September 9, 2019
Almost seven months after it debuted, Samsung reckons that its Galaxy Fold is ready to hit the shelves. Again.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold has had a troubled birth. As soon as it was announced alongside the Samsung Galaxy S10 family, Huawei lifted the covers on its own folding phone — the Mate X. Then, in a rush to be the first to market, Samsung sent out review samples to select journalists – only for these samples to break in the most embarrassing fashion possible.
Samsung rolled back the Fold's release date and urgently addressed the issues. Now, we've had hands-on time with the supposedly fixed Samsung Galaxy Fold at the IFA trade show in Berlin. So, is it the phone of the future, or a folding false dawn?
See our guide to the Best Samsung Phones
Samsung Galaxy Fold Hands-On
During IFA, we visited Samsung's enormous exhibition to take a look at its new products.
Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of a line to get a look at the Galaxy Fold — in fact, we had to queue for about twenty minutes to get a look.
However, after our brief wait, we were able to get our mitts on the fold. Initially, the booth attendant took us through the hinge mechanism and how to properly open and close the device.
Then, it was our turn. You open and close the Fold in the same way that you open and close a book. However, it's incredibly unlikely that you've ever held a book worth as much as the Fold. We don't tend to get nervous with expensive tech here at Tech.co, but the alien nature of the folding mechanism (and the amount of people surrounding us) put us on edge a little.
So, let's dive-in and unpack the Fold as a device.
Samsung Galaxy Fold in tablet mode, folded out:
Samsung Galaxy Fold in phone mode:
The Folding Mechanism
There's a surprising amount of resistance when opening and closing the Fold. You have to be extremely deliberate with it — particularly when you're closing the device. We found the easiest way was to push in the middle of screen – although this is unlikely to be Samsung's ‘preferred' way of operating it.
Even after you've opened the hinge, it requires a bit of force to close — think about opening and closing a sturdy laptop, and you're not far off. However, whether you're folding or opening it, the Fold clicks into place with a reassuring amount of weight. When closing it, the magnets on either side are strong — you're unlikely to be opening it accidentally.
You'll likely get used to it over time, but it still feels distinctly alien at first.
When the first samples hit, the crease along the center of the screen was one of the most controversial aspects of the Fold (aside from all the broken samples). Sadly, the crease is still very much a thing.
However, most of the time, it isn't that bad. It is noticeable on Google Maps, for example – and hey, it's kind of old-school to have a crease in the middle of your map. But, we barely noticed it while watching videos on YouTube.
In fairness to Samsung, there's not a lot it can do about the crease — it's one of the compromises that the company will have to make with such first-generation tech in order to make it viable.
With the Galaxy Fold, you get two screens. A small 4.6-inch front display with a 21:9 aspect ratio, and the larger 7.3-inch display which, with its 4.2:3 aspect ratio, is almost square.
Frankly, the front screen looks bizarre. It's surrounded by enormous black borders, and, given that it's barely 2-inches wide, we had a hard time navigating around the interface.
However, this might mean (as some other reviewers have pointed out) that you take a more mindful approach to phone use. Unfolding the screen to actually use the phone requires a lot more work than simply unlocking a regular phone.
The main larger screen, however, still feels a bit unusual. There's a big cut-out in the top right, which is hardly attractive. Plus, holding a big square doesn't feel quite right.
Android does support folding phones. However, it seems unlikely that all of your favorite apps will be completely optimised to swap back-and-forth between two wildly different screens.
When we tried Google Maps and YouTube, we found that switching between the two screens was fairly painless. Although, there is a caveat — Google Maps fills the entirety of the 7.3-inch opened screen, while YouTube displays some large black borders around the side. This might not be the case for all videos, but there won't be many shot in the 4.2:3 aspect ratio.
We were also shown how to display up to three apps at once in the opened screen. Using so many apps side-by-side might not sound natural, but it was the moment that suddenly, after feeling so unusual for so long, the Galaxy Fold made sense. You can even drag-and-drop between the apps — for example, dragging a photo into a text chat.
It is definitely the most compelling use of split-screen multitasking we've ever seen on a phone.
What Else Should You Know?
It's quick. But then, with 12GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 855 processor, that shouldn't be a surprise. Running three apps side-by-side, for example, is no bother for the Galaxy Fold.
It now has 5G. When it was first revealed in March, the Galaxy Fold was a 4G-only device. However, now it has 5G (and rightly so, considering it costs over $1,500). We weren't able to use the 5G in Berlin but, from our experience with other 5G Samsung devices, we've found the speeds to be impressive, whilst not bowling us over.
The cameras. The Galaxy Fold has six cameras in total, including two sets of front-facing cameras for the two screens. We didn't get a chance to use the cameras in Berlin, but Samsung's latest efforts from the S10 range are very impressive, to say the least. Expect more of the same here.
Verdict – Is The Galaxy Fold the Future of Phones?
We're going to have to sit on the fence, here (sorry).
While the idea behind the Galaxy Fold is enchanting, it feels quite a way from being perfectly implemented. The small front screen is difficult to use, and while Samsung may insist that the crease is a “natural characteristic of the screen,” one feels that there must be a better way.
However, this is still first-generation tech — something we haven't seen in the phones market since, arguably, the very first iPhone.
If Samsung can iron out the creases in the design and implementation, then we could be glimpsing the future.
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