Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: The Fold feels fabulous — and flies again
Yes, there’s still a seam down the middle. Yes, the price is still astronomical. Yes, it’s still the coolest thing to happen to phones since Neo and Morpheus phoned home in the Matrix. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is back – and fixed, and finally ready for you.
AT IFA in Berlin, Samsung announced a new and improved version of the Galaxy Fold, the company’s second effort at making a folding phone, a goal the technology industry has been working toward for around a decade. The first version was released earlier this year, but was recalled when journalists almost immediately noted problems with the device. Some found peel-off layers on the screen meant to protect it. Removing them? Not good. Others noted issues when dust and debris found their way into the hinge mechanism, although we had no such issues when we reviewed the Fold this past summer.
The new Fold (which Samsung notably isn’t calling the Fold 2.0 or the New Fold or anything other than “the Galaxy Fold”) addresses those issues. Samsung has moved the protective layer all the way to the edges of the screen, which should prevent people from peeling it off. It’s completely invisible, and my efforts to pick away at the corner of the screen were fruitless. There’s also a new protective element over the hinge mechanism, which should eliminate dust entry.
But other than a few cosmetic tweaks, this is the same device we tested earlier this year and simply loved. The concept is great: Picture two longer than average phones glued together like a book, with a slight gap between the two screens at the hinge. It’s a touch heavier than your average phone, at 9.74 ounces. The Note 10 Plus, a big phone in itself, is 6.9 ounces. The lighter and smaller Pixel 3a I’ve been carrying around lately is just 5.2 ounces.
But that weight is there for a reason: The gorgeous 7.3-inch AMOLED screen revealed when you open this book up. This is a tablet-sized screen. Reading on it, watching a movie, surfing the web … we’ve been conditioned to think that 6 inch screens do this well, and 6.5 inch screens do it really well. The reality is, we’ve forgotten the pleasure of a large screen. Samsung’s Fold is simply a better experience for most of what we do on the Internet.
The elephant in the room isn’t an elephant at all but a crease, the seam which remains stubbornly visible down the middle of the devices, marking the line where the Fold folds. It’s absolutely visible, which had some purists crying bloody murder when the first version of the device was unveiled. Samsung hasn’t done anything to change this, and you’ll still see it when you use the new version. If you’re the type of user who views a notch on a screen as a blemish, this might bother you. If you’re the type to get lost in the book you’re reading or the video you’re watching, odds are good you’ll love the Fold’s convenience and quickly learn to ignore this seam.
The act of opening and closing the device is very satisfying. The two halves of the phone snap together firmly, and lock open easily. I found myself clicking it open and snapping it shut over and over; it’s the kind of unconscious gesture pencil spinners and widget wielders of all sorts will go ape over.
Fold the Fold and you’ll seen what Samsung refers to as the “cover display,” a second, 4.6-inch screen. At under 5 inches, it feels a little limited relative to what you’re used to, although it’s fully functional. I played Asphalt Legends (a driving game) on it for a minute or two, for example. I crashed. So you probably wouldn’t game on it, but you could.
Samsung says it’s also rethought the “customer journey,” announcing a “Premier Service” that gives owners of the nearly-$2,000 phone access to Samsung experts for 24/7 guidance and support. I couldn’t test this out in my 45 minutes with the device of course, but it sounds handy. A device like this cries out for some power user features that some people might be unfamiliar with. The screen is great for watching movies on, for example, but you can multi-task very effectively by launching a second or even third app. Many people will be surprised to learn that their phone supports this, I suspect.
Samsung isn’t talking about the price of the Galaxy Fold, and it’s likely similar to the originally planned costs, which are in the “if you have to ask” variety. The Fold was planned to retail for around $2,000, and likely will carry that price. There’s a 5G model in the works as well, which is certain to add a few hundred dollars to the price. Some would argue that customers willing to plunk down $2K will almost certainly be willing to plunk down $2.4K for more cutting edge tech. I can’t speak to that: I’m not the type to spend that kind of dough, personally. But if you are, I’d love to come by and spend a few hours playing with your phone. Folding phones are fun, after all.