Following the ambitious but janky Royole Flexpai, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold was supposed to be the redeemer, a device that demonstrated the power of foldable tech. Then Samsung gave the Fold to a bunch of savages (aka tech reviewers), who pawed at it like it was a normal phone, and then the Fold had to go away for some upgrades.
Then, on September 27th, the Fold finally, officially went on sale and I’ve been using it ever since – without any cases, skins or screen protectors. So here’s what it’s like to live with most important phone of the year after a month.
Despite taking five months to tweak and retool the Fold before bringing it back, the final device doesn’t feel that much different than the original model that had so many issues. Samsung added a steel plate behind the flexible screen to give the Fold increased rigidity. On the software front, the biggest change is that the Android nav buttons have now been shifted to the right for better one-handed use, which doesn’t sound like much, but it actually makes a significant difference. (Don’t worry lefties, there’s a setting for moving the nav buttons to the other side of the screen too.)
Closing that gap between the Fold’s flexible display was a much needed fix.
But most importantly, Samsung covered up the small holes between Fold’s flexible display and its hinge to keep particles from getting inside the phone. And you know what, it worked, mostly. Because in my month with the Fold, not once have I encountered anything getting inside or under its display. And that’s even with the tiny bits of dust or lint that you often find on top of its screen after its been sitting closed for awhile.
As for the edges of the polymer film that used to be around the perimeter of the Fold’s screen, they’ve been extended so now those edges rest beneath the phone’s bezels, away from any potential prying fingers. Now, was Samsung to blame for not doing a better job of informing reviewers not to peel back the film on the original Fold, or at least keep the film hidden better? Yes, but at least part of the blame falls on reviewers too.
Here’s a shot of the Fold’s screen with a black background, so as to not hide any blemishes.
So many people went in and treated the Fold like it was any other phone, despite mountains of evidence that it was not. It’s as if someone traded in a horse for a car, threw a saddle on it and then wondered why it looked so silly. In the end, having people expose one of the Fold’s biggest flaws was an important lesson in human stupidity on both sides of the device.
All of this still doesn’t make the Fold very tough though. You can put creases in its screen with your fingernails if you try, it’s not water-resistant and, even with additional protection against particles, the Fold can’t withstand a handful of sand.
That might sound pretty bad but, put another way, the Fold basically has the same durability as most laptops, with a slightly softer screen. You wouldn’t bring a laptop to the beach and, even if you did, you’d know better than to bury it in the sand. The Fold’s fragility doesn’t sound so scary now, does it? And if you do want to bring the Fold to the beach, just put it in a bag. Easy.
And here’s another one from an angle for good measure.
The other two things people are often concerned about – the Fold’s crease and its hinge – are honestly non-issues. When you look at it straight on, the crease is practically invisible. And when it comes to the Fold’s hinge, it’s probably the single most durable component on the entire device.
Meanwhile, if you can put up with the Fold’s limitations, what you get is one of the most engaging, multipurpose devices on the planet. Just being able to watch videos on a big 7.3-inch screen while riding the train makes time pass that much faster. The Fold is also a great tool for the gym, as its screen is better than anything you’ll find built into a treadmill or stationary bike not made by Peloton.
The Fold’s cover screen simply needs to be bigger.
The Fold has also made my Kindle and my home tablet obsolete, as it’s pretty much the perfect size for reading books or comics. Thanks to its ridiculously long battery life and massive 512GB of storage, it feels like the Fold never needs help from silly accessories like battery packs or external (or cloud) storage. Forget all those old overpriced Vertu phones, the Galaxy Fold is true techno luxury.
That said, the Fold still has plenty of room for improvement. Making it a tiny bit lighter would make it easier to hold over long periods of time. And, while pocketing the Fold has never been an issue for me, some added thinness wouldn’t hurt either. I would also love to see Samsung eliminate the notch on the inside of the phone, people can take selfies with the camera above the Cover Screen instead.
And as for the Fold’s 4.6-inch Cover Screen itself, just make the bloody thing bigger. There’s loads of room above and below, and even a little room on the sides. As it stands, even when you’re using the Cover Screen “correctly” just to look up directions or reply quickly to a text, typing on that tiny keyboard is frustrating.
Now I admit, for a lot of people, none of this matters until the Fold’s price (or the price of its successors) comes down and phone makers equip it with flexible glass instead of plastic (which is something that’s been rumoured for the Galaxy Fold 2). But in the meantime, you might want to keep an open mind. You might not want a Galaxy Fold now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see foldable phones represent 20 to 25 per cent of new phone sales within the next five years.
Is the Galaxy Fold perfect? No, far from it. But during the past month it’s displayed massive potential, so for me, folding is believing.
All photos: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)