It’s finally happening, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is coming out. Plagued by delays since it was first announced in February, the decade-in-the-making phone hits stores on Friday. So how does the first folding smartphone by a major manufacturer hold up? It’s a lot better than the months of setbacks would have you believe—but we’re not convinced the exciting new concept is going to revolutionize the market just yet.
The History of the Samsung Galaxy Fold
Originally intended for an April release, the Galaxy Fold was delayed after several test units sent to reviewers, to put it mildly, failed miserably. To make matters worse, the cause of the issues was also the phone’s main selling point: its foldable screen. Several review units experienced immediate screen failure, some because debris got under the screen through its hinges and others because a protective layer, which many assumed to be nothing more than a screen protector, was removed.
In the wake of such an embarrassing fiasco, the company delayed the phone’s release and canceled pre-orders. But in July, Samsung announced that after months of “rigorous testing,” and a few key hardware fixes, the Galaxy Fold was ready for a September debut. Those fixes include: extending the protective top layer to make clear that it is an integral part of the device and not to be removed, additional reinforcements to protect it from “external particles” without limiting its folding abilities and strengthening the top and bottom hinges with protection caps.
And it must be said: the fixes, for the most part, seem to work. Despite one report of a failed review unit, Robb Report had no problem with the new and improved Galaxy Fold in the three days we played around with the phone. The phone may be far from perfect, but it also seems like an exciting peek at what’s to come.
The Pros of a Folding Screen
First things first, and what you’re probably most curious about, the ability to unfold your smartphone into a 7.3-inch tablet turns out to be very cool. The phone’s unfolded display is beautiful, producing crisp images and colors that pop. Though the crease down the middle is distracting at first, you quickly grow used to it. Websites, e-books, magazines, videos and games all look fantastic. And while it may not seem like much at first, the ability to not have to carry an e-reader or tablet with you when commuting or traveling is a distinct benefit of the folding screen.
Samsung also found some practical uses for the phone’s folding feature. When its folded up, the Galaxy Fold works like any other smartphone, thanks to a screen on its exterior. But should you decided to get a closer look at something—which you’ll want since the 4.6-inch front screen a bit too small for 2019—all you need to do is unfold the phone and, thanks to app continuity, what you were looking seamlessly expands. This could be buggy, depending on the app, but that feels like something that will be fully fixed in an Android update or two. Also, when the screen is fully folded out, the phone’s multi-active window allows use of up to three apps at once, a huge plus for those who love to multi-task—or have a short attention span.
… And the Cons
But as nice as these features may be, they don’t all come together. This is best seen in the actual build quality of the phone. While the Galaxy Fold looks great, that’s not how it feels. The two folding parts don’t come together cleanly, instead forming something closer to a wedge. Because of this, the phone doesn’t feel as solid as you’d like it to when it’s folded, something you’d expect from a device with this kind of price tag. Also, while you quickly forget about the crease in the middle of the screen, we only had a few days with our unit, and it’s easy to imagine it becoming more pronounced—and distracting—as the weeks and months go by.
The Galaxy Fold’s questionable build quality also makes you wonder just how durable it actually is. The numerous warnings you’re greeted with when you open up the packaging underline this: users are warned to keep it clear of dust and water, not to add a screen protector and to avoid pressing too hard on the screen. Smartphones are an integral part of our lives, but we were left wondering whether Samsung believes the Galaxy Fold can stand up to daily use.
All of this makes the phone’s sky-high $1,980 price tag hard to swallow. The Galaxy Fold costs $630 more than the Apple’s just-released, top-of-the-line iPhone 11 Pro. That difference is far from insignificant, especially since you know exactly what you’re going to get from the new phone—a premium device loaded with new technology that can be used day in and day out. The Galaxy Fold can’t promise that yet.
About the Fold’s Five Cameras
Aside from its folding ability, the phone has an excellent multi-camera system capable of capturing gorgeous images. The back is outfitted with a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras, the front has a 10-megapixel selfie camera, while unfolded there is another 10-megapixel selfie camera and an 8-megapixel RGB depth camera. It also sports a dual battery system that easily got this reviewer through the workday.
Aside from Samsung enthusiasts and can’t-help-themselves early adapters, it’s unclear who exactly the Samsung Fold is currently for. Thanks to some durability concerns, it’s hard to justify spending $1,980 on the device, especially because its main feature (the fold) gives us so much pause. While it may give some travelers one less thing to carry around, is that worth $600 dollars? It might be for some, but not for most. Still, the Galaxy Fold is undeniably an exciting idea and, it’s easy to see a new idea in an increasingly homogenous space. Now it’s just a matter of whether Samsung perfects the technology before someone else does.