It’s a major year for Samsung, and the Galaxy Fold was the poster child for the firm’s 50th anniversary as well as the 10th anniversary of the Galaxy brand. It has taken four months, but after its rocky start during this important time, Samsung has fixed the Galaxy Fold.
Digital Trends spent some time with the revised smartphone, and we spoke to Mark Notton, Samsung U.K.’s director of Product Portfolio and Commercial Strategy, to understand what has changed, how it’s deeply tied to 5G, and why it’s so important for you to try the foldable phone out for yourself.
Three little changes, big differences
There are three major alterations compared to the first version, and although they won’t sound like huge changes, they’re crucial to the phone’s sturdiness and longevity. While I personally didn’t use the original version, this felt every bit like a final, polished, and extremely well-engineered mobile device.
“All the potential points of weakness,” Notton said when asked what was improved. “We’ve re-looked at to see how we can make the device even more durable.”
What’s new? The problematic protective cover over the screen has been refined. On the first phone, the protective layer stretched only to the edge of the bezel on the screen, leaving just enough for people to either decide to try and rip it off or absent-mindedly pick away. The solution is to tuck the screen protector under the bezel, making it impossible to pull the protector off. The result is a more cohesive look, and without being told, you’d never know there was any kind of protective layer over the screen at all.
“We need to protect the screen,” Notton said about the film’s presence over the screen. “[The screen] is flexible, so running a nail across it will dent it, so you need the extra layer of protection.”
Keeping harm out
Next, it was important to address areas where dust and particles could get inside the Galaxy Fold’s body. This proved problematic on the early models due to gaps at the top and bottom of the hinge area, so Samsung has fitted tiny plastic end caps to seal them up. Like the screen protector, you’d never know these weren’t part of the original design; they look so natural.
“There’s less chance of things getting in the hinge that we don’t want,” Notton said, but then why can you still see a very tiny gap? “There has to be a little give in there, so you’ll never cover it 100%. With the testing that we’ve done, this is a more premium and more robust execution.”
Getting the design of these caps right was a massive challenge. The dual-axis hinge’s movement can’t be compromised by them, and Samsung naturally didn’t want to sacrifice the premium style either. The result is subtle and doesn’t detract at all. If anything, the delicate shape improves on the seamless bezel surrounding the phone’s large screen.
Finally, the physical gap between the hinge and body on the back of the phone has been minimized. While hardly a big gap before, it has been refined down even further, to the point where spotting any gap between the two sections is almost impossible to the naked eye. Again, like the addition of the plastic end caps, it’s about getting rid of as many points of entry where dust and other mess can get inside the body.
Nottan explained why this hard-to-spot alteration was one of the biggest challenges.
“You could see a gap before but it was still very small,” he said. “We’re talking about very small changes, so it’s not like it was really wide. We’ve made the gap even tighter while still being able to mass manufacture. It’s one thing hand-making something, but then when you talk about mass production, [the mechanism] it has to withstand the rigors of factories, without us having to scrap every second piece.”
Software updates and a Google partnership
What about the software, has that changed?
“The product was ready from a software perspective,” Notton said. There are small improvements, though.
“One of them is on the user interface,” he said. “We’ve got single-handed operation on the side.” What this means is the familiar Android buttons can occupy either side of the screen, rather than stay spread centrally over both, making it easy to use with one-hand. It can be flipped to either side for left or right-handed people, and it’s not just effective, but also natural. The Fold is well balanced, and using it this way doesn’t make you worry about dropping your investment.
The YouTube app has been tweaked too, so compatible videos will recognize the Fold’s aspect ratio and display content in the ideal way, where perhaps it won’t be necessary to rotate the device and see black bars above and below video. It will fill the whole screen in portrait orientation instead. This has been enabled by Google’s involvement in the creation of the Galaxy Fold’s software.
“We have a joint vision to push the boundaries further,” Notton said about working with Google. “We jointly come up with a great experience. Having that close partnership with Google is fundamental for development. For Google, having us on the hardware side is helpful for how they think about ways to deliver content.”
You need to try it for yourself
Using the Galaxy Fold is a unique experience. It’s impossible to understand whether you’ll like it, if you’ll find a use for it, or truly understand the level of technical prowess that went into making it, without holding one in your hands. Samsung wants to know what you think, constructively.
“The really interesting thing for me is to get it into people’s hands and see how they interact with it,” Notton said. “This is just the first of many devices we’ll have that push the boundaries of foldables, and it will be good to learn and get feedback and keep making it even better.”
He also thinks seeing the Fold in action will help you understand what benefits 5G will bring too.
“This in my mind is by far the best 5G device on the market, it really showcases what 5G can deliver,” he said. “It will help you understand what 5G can do, because you don’t have the boundaries of a smaller device.”
Coming very, very soon
The newly revitalized Samsung Galaxy Fold will be out in South Korea on September 6, and Notton expects it to sell in serious numbers. After that, the 5G-only version will arrive in the U.K. on September 18. And yes, it’s going to be expensive. In the U.S., the Galaxy Fold will cost $1,980, and in the U.K. 1,900 British pounds. Samsung’s aware the price tag will raise eyebrows, but trying it out is again a key part of convincing the potential buyer it’s worth it.
“It’s not for everyone, as not everyone will want to invest that much in a device,” Notton said. “But we’re convinced that if somebody does, they’re going to get an experience like no other.”
Having used the Galaxy Fold for 30 minutes or so, and had a lengthy demonstration too, it’s impossible to argue with this statement. Samsung’s eagerness to get the device into people’s hands shows it has complete confidence in the extensive, detailed, and carefully implemented alterations made to the body, so you can be more confident than ever that your money will be well spent. If it helps, buyers will also get access to Samsung’s Premier Service, which offers up 24/7 access to Samsung experts for just about anything related to the Fold.