Google wanted to include stylus support for the Pixel Fold, but deemed it an additional cost or that the extra layer would compromise its ability to claim the device as the “thinnest foldable.”
A philosophical difference
With no official pen from Google and nothing in the hardware of the Pixel Fold that suggests an active stylus could be supported later, the foldable is firmly a fingers-only device. This is a shame if only because of how popular using a stylus is on tablets. If a device has a tablet-sized screen, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people would want to draw or write on it.
But more than possible hardware explanations, Google seems to have a specific perspective on foldables that’s different from Samsung’s do-everything strategy. The Pixel Fold is focused and streamlined. It’s all about split-screen apps and dragging and dropping files. I wouldn’t count out a Pixel Fold with a stylus a few years from now, but for now, Google’s sticking to what works, because it wants to or has to.