TECH
11/11/2019 12:54 PM IST

Samsung Galaxy Fold Review: The Future Of Phones?

The Samsung Galaxy Fold can switch from smartphone to tablet, and works well as either. This might be the future, but it comes at a huge cost that most people won't be willing to pay.

Tushar Kanwar
The Samsung Galaxy Fold opened up in tablet mode.

Like it or loathe the hype it’s been getting, you cannot ignore the Samsung Galaxy Fold. As form factors go, it’s the freshest we’ve seen since the iPhones made candy bar slabs a thing all those years ago, and there’s that visceral sense of excitement and amazement when you a device that effortlessly transforms from a tall, almost Nokia Communicator-esque handset to a 7.3-inch tablet and back again.

Apps instantly go from running on the smaller outer screen to the larger display inside, opening up potential for multitasking and flexibility that single-screened flagships simply cannot match.

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Yet, there’s equal part trepidation mixed in here, not just from sticker shock but from the fact that this is the first phone that comes with its own list of dos and don’ts, with Samsung going out of its way to explain how you should treat the Fold and its new flexible display differently (read: extremely carefully) than you would any normal smartphone.

Who is the Samsung Galaxy Fold made for? What’s it like to use as a daily driver? Does it really need to be handled with kid gloves? Where does it fall short? We put the Samsung’s latest greatest through its paces to answer just these questions, in our review of the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is on sale in a single 512GB storage/ 12GB memory variant in two colors—Space Silver and Cosmos Black—for Rs. 1,64,999, with a dedicated 24x7 expert on call and a one-year Infinity Flex display protection thrown in for good measure.

Caveat Emptor

Ahead of the Fold’s initial US launch earlier this year, a number of tech media faced issues with the flexible display on their Galaxy Fold units, forcing Samsung to recall all units and delay the release. Gone are the noticeable gaps at the top and the bottom of the hinge which were practically an invitation for dirt and dust to make their way inside, and the protective cover for the screen which many mistook for a screen protector is now tucked under the bezels around the screen.

In one week of experience with the device, the Samsung Galaxy Fold felt sturdy and well-built, and never once in all the several hundreds of times I opened and closed it did it seem fragile. I wouldn’t dropping it with the screen open, but it isn’t as flimsy as some said. That said, it is an expensive flagship phone with none of the usual durability features one has come to associate with high-end flagships. There’s no IP rating whatsoever, and Samsung has a long list of instructions on how you should use the screen.

Tushar Kanwar
The Samsung Galaxy Fold comes with a list of do's and don't on how to use it, which isn't common for phones these days.

What’s it like to use?

It’s hard not to overstate how attention-grabbing this thing is, and that’s probably the point of buying one. No matter where I used it, be it at work or in public or even around the home, curious eyes followed, and the bolder ones asked to take a look at the new form factor. Yet, as comfortable as I got pulling it out and open to use within a couple of days, you’ll likely never get comfortable handing it over to the next person without a litany of warnings. 

Hold it in the hand and you’ll instantly feel at home if you’ve used a recent Galaxy flagship, the same comfortable curved edges, the familiar button clicks and the fast side-mounted fingerprint scanner. Without a doubt, it’s thick and heavy in the hand (276g) and at times bulky and awkward to use, so you should ensure you always have a solid grip on one of the edges. 

Tushar Kanwar
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is expectedly chunky when folded.

Because of the design, the fold doesn’t fit comfortably in trouser or jeans pockets; it’s better suited for your blazer pocket or a purse.

The Dynamic AMOLED display is bright, sharp and punchy, as with most Samsung displays, and if you love big screens, you’re going to love the extra real estate the 7.3-inch screen on the Fold affords you. Content looks stellar on the screen, and the sheer size and brightness works very well for watching videos, scrolling through Twitter and checking the latest news—all at once.

Tushar Kanwar
Multitasking on the Samsung Galaxy Fold is a lot better than it is on other phones, because of the large inner display.

The inner main display is plastic, not Gorilla Glass, and there’s a crease at the center of the screen that you can see against a dark background, or when you swipe your fingers across it, but like the notch on the upper right corner, it isn’t something that detracts significantly from the experience.

Also, with the Fold’s unique 4.2:3 aspect ratio, widescreen videos do have a bit of a black-bar situation going on, and that’s something for the second-gen Fold to address. A 16:9 widescreen phone (in its unfolded state) would look and feel tailor made for YouTube and the bulk of streaming services and games, but it would leave the phone simply too thin for the outer screen to be usable when closed. 

The exterior display is a 4.6-inch 21:9 aspect ratio AMOLED screen, which is borderline Lilliputian compared to the most ‘compact’ phones of today. It’s narrow and dinky, which makes typing a bit of a challenge, and is best suited for glanceable tasks like checking a notification or making a one-handed call.

Tushar Kanwar
The Samsung Galaxy Fold in the folded, or phone mode.

Anything more, and it feels like Samsung intended for you to just open the Fold and use the main screen. Thanks to app continuity, anything you’re doing on the outer screen transitions seamlessly to the inner display. Videos continue playing without missing a beat, and apps expand to move from the narrow outer display to the squarish inner display without any janky stutters, though games don’t handle it as well. 

Performance is well and sorted, as one would expect from a Samsung flagship, but there’s an interesting twist — the Galaxy Fold is the first Samsung in a long time to use a Qualcomm flagship chip. You get the top-shelf Snapdragon 855, 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, with a 4,380mAh battery.

This lasts for around six hours of screen-on-time, which is pretty good and the phone also supports wireless charging, aside from fast charging. 

Tushar Kanwar
The Samsung Galaxy Fold camera delivers images in line with what you'd expect from a Samsung flagship.

There are six cameras—three on the rear, two selfie-cameras, and one selfie-camera for when you keep the Samsung Galaxy Fold in phone mode. These deliver similar results to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, with sharp details and range, but slightly oversaturated colours.

Samsung Galaxy Fold: The Verdict

Apart from the unique form factor, the Samsung Galaxy Fold gets all the smartphone basics right, and then some. All this comes at a cost, making it one of the most expensive phones to hit the market.

Buying a Fold guarantees you stand out in the sameish smartphone crowd today, and so no one looking to buy this is looking at it from a value point of view. Yet, you must accept it comes with its fair share of warnings.

No one needs the Fold, but a lot of people will want it, and the good news is that if you are getting one, it doesn’t disappoint.