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Google wanted the Pixel Fold to feel like a passport

The Pixel team looked at a box full of hinges before settling on a design.

Published onMay 31, 2023

Google Pixel Fold half closed on palm 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Google published a blog explaining how it developed the hinge on the Pixel Fold.
  • The Pixel team took inspiration from the form factor of a passport book.
  • Google put the components of the hinge on the ends of the device to make the phone thinner.

One of the most important, but often overlooked parts of a foldable phone is the hinge. The design of the hinge can mean the difference between a foldable with a gap and one that folds flat. Google has revealed the inspiration for its Pixel Fold hinge design, and it’s not what you’d expect.

On the tech giant’s blog, the company went into detail on how it designed and built the hinge on the Pixel Fold. One of the more intriguing revelations from the post is that the team drew inspiration from the form factor of a passport.

According to Industrial Designer at Google Sangsoo Park, the Pixel team looked at a box full of hinges to figure out how they wanted to approach the design. This included mechanical hinges — like car doors — but also surprisingly books and paper. It wasn’t until Park was coming back from vacation that they figured out the best form factor — a passport.

I noticed it had a nice proportion when closed and opened. It feels like a little bit of a metaphor, too — your passport holds your memories and it’s where so many of your stories begin. And it’s thin and pocket-able enough to carry everywhere we go.

Pixel Product Manager George Hwang explains that the hinge is a 180-degree fluid friction hinge with components that sit at the ends of the device instead of right under the display. “So with our hinge, we moved these hinge components entirely to the ends of the device, out from under the display, which makes it much thinner.” This apparently was no easy task as Hwang states that designing the hinge was “the most complex product I’ve ever worked on.”

As for the material the Pixel Fold hinge is made out of, the Pixel team decided to use heavy-duty stainless steel instead of aluminum. Park says that this choice was made because steel is stronger than aluminum and it has “a nice shine.” Given that steel is heavier than aluminum, this may have played a role in the Pixel Fold weighing a few grams more than its competitors.

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