In the history of mobile phones, there are a fewer than a handful of devices that have changed the direction of the entire industry, with the iPhone being the most influential.
Samsung’s much-delayed Galaxy Fold, for all its gen-one shortcomings and high price tag, may be part of that rarefied group, based on a week spent trying it out.
Design and hardware
The Samsung Galaxy Fold has two physical looks. In its standard, “unfolded” form, it is an unusually thick handset with a relatively tiny 4.6-inch screen that, because of an elongated 19:9 aspect ratio, feels very cramped by 2019 standards. However, anything you can do on a smartphone, you can still do on this screen – just expect a few more typos because of how cramped the on-screen keyboard is.
Its second form factor is the reason for its existence: the device flips open horizontally – like a book – to reveal a 7.3-inch screen. The display can bend and fold like a book because it’s made of plastic; these plastic OLED (P-OLED) panels have long been in development by Samsung and fellow South Korean rival LG.
The Fold’s P-OLED display produces the usual vibrant colours, high resolution and excellent viewing angles that Samsung panels are known for, but the nature of a plastic folding screen brings two undesirable side-effects: the plastic screen is harsher to the touch compared to the premium glass screens we’ve become used to on smartphones, and there is a noticeable crease at the folding point when light hits the spot at certain angles.
Still, this is a fully functional touch panel, and all the taps and swipes we’ve grown used to doing on smartphones work.
In its unfolded form, the Fold’s shape resembles that of a small tablet such as the iPad mini. When closed, the Fold resembles a candy bar; despite a thickness of 15.5mm, it fits into my trouser pockets without issues.The Fold was supposed to go on sale six months ago, but a design flaw with the hinge mechanism – the moving parts had large enough gaps for small particles such as dust and lint to fall through – led to malfunctions in review units.
Samsung said it fixed the problem by making the hinge tighter, and adding two plastic caps that “seal” the area in which the hinge meets. After a week of heavy use, the hinge still feels sturdy, and the gaps are so tight I don’t think lint or dust can get through. Only time will tell whether this hinge holds up, however.
The specs remains mostly unchanged from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones: a Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a triple camera system featuring standard, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses.
Samsung has given the Fold two sets of selfie cameras. There’s a single 10-megapixel front-facing lens for use when the device is folded; in its unfolded form there is another 10-megapixel selfie lens plus a wide-angle lens in the upper right corner of the plastic screen.
For security biometrics, the Fold has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor on the right side of the aluminium chassis. More