Samsung Galaxy Fold review: A big 'FO'ld to the competition!
Deccan Chronicle| Aaron Almeida
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is meant to wow, fascinate and enthral; however, most may put off experiencing it because of its hefty price tag.
The Galaxy Fold is a unique device in every sense of the word and it paves the way for upcoming hybrid devices that are a go-between smartphones and tablets.
When it comes to smartphones, Samsung has a tenacity like no other brand can even attempt. Back in 2012, the South Korean tech giant introduced the Galaxy Note which was a first of its kind. This handset was ginormous for its time even though it packed a mere 5.3-inch display. This handset paved the way for future products and the Galaxy Note has transformed into a sleek, all-encompassing device that we know and love today.
Fast-forward to 2019, and Samsung is once again testing the limits of technology and pushing form-factors on smartphones to never-before-seen limits by introducing the world to its first foldable handset. Like with the Note 7 and its exploding fiasco, the Samsung Galaxy Fold has a storied past, even before it made it to store shelves. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a device for the history books as it came shrouded in mystery when it was first teased in 2018, and then went through an insane amount of hype when it was officially unveiled. This was then followed by an unforeseen setback which prompted the brand to make a recall of all its pre-seeding devices and now with Samsung going back to the drawing board, they have finally released their first foldable smartphone that’s ready for mass adoption.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is one of the most awe-inspiring smartphones to have ever launched in recent years and it is hands-down the most innovative device of the year. This bad boy is an attention magnet as it attracts the eyes of people who don’t even know the device’s name but have a vague understanding that this tech is available. In the brief moment we used the Galaxy Fold, people we interacted with had just two questions — how does this work? And, what’s the cost?
Showing off the Galaxy Fold answers the first question. However, revealing the price prompted anyone who inquired to take a step back. And this is just the start of the story of what the Galaxy Fold is all about.
As costly as it is, the Galaxy Fold is one for the ages and you don’t need to be a tech lover to appreciate it. In fact, even the average Joe would find beauty in its complexity. Read on to know about the tale of the Galaxy Fold.
The Galaxy Fold is a unique device in every sense of the word and it paves the way for upcoming hybrid devices that are go-between smartphones and tablets. This offering gives you a 2-in-1 experience that’s only available on the Huawei Mate X and if the technology is growing as rapidly as it is, then future versions should be more durable and built well enough to be used with abandon. However, as of now, that’s not the case just yet; but this doesn’t mean that it is as fragile as the internet would have you believe. Samsung has certainly launched a finished product here and believe it or not, it is safe enough to be handled by children. Yes, we tried.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a tale of two parts — the first is a 4.6-inch Cover Display on the outside that’s covered with premium glass while the inside is a foldable, tablet-like 7.2-inch display that’s protected by plastic. This display is a marvel to witness first hand and Samsung has termed it as an Infinity Flex Display.
The display is nothing short of genius and Samsung has made this possible by incorporating a 20-part, dual-axis hinge that prevents the bendable screen from extending past the 180-degrees when fully opened. This hinge is a sturdy customer and during our initial experiences with it, we feel that it has been built tough enough to withstand any accidental shock or impact.
Elaborating on the book-like hinge, the Galaxy Fold’s opening mechanism is as smooth as they come and when it is closed, it shuts with an oh-so-satisfying click. Even though the Galaxy Fold is first of its kind, the opening and closing feels natural and somehow draws us back to the old flip phones. So, there is a tinge of nostalgia here with a modern twist.
When folded, the Samsung Galaxy Fold measures 15.5mm thick and weighs 263g. Although these specs dwarf the Note 10, a handset which we loved, and measured 7.9mm and 196g, the weight distribution on the Fold is well taken care of and it doesn’t feel as heavy as it implies. We could easily fit it into a pair of jeans’ pocket and it strangely doesn’t seem as uncomfortable as the thickness suggests. In fact, due to the way it is designed, it slips in rather easily when compared with other larger devices like the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
There are a few comments on the internet which claim that the size and weight have put people off; however, we feel that whoever has paid north of 1.5 lakhs for a smartphone, will certainly make the necessary adjustments to justify the form factor.
When unfolded, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is an entirely different beast altogether. It has a slim 6.9mm profile which is slimmer than most flagships these days. On the side, there is a fingerprint scanner, power button that doubles up as Bixby button, and volume keys. These keys are all tactile and easy to access when the handset is either opened or closed. However, the placement of the fingerprint sensor isn’t the best and we found ourselves searching for it every time we wanted to unlock the Fold. This is because there isn’t any proper indentation for it like seen on other Samsung handsets. Also, to unlock the phone, the entire fingerprint scanner needs to be covered. Using the fingerprint unlock warranted two to three steps to just unlock the device which made us quickly move away from this option and rely on using the facial recognition feature for quick access.
Other noteworthy features here are the stereo speakers that are placed on the top and bottom of the Galaxy Fold and the placement is up for question when you are watching a movie or playing games. This is because the Dolby Atmos speakers tend to get covered with your hands when accessing content in landscape mode.
There is a premium glass overlay on top of the Cover Display and the rear panel. When used without the bundled case, the handset is a bit slippery; and this is something that you should keep in mind if you plan on using this device naked without a case.
A feature about the design of the Galaxy Fold we loved the most was the ease of which we were able to handle it when it was folded. Slim phones are a long-forgotten design trend and it is great that Samsung has added this feature here. This reminded us of mobiles of the past such as the Nokia 7610 when handling the device with one hand was completely doable.
To sum up this section, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is perfect for those who love large displays but sick and tired of manoeuvring around single-pane displays. Samsung has put a lot of effort into the Galaxy Fold and this is evident from the design; however, this is just the first iteration of the device and future products will come with a more refined experience and could possibly have other features in tow such as stylus support, and water resistance.
The Galaxy Fold features Samsung’s decade-long research and the brand states that they have gone through over 1000 different prototypes to achieve what we have in our hand today. This is a testament of the hard work and ingenuity that Samsung’s R&D team has done and it is no small feat as every aspect of this device is worth its weight in gold.
The display is absolutely astonishing and the foldable form factor demonstrates what the future holds for us. However, everything isn’t perfect here and that’s completely excusable as early adopters won’t mind these caveats where the wow-factor trumps all.
Everything is enlarged over here. And that’s the best way that this display can be summed up. Web browsing is a lot larger when compared with a traditional smartphone, games and videos display much bigger if they occupy the entire screen and this is the clear-cut advantage for owning the Galaxy Fold. Probably the only drawback here is when streaming content over Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hotstar, there are black bars on the top and bottom and this is due to the 16:9 aspect ratio of the content.
When it came to the casual reading of eBooks, web browsing and other apps that support the entire 4:2:3 aspect ratio, the experience was extremely satisfying. Due to this aspect ratio, we found the multi-tasking experience completely manageable and even three apps that were open at a time were easy to use. These are certain software implementations that make the device an enjoyable experience and Samsung has done exceedingly well to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold features an HDR10+ display which greatly helps with the contrast ratio especially when viewing videos that support such a format. This also helps while consuming content outdoors as it does a great job in brightening the screen just enough for every little detail to be viewable.
One aspect about the Galaxy Fold that gets unwanted attention is the crease and no matter if the display is on or off, remarks about it are always passed. To put it bluntly, when checking out this handset for the first time, eyes are automatically diverted to the crease and this is a bit of a turn off to most people. However, when in use, and after the initial let-down that there isn’t a visibly flat display, the crease becomes a non-issue. True, it can be seen but most of the time when gaming or web browsing or even when watching a movie, you won’t even notice it’s there.
The 4.6-inch Cover Display is made up of a Super AMOLED screen with an aspect ratio of 720 x 1680 pixels. There isn’t anything wrong with it; however, there is very little to shout out about as well. It is a first-generation product in every sense of the word and it gets the job done.
As mentioned earlier, the software that drives the Galaxy Fold is as important as the bendable display and its folding mechanism. One simply cannot work without the other. And it appears that Samsung has walked the fine line of design and user interface with an ease that only they know-how.
A feature that gives the Galaxy Fold an amazing user experience is a feature known as App Continuity. This seemingly seamless feature allows you to access apps on the move when the display is folded and then almost magically open up the very same apps on the 7.3-inch display at your own convenience if and when needed. The reverse is also doable and certain apps were able to move from the larger display to the smaller one when the handset was folded.
A feature which most users will benefit from is the Multi-Active Window. This allows you to access up to three windows or apps at a single time and you can take advantage of the large square display to make the most of this feature. The apps appear a bit congested; however, they are definitely usable all at once. However, it is worth mentioning that all apps don’t support this Multi-Active Window feature and instead you are limited to the ones that appear in the pull-out tray.
The 4.6-inch screen is near perfect with displaying apps as it comes with a traditional 21:9 aspect ratio. However, the 7.3-inch display works well for the most part except for the apps that aren’t yet optimized for it. One app that works well with this new aspect ratio is PUBG Mobile and it looks absolutely splendid on the Galaxy Fold. This ensures that Tencent has done their homework and made the app completely compatible with the off-beat aspect ratio.
Overall, the interface of the Galaxy Fold is refined pretty well by Samsung and for the apps they, have on offer. And in the future, app developers will need to better their own products to make their app experience on par with what Samsung is offering.
For the tech enthusiast in you, you will be pleased to know that Samsung has fitted all the best bits of the Galaxy Note 10 in the Galaxy Fold. Over here, we find the usual suspects such as the Snapdragon 855 SoC, an Adreno 640 GPU, 12GB of RAM and 512GB storage.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is right up there with the best Android handsets that are currently available; however, one thing you have to keep in mind is that this exorbitant price isn’t for the internal hardware; instead, it is priced this much because of the novelty of the foldable screen. With this mini disclaimer out of the way, the Samsung Galaxy Fold’s performance is on par with the Galaxy Note 10; which is a speedy device.
Considering, this handset was launched this late; Samsung should have gone with the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ that’s available on some newer handsets like the OnePlus 7T and the ASUS ROG Phone II. However, since it may have been too far along in the pipeline, the brand stuck with the specs that they first announced. The 12GB RAM certainly does help especially with the Multi-Active Window feature so it is a good choice that this handset is available in just this single configuration.
While running Geekbench 5, the Galaxy Fold produced a single-core score of 701 points and a multi-core score of 2544 points. These scores are by no means bad; however, they get trounced by Apple’s latest iPhone 11 which scored 1331 points in the single-core test and 3449 points in the multi-core test. In the AnTuTu test, the Samsung Galaxy Fold came up trumps and produced a score of 445093 points while the iPhone 11 managed a score of 377687 points.
We would like to reiterate the fact that the Galaxy Fold isn’t a performance-oriented handset; however, when it comes to raw performance, it can stand head-to-head with the best brands out there.
When the Galaxy Fold was announced earlier on this year, one of the major talking points was its six cameras. Samsung has done well to add a camera on every facet of the Galaxy Fold and this puts it in the upper echelon of camera-centric smartphones.
There is a 10MP selfie camera on the Cover Display and it features an f/2.2 aperture and an 80-degree field of view. This sensor is similar to the one found on the Note 10 and apart from using it to unlock the device; it is also capable of pretty decent selfies.
When opened, there is a dual-camera setup that comprises of a 10MP primary sensor and an 8MP depth sensor. The front-facing primary sensor is the same as the one found on the Cover Display while the 8MP camera has an f/1.9 aperture. Samsung hasn’t looked far in incorporating this setup and it is a similar configuration used with the dual-punch-hole cameras found on the Galaxy S10+. This setup is capable of capturing images with a lot of detail and with the filters available; you can add a lot of characteristics to every image you want to capture. These features can be great for those who want to liven up their photos.
On the rear, the Galaxy Fold comes with three rear cameras and again, Samsung has borrowed this feature from its flagship Galaxy S10+. There is a 12MP primary sensor, a 12MP telephoto camera, and a 16MP ultra-wide-angle camera that features a 123-degree field of view.
The image quality here is nothing short of excellent and you get what you pay for. Images are devoid of noise and there is a lot of detail in every capture. Colours appear natural and they don’t have any over-saturation; which makes for pleasing images. The dynamic range over here is good and there is a sharpness that you come to expect from a Samsung flagship. As far as the telephoto lens goes, there is a fair amount of detail and the overall image quality is really good. When it comes to capturing images with the ultra-wide-angle lens, you will find that it is on par with what was seen in images captured with the Galaxy S10, in short, good. When it comes to low-light photography, the Night Mode holds its own but it pales in comparison to some of the other handsets out there such as the OnePlus 7T and iPhone 11 series.
One thing is for certain that with the Samsung Galaxy Fold, you are going to be left satisfied and Samsung is backing this up with a strong showing in the photography and video department. As for the camera app, you will find that it is easy to use and launching it has never been easier. All you need to do is simply double press the power button and you’re in the app.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold comes with a large 7.3-inch display and hence it needs a large battery to keep it juiced up. This is where the 4380mAh battery comes in and this is one of the biggest batteries to ever be used on a Samsung smartphone. On an average, the Galaxy Fold lasts about a day with it being used as a daily driver to access emails, stream videos, play a few games of PUBG, capture a few images as well as making and receiving calls throughout the day. This would be typically classified as power-usage and the fact that it can stretch out to the end of the day even while powering up this massive screen is a job well done by Samsung.
The handset does come with fast charging, but it is capped at 15W. This pales in comparison to the Galaxy Note 10 that has 45W fast charging and we would have hoped that Samsung added this into the power-packed handset as well.
Samsung is at its epitome of innovation with the Galaxy Fold and even though this may be a first-generation product, it is refined in a way only a brand with years of experience knows how. Priced at Rs 1,64,999, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is well poised to usher in a new era of smartphone technology and with the ingenious and tenacious R&D team that the brand has, we are witnessing an evolution of mobile portability. There is absolutely no shortage of praise for the very first foldable device from Samsung and they deserve each and every plaudit they receive.
With that being said, the Galaxy Fold isn’t meant for those who think they may break it as no matter what technology is used, it is on the delicate side and the one-time screen replacement is as the name suggests — just one time.
However, the Galaxy Fold is a flagship device meant for those who appreciate cutting-edge technology and won’t stand for second best. Yes, this is a pretty steep amount of cash; however, those who buy it will experience its worth instantly and will care for it as though it is a prized possession; which it is. So, whoever does buy this handset, you come away with the most innovative smartphone of the decade.
And, for all those who expected the Galaxy Fold to flop, Samsung has laid the gauntlet down and encouraged the competition to try and even come close to its version of perfection.