Review – Samsung Galaxy Fold: An Extraordinary Experience

We have seen different kinds of handheld computers portrayed in sci-fi movies where the characters can magically pull out a big screened device from their pocket. Through those vision came the Samsung Galaxy Fold which the South Korean giant aims to recreate the same experience. The device would be known as the world’s first smartphone with inward folding display money can buy right now.

That being said, after the much controversial display issues plaguing the first batch review units, Samsung took the Galaxy Fold back to the drawing board and polished up the rough edges. Read on to find out more about the phone and our sincere opinion on the future of foldable smart devices.

Of course, the device has been loaned by Samsung for review purposes and we have no obligation to give a positive review.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

When I first got my hands onto the device, the first impression was “man, this thing is solid”. In contrast to how I perceive a foldable device being flimsy which is true with the display itself but that doesn’t mean companies can’t make a robust chassis to house all those technologies. In this case, Samsung has crammed in some of the most intrinsic chassis design into the Galaxy Fold.

It has a single USB-C port at the bottom of the phone, has the fingerprint scanner, power button, and volume rockers on the right side of the side, and dual front-firing stereo speakers too. Well, they’re not front-facing – more like side-firing stereo speakers. The Galaxy Fold also has dual SIM support. It has a single dedicated nano-SIM card tray and another eSIM support. There is no microSD card support but that’s fine since it has a total of 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage in this device.

The front display is a thin and long 4.6-inch Super AMOLED panel. It has a 720p resolution at 21:9 aspect ratio. While it may seem quirky at first but I find that this display is perfect as an auxiliary display to read some messages and notifications. Great to get something quick and simple done, too.

When unfolded. it reveals the flexible, foldable 7.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED display. This is a display that has 2152×1536 pixels in resolution, which measures to a 4.2:3 aspect ratio display. Honestly, I find this aspect ratio to be weird at first but eventually fell in love with it because of the huge area for showing all the website contents.

To address some concerns about the crease – yes, we can all see the crease, but only at a specific angle or with bright light reflections. Because of how we mostly hold the phone and look straight at the screen, the crease is invisible for most of the time. I can feel the crease when I’m playing games like Mario Kart Tour that requires swiping from left to right constantly. That crease is definitely felt, but it is tiny and never once hindered my performance in getting long drifts in the game.

After the revising the issues that plague the first batch of Galaxy Fold, Samsung made 4 key changes to this phone, so perhaps we can call this a version 1.1 Galaxy Fold. Firstly, there are end caps around the top and bottom of the hinge for better ingress protection. Secondly, there is a thin metal sheet under the flexible display for strength. This actually also makes the display lay flat without wrinkling itself, preventing the “orange peel effect”. Thirdly, the protective layer on the display is extended from edge to edge now, so there is no urge to peel off the display anymore. Last but not least, Samsung also narrowed the gap between the two halves of the phone when unfolded, which essentially makes the hinge shroud disappear.

In a way, I’m glad that Samsung had to delay the Galaxy Fold’s release date. With these refinements, the Galaxy Fold now feels even more polished to the point that it is actually very practical for a first-generation product of a new form factor.

Yes, Samsung has an official case for the Galaxy Fold. Included in the box is a special Kevlar protective case that adheres to the phone which is understandable since the hinge part is impossible to latch on.

The other item that comes in the box is the Galaxy Buds. Yes, the Galaxy Fold does not have an audio jack – but to compensate for that, Samsung bundled along with their very own wireless earbuds. I mean, for the price of the Galaxy Fold, it’s the least they could’ve done. Samsung did not include their AKG-tuned wired earphones, though.

Cameras

Because of how the Galaxy Fold folds, there are a total of 6 cameras on this device:

  • Triple rear-facing cameras
    • Ultrawide angle: 16MP f/2.2 with 123° FOV
    • Main: 12MP f/1.5 or f/2.4; with OIS
    • Telephoto: 12MP f/2.4; with OIS
  • Folded selfie camera: 10MP f/2.2 with autofocus
  • Unfolded selfie cameras:
    • 10MP f/2.2 with autofocus
    • 8MP RGB Depth Camera

Essentially, it is a carbon copy of Samsung Galaxy S10+ but wrapped in a completely different form factor. The duplicated selfie cameras mean that you can take selfie pictures with the auxiliary display or the big display – and the transition between the two selfie cameras is seamless.

Software – Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung One UI v1.5

This version of One UI on the Galaxy Fold has some other features built into it. We still have most of the One UI features found on other Samsung flagships here, too. Particularly, we just want to highlight two new features here – app continuity and triple app multitasking.

The app continuity here is made specifically to accommodate the unfolding and unfolding of display and how the app “continues” from one display to another. By default, all apps opened with the small display will try to scale up to the big display when unfolded. Emphasis on the word “try” here because not all apps support the app continuity.

By default, when the Galaxy Fold folded, it goes to sleep as if the power button had been pressed. But Samsung developed another feature to manually select apps to scale from the big unfolded display to the smaller display. Once again, not all third-party apps can scale properly. For the latter use case, I can only think of Google Maps is the one use case – and it scales back and forth the small and big display seamlessly too. I also tested with Pokémon Go – and surprisingly, that game scales without any issues! In other words, it relies heavily on the developer’s support for on-the-fly app scaling.

As for the triple multitasking app, it is pretty much the same as Samsung’s current split-view but has another app running. Functionality remains the same, too. With such a big display, it makes multitasking much easier.

Battery

We have been so used to companies dropping battery capacity in favour of a thin device to a point that we have to slap on a case just to make sure we could hold the device safely. To be completely honest with you, consumers care a lot of the battery life instead of how thin it is. Thankfully, since the Galaxy Fold is still in its infancy stage, Samsung has opted for the conventional big-battery strategy. There are two battery compartments in the Galaxy Fold – one on each half – and totals up to 4380mAh. Throughout our vigorous testing and day to day use, the phone could easily last through a day without any hiccups.

Charger

The Galaxy Fold does come with a 25W charger, and it uses USB PD 3.0 standards just like the Galaxy Note10 series. Its charging speed is pretty similar to what we found in the Galaxy Note10+ here.

Folding up the Samsung Galaxy Fold review

I honestly love this phone. Can I even call it a phone? The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a special device that broke my preconception of what a handheld companion device can be. This device is practical as both hardware and software are made to complement each other. Obviously, there is room for improvement. I would like to see a display that can be manhandled and IP-rating on a foldable device. Other than that, the device is perfectly fine on its own. Maybe a grippier and a not-so fingerprint magnet design would be better? Perhaps it might be a far-fetched wish – but I do wish that there is an S Pen hidden inside the hinge, like the Nintendo DS and 3DS. That would make the Galaxy Fold the ultimate device.

For the price of RM8,388, it’s definitely not a must-buy. However, the Galaxy Fold is a must-try. I was a sceptic at first – but then I used the Galaxy Fold for a good week, and now I am a firm believer. Despite being a first-generation product to a completely new form factor, the Galaxy Fold is very well-made. The experience is just out of this world. The form factor and compactness are amazing.