Everyone loves a good comeback story. They give you the sense that no matter how badly you stumble, no matter how far you fall, no matter how much your futuristic smartphone gets hammered in the press, you can always pull yourself back up again. And that's exactly what Samsung is hoping to pull off with its Galaxy Fold, a device with a display that you can fold in half.
The foldable smartphone was initially slated to launch in April, but Samsung pulled the plug on the release when reviewers found their phones' screens were damaged after using them for just a few days.
After reworking parts of the Fold to make them more durable, and less, well, breaky, Samsung is finally releasing the innovative smartphone. Priced at $1,980, the Fold is clearly not for everyone. Still, despite its rocky launch, cancellation, and relaunch, the Fold is a unique marvel of technology that could point the way forward for the stagnating smartphone market.
It folds, it bends!
The Fold's biggest selling point is that it's one of the first foldable screen smartphones on the market. (Huawei's Mate X is the other major phone with a folding screen launching this year.)
That Fold's main foldable screen measures 7.3 inches and uses Samsung's Infinity Flex Display technology. That screen looks absolutely gorgeous when watching shows on Netflix, or simply browsing the web.
The Fold's bendable display is too big to use with one hand, so Samsung put a 4.6-inch Super AMOLED screen on the front of the Fold. This is the screen you'll use while walking around during the day, or when you need to do a quick web search and don't want to unfold the phone all the way.
The front screen is also very narrow, making apps look squeezed. Reading text, though, wasn't difficult, and I was able to use Slack, send emails, browse Instagram, and shop on Amazon using the smaller display without issue.
Samsung's App Continuity feature also lets you view apps on the front display, then view them on the larger 7.3-inch foldable panel by just opening up the phone. Everything from Chrome, and YouTube to Netflix works this way, and it's incredibly helpful if you happen to be using an app but need a bit more screen real estate.
Outside of App Continuity, the Fold is an Android-powered Samsung device like the Galaxy S10 or Note10. You get Samsung's take on the Android interface, and various preloaded Samsung and Google (GOOG, GOOGL) apps.
My review unit was an AT&T (T) version, and as a result had a bundle of AT&T-related bloatware. Unfortunately, Samsung hasn't offered any information about potential offerings from other carriers. There is, however, an unlocked version available for purchase.
The Fold comes with a total of six, yes, six cameras. There are wide-angle, ultra-wide angle, and telephoto cameras on the back, a single front camera, and two additional cameras on the inside.
The cameras take fantastic photos and videos, as they should at this price. In comparison shots I took between the Fold and Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 11 Pro Max, both phones captured sharp details in their images, but Samsung's phone exaggerated colors more than Apple's. Which camera you like more depends on your color preference. I'm partial to the more natural colors of the iPhone's photos, so that's my choice — but yours might be different.
The Fold packs two batteries, one on each side of its foldable display. Taken together, the battery is an all-day behemoth that won't leave you hanging when you need it most.
Fixes to the Fold
I used the original Galaxy Fold back in April when it was about to be released, and didn't experience any of the issues that other reviewers ran into. Those included dust or debris becoming stuck under the screen and pushing up on it, permanently ruining the panel.
Other reviewers saw the foldable display's plastic outer coating and, mistaking it for the protective film found on most new smartphones, peeled it off. Again, permanently ruining the panel. Samsung addressed both of those issues by reworking the Fold's display and its protective coating.
The Fold's hinge has also been reworked to make it feel sturdier and more robust. As before, Samsung says you can open and close the hinge 200,000 times before it starts to degrade. That's about 100 times a day for five years.
As for the Fold's design, when it's folded it's a pretty chunky phone. At 9.7 ounces, it's heavier than Apple's iPhone 11 Pro Max, and far thicker. Unfolded, the phone is naturally slimmer, but still heavy.
Samsung also says the Fold isn't water or dust resistant thanks to its moving parts, which, for a $1,980 phone, is troubling.
Everyone wants a look
Seemingly every time I pulled out the Fold to take a photo, I caught people checking out the phone. Even in my office, the smartphone was a hit, with people asking to hold it or check out how the screen bends and folds.
The phone is absolutely a status piece that will have people talking, but it's also a capable device. It offers everything you'd expect from a high-end smartphone, and more.
But there's no denying that you're buying this phone because you want the coolest, top-of-the-line futuristic smartphone around. And with the Fold, that's what you get.
To add to that feeling of exclusivity Samsung is giving Fold owners access to a dedicated concierge service for the phone in case you need help understanding how to perform certain tasks with the foldable screen.
When you open the Fold for the first time, you'll notice it is covered with a piece of plastic with "Care Instructions," which warn users not to touch the screen with sharp objects, not to fold objects in the display, and not to attach stickers to the screen.
All of that is to say that this is a luxury device, and as such, should be cared for as one. Whether that works out for most users who are used to throwing their phones into their bags, or tossing them across the seat, when they get in their cars remains to be seen.
Should you get it?
The Galaxy Fold is a truly impressive piece of technology. It's leaps and bounds ahead of the current flat screen phones we use today, and smartphone makers hope it's the way forward for an industry that has seen sales stumble as consumers hold onto their devices longer.
At $1,980, though, the Fold is not a smartphone designed for the average consumer. This is the Bugatti of smartphones — it has over-the-top design and capabilities and it’s far too pricey for most people to enjoy.
If you're the kind of person who finds $100 dollar bills in your pockets like most people find singles, then the Fold is for you. For everyone else, hold off until Samsung can make the technology in the Fold available in mainstream products.
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Email Daniel Howley at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.