If you’ve followed the insane world of smartphones over the past decade, you know that its been an equal balance of innovation and stagnation. While cameras, displays, batteries and so much more have gotten better, the overall form-factor hasn’t changed from 2006. Its still a vertical slab of glass in our hands with which we interact.
Companies have been trying to change the game for years now. Whether it was modular phones, actual camera phones or phablets, tech OEMs have been trying different things out for years. Then a few years ago, the rumours of Samsung’s experimentation with a foldable smartphone came to light. Fast forward to CES 2019 and that rumour became a reality.
While the phone did hit a few snags with its initial release, here I am in the last quarter of 2019, holding this beautiful piece of innovation in my hands. At a staggering price of Dh7399 is it ready for everyone? Let’s find out!
The inside of the Samsung Fold box is definitely worth a bit of discussion. While you obviously get the Fold, wireless Galaxy Buds, a fast charging brick, a USB type-C cable and a sort-of ‘case’, that’s not what’s most important. Funny enough, its the those extra pieces of paper that we don’t even bother touching in our regular smartphone boxes.
First up, is a document welcoming customers to the Samsung Galaxy Fold experience.
Second, is the explanation of the Samsung Care+ service which all Fold owners receive. The Samsung Care+ package gives users a 24-hour hotline dedicated for Fold customers, one (inner) screen replacement at $149 (Dh547.5) incase of any damage and a pick-and-drop service if customers have any sort of issue with the device.
Last but not least, the sticker on the phone explains to the users how to use their new device. For example, the inner foldable display cannot be pressed too hard and there’s a layer over it (like a screen protector) which is not to be removed, etc.
Samsung Galaxy Fold – Two displays
The first thing I adapted to as I began using the Samsung Galaxy Fold were the displays. There are two displays on this device. The cover display is a 4.6″ (21:9) 1680×720 Super AMOLED. Thanks to the current size of smartphones, this takes the longest to get used to. Its not exactly meant to be your primary source of consumption on the device but still is very small. If you want to imagine what it feels like, imagine going from your current large screened smartphone to an iPhone 5. That’s what it feels like. Dialing a number, replying to a quick text or WhatsApp is fine but as soon as that interaction gets longer, its time to pop open the big guns, or in this case the big inner display.
As you open the phone you find the foldable 7.3″ (4.2:3) Super AMOLED 1536 x 2152 display. Before you ask… yes the crease is visible. Specially when the you’re out in the light it is. Thats being said, as I used the device I barely ever noticed it unless someone pointed it out in conversation (and there were MANY over the days that I’ve used this phone). The larger display is good, colours are accurate but it doesn’t have that vibrance we expect from our smartphones today. The blame in this case goes to the soft plastic which the display is made off.
Somehow, even with all the screen real estate, there is still a notch on the inner display. Like the crease, your brain does ignore it after a few days but it’s still there.
Its a great device to read on, browse the web and play games. The video-consumption experience depended on where it was being watched. For example, if you’re on Netflix or the native video player, you have the capability to fill in the full screen which is fantastic! But on the other hand, Youtube doesn’t allow you to zoom in yet. So if the video uploaded ranges from 16:9 to 21:9 the size of the black bars changes depending on the video and there nothing you can do about it, which can be highly frustrating. On the overall, watching a video was still one of the best experiences on this device.
Usage of other apps on the larger display is great too. Replying to my mails on Outlook, browser the web on the Samsung browser or even just scroll through Instagram posts is great! Typing on the device is breeze and I can genuinely say that it didn’t even take me a few minutes to get used to typing on the Fold (two-handed of course). You do notice an uneven refresh rate on the display (for example, while scrolling on a text heavy page) but its not something that hinders the use of the display.
While almost all the apps I used on the device were amazing and optimised for the display, one app drove me up a wall, Instagram. Now this isn’t exactly a fault of the Fold but considering how much Instagram is used, its worth mentioning. Stories on Instagram don’t show whole while on the unfolded larger display. Posts and captions don’t show fully when using Instagram on the smaller screen. I’m sure a quick update from Instagram will fix this, but they need to get on that ASAP.
One drawback of the larger display (like any other) is the lack of privacy. Sitting on the metro in Dubai and having a private chat on Whatsapp while you have people around you was something I was very aware off.
Something to mention here is the transition from the small screen to the larger and vice versa. While the former is automatic and seamless, the latter needs to be activated manually for a lot of apps in the settings. Now this isn’t the biggest issue, it is still worth mentioning.
Samsung Galaxy Fold: All powerful
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. So yeah, its got everything you need to be a productivity powerhouse.
One of the first things Samsung touted when they showed the world the Fold was its multitasking capabilities. Like anyone else I was sceptical. While multitasking is available on all our smartphones today, it was a truly useful experience on the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
On more than a few occasions I found myself using multiple apps simultaneously in situations. For example, while watching a Youtube video I was interrupted by a Whatsapp message. Not a problem, I split the screen and continued my video while chatting away. In the chat I was asked if I was free a few days later. I opened up my calendar, checked it, added an appointment and continued chatting and watching my video. Most importantly of all, all the apps worked seamlessly without any stutter or lag.
Now I’m not much of a ‘mobile-gamer’ as per say but to test the phone out I threw of my favourites its way. Graphically intense games like Asphalt 9 and Mario Kart worked like a charm on the Fold. Lesser intense games like Airline Manager are great thanks to the larger screen on the inside.
Game launcher helps with notifications and battery-life but in the graphical intense games I did notice a battery dip enough to raise an eyebrow. This can’t really be helped as the large display is bound to drain the battery and the narrow smaller display doesn’t really support most of these games and even with it does its too small to play on.
The Samsung Fold comes with two batteries. One on each side of the device, which totally add up to 4380 mAh. Now like I’ve mentioned above this phone is all about the consumption. Everything it does, it does better than everything on the market. So initially when I got it I thought the biggest problem with the device would be battery-life but I was wrong (sort of).
The Galaxy Fold lasted me through the day on most occasions. It was only days where I consumed a lot of video would I need a charge somewhere late in the evening but otherwise I would end the day with 15-20% battery. I consider this a pretty decent start considering this is still a first-gen product and is heavily aimed at productivity.
Samsung Galaxy Fold: Body and Design
Considering the Samsung Galaxy Fold is the pretty much the first foldable phone on our side of the world, I obviously tried to show it to as many people as possible to get a reaction out of them. The first and obvious point of discussion was the body itself.
There’s a whole lot of numbers to go through when discussing the device’s weight and size, so let’s get those out of the way. Folded the dimensions of the Fold are 160.9 x 62.9 x 15.5 mm and while unfolded they’re 160.9 x 117.9 x 6.9 mm. The phone weighs a hefty 276gms but the weight is distributed very well.
In the hand
Now you wouldn’t need to dedicate more than a sentence to any other smartphone on understanding hand-feel but I guess the Fold deserves little more.
Folded, the device is 15.5 mm thick which is ‘fat’ compared to a average smartphone but its only 62.9mm at width making it very easy to hold. Unfolded it becomes a wide 117.9mm in width but comes down to a slim 6.9mm. So in both occasions its not exactly uncomfortable in the hand.
The body of the Galaxy Fold from the back is three main parts; namely the side with the cover display, the back and the hinge. The hinge is a dual axis 20-part locking hinge that stops the display from overextending past 180 degrees.
The back is glass and is a fingerprint magnet. It also houses a slight bump for the triple camera setup on the back. The front of the phone houses the 4.6″ display, front camera and call-speaker grill.
On the right side of the ‘bottom’ fold you’ve got the volume rockers, power button and fingerprint sensor. On the top and bottom of the ‘top’ fold you’ve got the extremely loud and clear stereo speakers.
I genuinely think the Galaxy Fold has a great (and seemingly durable) body and is very well-thought out for a first-generation foldable smartphone. That being said, when the time does come for improvements, here’s what I would love to see. Firstly, while I love the tall form-factor, I wish the phone were slimmer when folded. Secondly, the notch on the inner foldable screen has to go. Last but not least, when holding the device folded you can feel a slight movement (like the sides folding over each other) which needs to be tightened.
While the Galaxy Fold does everything a modern ‘regular’ smartphone does, there’s one thing from yesteryear that I struggled to get used to.
The Fold comes with no IP-rating whatsoever. This means you have no dust or water resistance and have to unlearn your entire easy-going attitude to your smartphone and the elements. There’s no more taking the phone with you to the washroom, no more holding the phone with dirty hands, no more not worrying about a coffee cup near your device, etc. If there is one huge problem I have with the fold, it is this.
There are two colour options when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Fold; Space Silver and Cosmos Black. We have the former but I do think the latter has a much more regal, luxurious and polished look.
Samsung Galaxy Fold: Camera
The Samsung Galaxy Fold packs quite a load of options when it comes to cameras; six options to be honest. On the back you’ve got the same triple camera setup as the S10+; 12MP+12MP+16MP. On the front you’ve got a 10MP and on the unfolded inner display (housed in the notch) you’ve got the same 10MP camera with a 8MP depth-camera.
Images are good, clear and have great colour. Night-mode is good too. Below are a few samples, taken from the phone itself.
Something to get used to when using the Samsung Fold for photography are the displays. While the outer cover display is great for a quick photo or video, the fun begins when you open up the phone to take a picture. The larger foldable display proves to be a great view-finder and lets you see every corner of the picture you’re about to capture.
So is it worth it?
Thanks to its Dh7399 price-tag, the Samsung Galaxy Fold isn’t for everyone. It might be more affordable through a plan with a telecom plan but right now its a stretch for most.
Its a premium, luxury device with the (almost) best specifications you can ask for in a smartphone in 2019. From a productivity perspective, I haven’t found working on a device nearly as fruitful as this. The large screen makes daily-use a breeze. Media consumption on the device is a pleasure. Watching your movies or shows is extremely immersive thanks to the larger display and stellar speakers or Galaxy buds which are in the box.
Considering how new all this technology in our hands is, I appreciate Samsung giving a year of Samsung Care+ free and keeping screen replacement at a mere $149. It gives a sort of peace-of-mind, if you’re like me and worry about any sort of damage taking place.
If you can afford it and have the need for the latest tech in your hands, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is definitely a phone to consider in 2019. It comes with caveats which you will need to accept considering its a first-generation device but then it offers so much more than anything else on the market can.
As of this review, the Samsung Galaxy Fold has sold out its second pre-order in the UAE. Clearly there are lots of people in the UAE who fit the above mentioned criteria.
Huge kudos to Samsung! Its unbelievably refreshing to see a brand take the leap into the future of smartphones. Looking at the Galaxy Fold, I think the future looks really bright!