Two months after an announcement in which Samsung talked about the Galaxy Fold but did not allow anyone to touch it, we finally put it in our hands today. The $ 1,980 device begins shipping on April 26, but will likely be in very limited amounts.
Here is the TL; DR that most of you are waiting for: it feels much more stable and polished than I expected when entering, but there is still a lot of work to do in the software. Well, this is what you are really waiting: you can see (and feel) the fold in the folding screen, but it's not really that noticeable and maybe it's worth the exchange to have a big screen.
The purchase of the first version of any new type of device is fraught with risks. And the Fold is the first: it's a phone with a 4.6-inch screen that unfolds to reveal a 7.3-inch tablet inside. That's how we've all thought, anyway: like a folding phone. But after using the Galaxy Fold for about an hour, I started thinking about a small tablet that folds up.
That change in perspective makes a big difference in terms of the physicality of the fold. If you think of it as a phone, it's ridiculous. It's super high and much thicker than any phone when it's closed. There is a small space when you fold it because the screen can not be completely folded. The front screen is small. Although it measures 4.6 inches, it feels much smaller because it is very narrow and because it is inside such a tall phone.
But if you see it as a small tablet that doubles, all those weaknesses start to feel less like weaknesses. Instead, it's like you have an iPad mini that can be packaged to make it more affordable. I say "more pocket" intentionally. It is big enough to stand out from any of the deeper pockets. This is a device designed for a bag or jacket pocket.
The mechanism of the hinge is also very solid. It closes with a good click and it has an elasticity when you open it. There are some magnets that keep it firmly closed and, try as I may, I have not been able to open it with just one hand. But I have been able to hold it with one hand, even when it is open. It really feels like a bitty bitty tablet, which is not a form factor I expected to have, but it feels more useful the longer I hold it.
That brings me back to that screen: it's 7.3 inches in an aspect ratio of almost 4: 3. It gets very bright, and you can use it completely flat or with the Fold type half open like a paperback. As I said earlier, you can see the fold from an angle, but it disappears when you look straight at it. You can also feel the fold, which is a bit disconcerting. But you get over it. (The photo above makes it look much worse than in person.)
There is also that notch in the upper right corner, which houses the two cameras and several proximity and light sensors that each phone needs to . That notch gets in the way sometimes. YouTube, for example, was cut in full-screen videos. I'm sure some software adjustments will eventually help with that. Samsung also had to do extra work to make the screen flexible and you have not thought about it. For example, the adhesive that holds the different layers of the screen together had to be completely redone.
In terms of software, things are in a range that I would call "surprisingly acceptable". That's a weak compliment for any software, but here, I do not say it as a curse. Android has historically been horrible on tablets, but the Fold screen is small enough so there is not a big difference. There is "Application Continuity", the Samsung brand for a Google Android feature that allows the application you are viewing on the smaller front screen to open automatically inside, properly resized.
Changing the size of applications has been a bugbear of Android since forever, but Samsung and Google have worked together to fix that for many applications. A side effect of that work is that Samsung can allow you to make split-screen applications of two or three tiles. It slides from the right edge of the screen to display a dock of recently used applications and touches one to open it in a split view. Then, you can do it again to open a third party, which is divided to the right.
Active windows are indicated by small diamond-shaped bars at the top of each application, and you can touch them to slide applications to different positions or open even more window options. You can open literal windows if you really want to, by dragging them around the screen and resizing them.
All this should be familiar to Samsung fans, since these features are based on many of the emerging elements and windows that the company has introduced with its One UI software. But for everyone else, it could be a bit confusing. Finally, there is no way to avoid the overwhelming fact that Android applications are not as good on large screens as the iPad. But, again, it's not that offensive since this screen is a bit smaller.
And if you're a Samsung fan, you might be interested to know that the fingerprint sensor button is also the Bixby button. Above is the traditional power and volume button. It's not a big problem, but I'm so used to the concept that the fingerprint sensor button is also the power button that I stumbled a bit.
In terms of specifications, the Galaxy Fold is very similar to a Galaxy. S10 Plus. It has the same Snapdragon 855 processor, 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. The cameras are also similar to the ones you would find on that phone, but there are more of them. The battery is 4,380mAh, with cells on both sides of the fold. If that's enough for Samsung's full day of use on such a large screen, nobody knows. The S10 technology on which it is based has performed quite well in terms of battery life, so there are reasons to be optimistic.
On the back, you will find a matrix of three cameras: a normal, a telephoto and a wide-angle camera. When the phone is closed, there is a single 10 megapixel front lens. When it is open to tablet mode, there is a giant notch that houses another camera plus an RGB camera with depth sensor.
Technically there are six cameras, which are probably too many. I would have preferred that Samsung had chosen to just put a small webcam on the inside for the tablet mode and put the dual cameras on the outside, just because that would reduce the size of the notch.
I went into the New York hotel where Samsung is showing the Fold, assuming I would find something I was just ready to send. Samsung, after all, did not allow anyone outside the company to touch it during the last two months of exaggeration.
Yes, there are problems in the software and the folding screen does not feel as premium as other screens in this price category. There are still many reasons to take a chance on Galaxy Fold, especially at a price of $ 1,980.