I don’t particularly like editing my photos on a plain old slab phone anymore. Even on something large like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the aspect ratio demands more zooming and panning than I would like. Tapping on a quick filter or making a few light tweaks is fine, but nothing more than that and I can’t wait to get my Mac or an iPad. None of this is the software’s fault, mind you; Adobe has made a series of phenomenal updates to Lightroom this year, and independent developers like the team behind Pixelmator are keep pace impressively. This aspect of editing has never looked better or better; it’s having to work within the confines of a small screen that’s the real limitation.
As I was helping with our Google Pixel Fold review Last month, one of my main use cases was testing Lightroom on this large indoor display. I was really excited about having a large editing canvas whenever I needed it and a full-sized (albeit heavy) phone when I didn’t. But then I started using the Fold and quickly realized how many apps were failing to take advantage of the expansive inner screen – and became pessimistic about how Lightroom would fare.
To get a little acquainted with baseball for a minute, Google sent out a review guide that included a list of apps optimized for Fold, including third-party software like Netflix and TikTok. Snapseed, a lightweight photo editing app that Google acquired and has since largely forgotten, somehow made that list, but there was no mention of Lightroom. This left me even more cautious when I went to install it.
Fortunately, there was no reason for all this consternation. Lightroom on the Pixel Fold works like a dream, switching seamlessly between the two forms of the device. And yes, editing on that tablet-like indoor screen is as good as I imagined. Does the Pixel Fold get noticeably warm when you have 20 minutes to edit a 40-megapixel RAW file? Absolutely, but Google’s Tensor chips get hot when browsing Reddit, so I can live with that for the bigger real estate. And in terms of performance, there’s not much to complain about: the Pixel Fold kept up with my settings without getting bogged down or starting to lag.
Look at all that workspace in the screenshot above. A nice little touch is that as you adjust the sliders, the menu becomes transparent, so you can see the effect even in parts of the image that might be obscured.
But it could be even better if the Pixel Fold had some level of stylus support. You know what gets really tedious? Having to use your fingers to remove dust or distracting background elements from a shot. I love chasing those things with an Apple Pencil on the iPad and getting rid of them quickly, but my index finger is just less accurate. I know I’d benefit from the stylus support on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but that narrow exterior display just isn’t practical for my large hands.
Hardware integration designed by Google to USI 2.0 styli In the pixel tablet but surprisingly omitted on the $1,800 fold. It’s a mystifying decision to me and something that seems destined to be fixed in the second-gen model – assuming there is one. And it’s Google, so… nothing is ever guaranteed.
We also have to talk about those screen reflections. The Fold’s interior screen can be downright mirrored if you’re outside during the day. I therefore advise against post-processing your photos in the park or at the beach. But anywhere indoors, it’s easy enough to avoid frustrating glare. It’s easy to fall into 30-minute editing sessions at my local cafe, and I was surprised it didn’t wipe out the Fold’s battery.
The most sensible thing would be to continue living a multi-device life and stick to tablets or my MacBook Pro when I need to dive into deep photo work. But having that glorious larger screen at your fingertips – and at all times – is super compelling. Is that $1,800 compelling? I don’t think I can justify buying a Pixel Fold with my own money, but I’m still using the review unit as a daily device to see how it progresses in reliability over time. If it holds up, I would absolutely go for a less expensive model. Hopefully by then more apps will adopt the form factor as well as Lightroom.
Photograph by Chris Welch/The Verge