Any new concept technology comes with its share of impracticalities shrouded by the sheer wowness. The first-gen Samsung Galaxy Fold had its red carpet moment a few months ago, but it also rapidly tumbled into a walk of shame due to screen issues. But like a true tech champion, Samsung worked on improving its pipe dream behind closed doors and what we have here is the official, production version of the world’s first mainstream foldable phone!
Without a doubt, the Galaxy Fold looks and feels futuristic, ticking the first box off the list. Within moments of unboxing our review sample, there was a crowd gathered around it looking at it like the first time I looked at a Walkman. It’s genuinely ingenious and the first-mover advantage Samsung will have in people’s psyche will be invaluable for the second generation product. The Galaxy Fold wasn’t just designed to be a showcase of what Samsung can do in its billion-dollar R&D centre but also a useable smartphone+tablet, and the first time you unfold the phone, your eyes will widen with the possibilities of this form factor. Yes, it’s chunky but it’s a good kind of weight that doesn’t feel delicate in spite of the hinged screen.
Triple screens for double the fun!
The cover screen is a 4.6in window that is long and narrow (21:9) and helps in keeping the profile slim, perfect for single-handed use and making quick phone calls. Resolution is limited to 720p but for the given screen size and function, it’s more than sufficient. It’s a properly useable one too with full access to every part of the Android OS, but unless you have chopsticks for fingers, you won’t be able to type out an email on this outer screen. So then, you unfold the magic…
Samsung calls it the Infinity Flex display and it’s made up of multiple layers of bonded plastic to give it the necessary longevity without sacrificing the flexibility. Its 4:3 aspect ratio makes the 7.3in screen look bigger than it actually is, and instantly, it reminds you of a Kindle reading device. The Dynamic AMOLED display is compatible with HDR 10+ and does indeed look fantastic even through the layers of plastic. What is also visible is the prominent crease right smack in the middle of the screen for the hinge. It doesn’t cause hindrance as long as you’re looking straight at it with bright content on the screen, but move a little off-axis or hold it against certain angles where it catches light and it’s sure to stay embedded in your memory.
Samsung claims it has been tested for more than 2,00,000 folds and that means it should outlive your enthusiasm for a folding phone by many years, but there are certain factors you need to take care of. You can’t go swimming with it, you can’t press the screen too hard, you can’t keep objects affected by magnets close to it and you’ll have to try and keep it in a dust-free environment too.
Multiple screens, multiple apps, multiple tasks!
One of the biggest draws of the Samsung Galaxy Fold after its “wow-factor” is, of course, useability. The fold out screen not only offers a giant gaming experience but also provides the real estate to carry out proper multi-window multitasking. You can open up to three static windows split into one half and two-halves (top and bottom) while a fourth window can be kept floating on top of the other three should you ever need to! Realistically speaking though, a side split with two windows is most useable with, say, photo gallery open on one side and Gmail open on another where you can simply drag and drop images from your gallery to your compose box effortlessly.
The increased screen real estate also helps in splitting the keyboard across the two halves, allowing you to use both your thumbs in the best way possible and ease typing. You have the option of having a larger, single keyboard that spans across the entire width of the phone but the split-keyboard is just handier and feels natural on a device this size too.
Samsung also offers app continuity for most apps, which means you can open an app on the cover screen and continue with it on the main screen upon unfolding, with a seamless transition. It works backwards too, with an open app being switched to the cover screen if you decide to revert to a phone call. Overall, it works brilliantly, barring some apps like Call of Duty where the app didn’t support this feature. On the other hand, playing CoD on the 7.3in screen makes for an immersive experience, unlike on any other smartphone ever. You can scope out your enemies much quicker and the super fast frame rate and graphics make it a more fun experience than even on the ROG or OnePlus 7T Pro.
In fact, the 12GB of RAM makes the Fold so smooth while scrolling that it almost feels like a 90Hz display even when its not. However, when you’re scrolling rapidly through Flickr or Pinterest, images start getting distorted and warped, but that’s only during extreme cases. Most users won’t be using the phone in this manner anyway.
Got my eyes on you…
Cameras are borrowed straight from the Galaxy S10, including the updates that brought video stabilisation and better night mode from its 12MP primary snapper. Elsewhere, you get a 10MP lens on the cover as a selfie cam that also doubles up as a face unlock tool. The selfie camera on the main screen is also 10MP, augmented by another 8MP depth sensing lens that aids in Samsung’s Live Focus feature where you can blur out the background or foreground after clicking the picture.
The triple lens system at the back includes an ultra wide angle, wide angle and telephoto array similar to the iPhone 11Pro but in a 16+12+12MP configuration. It’s a great cam for most part except noise in certain situations and the slightly off colours in video. The Pro mode helps in getting artistic shots if you’re up to some major tweaking and that’s always been Samsung’s plus point — giving users all sorts of options.
Battery needs to be better
The dual battery should’ve offered better power management, but in its 4380mAh form, it consumes enough energy through the day to pass out before bedtime. It does support reverse wireless charging and Qi fast charging, if that’s your thing. Overall, with average use of the cover screen and heavy use of the main screen for movies, gaming and productivity, expect a day and not more. The massive 12GB of RAM is sure to have a bearing on the drain but the overall experience is snappy enough to justify its flagship status and Samsung’s One UI is polished enough to not miss the Android 10 update so much too.
What I like the most about the concept of the folding phone is the seamless transition from the cover screen to the main screen and back and forth. It makes it a joy to use and is as fresh as the first time my fingers slid over the oleophobic coated screen of the original iPhone. Sure, the camera notch on the main screen is ugly and either crops the video or hides sensitive info during gaming, but those are minor glitches you can overlook on a first generation device from the other Galaxy.
What you cannot digest is the inflated price tag of ₹1,64,999! Even for all its wowness and exclusivity, it is bound to age very quickly, thanks to Microsoft, TCL, Huawei and Samsung itself working on second generation devices as we speak. It’s a big price to pay to be the hero for a few months, but if money is just a number to you and status is life, why not live it up and offer a home to the Galaxy Fold into your pocket. Just make sure you’re wearing a belt though, the weight of it might just be too overbearing.