• Uncategorised

Galaxy Fold hands-on: The good and bad of Samsung's new foldable phone so far – CNET

 I've been using the Galaxy Fold for about a day now. The initial thrill of picking up Samsung's foldable phone for the first time is still with me, as are some rough moments fumbling my way through a new navigation system with its three active windows, and getting used to typing and taking photos with such a large screen. A day in, my thoughts on Samsung's almost-$2,000 Galaxy Fold are far from set, but they're starting to take shape. 

I've put the Galaxy Fold in a lot of people's hands, even if for a minute, because going through the act of bending and unbending the screen is such an aha moment. For me, the first thing I noticed was the weight as I lifted the Fold off its stand. I appreciated the heft of it and the smooth, glossy glass backing. And then I bent it in half. 

That's the moment I'd been waiting for. I wanted to understand the Fold on a physical level, to feel how much weight you need to throw into it to close the device and open it again. To gauge the smoothness of that big hinge as the "wings" open and close. It isn't hard, but you do need to be deliberate, and I like the little bit of power the Fold demands from you. 

It may have a large notch along with its plastic interior screen and bezel (not my favorite things), but overall the Fold still feels like premium, cohesive device that's quickly building a case for why it exists, apart from the novelty. So far, I've used the Galaxy Fold on a very crowded subway, in a cab, walking down the street, sitting at a cafe and on an airplane, where I'm typing this now, with the Fold in its closed position tucked under my leg in the cramped seat. 

I've read the news, Tweeted, Slacked, emailed, taken photos and watched Netflix. I'm not totally thrilled by some design decisions and I'm still waiting to see how certain features will pan out. But I love that I can actually zip the Fold into the pocket of a short-waisted, fitted leather jacket, and that when I've finished a session of use, I can simply close it up with a snap and stash it away. Opening and closing the Fold still feels a little special, but I was surprised at how quickly that's becoming second nature.

Now playing: Watch this: Galaxy Fold is a foldable phone with a bendable screen

5:41

Although I'm excited to be exploring the Galaxy Fold, I'm not blinded to some of the questions I have about its durability and usability. But at this point the novelty of learning a completely different type of device is just as intoxicating as it was yesterday when I touched the device for the very first time. 

ReadHow to buy the Galaxy Fold

Foldable phones are an insane idea, not because the phone itself bends, but because the screen does. That's a hard trick to pull off and even harder to do well -- I'll eventually let you know if this one manages it. A few years ago, a foldable phone sounded like a futuristic joke: Oh, sure, you'll just fold up your phone and stick it in your pocket, uh huh. We can't stop our regular glass phone screens from breaking, and now you want to make the screens plastic and bend them? 

But now there's enough critical mass, thanks to phone-makers like Samsung, Huawei with the Mate X and TCL, that foldable phones are becoming more real every day. Even Google's in on the action, pledging Android support so that its software will switch from one screen orientation to another as you fold and unfold the display. A little-known company sold the first foldable phone, the Royole FlexPai, but Samsung's Fold here is the first "real" foldable phone for most people. 

Samsung knows that the Fold is a luxury device that will become a status symbol for early adopters. What none of us knows is how long foldable phones will last -- fad or future?

Foldable phones will start off ultra expensive -- the 4G version of the Fold starts at $1,980 and the Mate X costs about $2,600 -- and there may be kinks to work out. (UK and Australian prices are TBA, but $1,980 converts to about £1,500 or AU$2,750.) But if enough people clamor for a device that puts a big screen in a little body, then a foldable phone design has the chance to change the way people use their phones: multitasking, interacting with the device and possibly even making other devices, like tablets, obsolete. I've said it before: foldable phones are the wild west.

Galaxy Fold hands-on: The good and bad of Samsung's new foldable phone so far     - CNET

Now playing: Watch this: Epic Galaxy Fold unboxing: Samsung makes it count

6:26

I'm starting my review period in earnest, and will update this frequently along the way. Come back for more observations!

When the Galaxy Fold is closed...

You can use the Galaxy Fold closed like a book or open like a tablet, but Samsung has clearly designed the Fold to be used open most of the time, and closed when you just want to do or check on something quick. Closed, it's tall and narrow, and the 4.6-inch exterior display feels small. 

The Galaxy Fold's screen sits in the middle of the body, surrounded on all sides by thick bezels, if you want to call them that. This design gives the screen the impression of being even smaller than it is. The alternative, I suppose, would be to have an even taller screen, which might present some of its own challenges formatting common apps.

Galaxy Fold hands-on: The good and bad of Samsung's new foldable phone so far     - CNET

Talking on the closed-up Fold is comfortable and makes sense.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Closed shut is how the phone feels its most solid and sturdy (though you do get a two-part case in the box). The weight and smooth, glass finish lend a certain gravitas. Samsung even tries to dress up the hinge by allowing you to customize with a gold or silver color if you're buying the phone in green or blue. 

The Fold's hinge moves smoothly, but a large mechanism here also makes the width of the phone's "wings" quite narrow. Closed, it looks like a sandwich. On the right side, there's a volume rocker and a power button, and the fingerprint reader doubles as the Bixby button. I've accidentally pressed it a couple times already.

I will say, when it's folded up, it feels a bit like a flip phone or older candybar phone, and is pretty convenient for placing calls. It's less convenient to launch the camera by double-pressing the power button, or unlocking the phone when it's folded up, because those buttons are on the second camel hump when the Fold is closed, so you have to reach across one layer to press them. That leads to inaccuracy.

Using apps in closed position 

When it comes to the real business of a phone -- using apps -- the more compact configuration is a bit more of a challenge.  Although the Fold's screen is much smaller than any phone you're used to, you can still access all your installed apps. Samsung preloads a large clock widget, which you can tap to get into your clock app (handy for setting an alarm), and you can change this widget up if you'd like. 

There's also the Google Search bar, and space for three app icons. You can make folders, so that helps put more on the page, and of course there are multiple home screens, so you can quickly get to your apps. The app tray is also easy to invoke by swiping up from the bottom, as you would on other phones.

Typing on that tiny screen can be a challenge.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Font size and icons are both miniaturized, which feels like a throwback to the days when we all hunched over your phone screens hunting and pecking our way through. However, it is easy to use one-handed this way, especially if all you want to do is monitor your text messages or snap a quick photo. 

I have smaller fingers, so it's not as tricky for me, but you may struggle if you're blessed with girthier digits. You might find it easier to use Google Voice or Bixby to do certain things, like place a call, search for store hours or turn Wi-Fi on and off.

I was shocked that the Galaxy Fold completely zipped into my jacket pocket.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When you open the Fold...

Samsung expects you to unfold the device to its full 7.3-inch glory when you want to fine-tune your photos and compose longer messages. 

When you do open the Fold, any app you have open on the outside will also unfurl on the inside. This is called App Continuity, and it's something that Samsung and Google worked on together to make sure that the fold doesn't experience lag. 

So far this works as expected, without delay. But if you want the app on the inside of the screen to follow you to the smaller screen, you'll need to select those apps in the Display settings. This is because you may not want every app to dog your heels -- you might decide that for most apps, closing the phone means closing out what you're doing.

The split screen keyboard is helpful.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Start typing something in this view, say an email, and you'll notice that Samsung splits the keyboard to make typing more comfortable on the larger screen.  I'm not the world's biggest fan of the Samsung keyboard (this may be an understatement), and it's irksome that you can't trace to type in split screen mode. I'm sure that third-party virtual keyboard replacements will rise to the challenge. 

For now, I'm going to stick with the default to see if I can improve my typing speed. I'm already getting faster, though I can't tell if my fingers are sore from all the overwork testing and writing up the Fold, or if stretching my hands out to type is starting to take its toll.

There's an art to using three apps at once

Once you're inside, there are several things you can do. You can use one app in full-screen mode, open up two apps vertically, or open a third panel. You get up to three active apps at once. You can also turn the phone to landscape mode to change the orientation. I noticed right away that the more apps you have open, the smaller the font, so you may not really want to use all three at once all the time. But if you want to quickly open the calculator while you're reading a news story, you don't have to stop what you're doing to switch focus.

You can use up to three apps at once.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To load an app on the main window, you swipe up to access the app tray. To open an app on one of the other windows, you flick from the app tray on the right (where the edge display is on other Galaxy phones) and launch an app that way. You can resize windows, close them out and drag and drop to reposition using blue "handles" at the top of the app.

So far, WhatsApp, Microsoft, Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, Samsung and Google apps have all been optimized to use the design. If the app doesn't support app continuity, it still works, but you'll need to resize the app for full-screen -- you'll see black bars on either side.

Closed, the Fold looks like two phones stacked on one another. You can see the fingerprint reader/Bixby button below the lock button. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What about the crease?

Yes, there's a crease, but so far a little one. When I press down on the 7.3-inch screen when the Fold is opened, I can feel the hinge mechanism underneath, but I don't really notice if I'm swiping lightly. We'll have to see how this interferes -- or not -- as I use the phone over time.

The Infinity Flex display is made of a type of plastic because bendable glass isn't available yet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Camera setup

The Galaxy Fold has a total of six cameras: three on the back, one on the front and two inside. It also has a big notch when you unfold the phone. You'll see that the two interior lenses are centered on a black bar (the notch) that extends to the right. Samsung says this is where it's put the RGB and proximity sensors. 

While you can snap shots using the 4.6-inch screen, Samsung expects you to use the Fold unfolded to take most photos, because you'll be able to better adjust the blur and settings that way. I'm not sure I love the idea of holding the Fold up like a tablet to take my photos, but I'll keep an open mind during this testing phase.

The Galaxy Fold comes in black, green, silver and blue.

Sarah Tew/CNET

4.6-inch screen (cover camera):

  • 10-megapixel camera for quick shots and selfies


7.3-inch screen:

  • 10-megapixel camera
  • 8-megapixel RGB depth sensor


Rear cameras:

  • 12-megapixel main camera
  • 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle
  • 12-megapixel telephoto lens 

You can see two cameras when the phone's unfolded, and a pretty sizable notch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What else? 

  • The Galaxy Fold isn't water-resistant
  • Fingerprint reader: Fast and accurate so far. I'm unlocking it more with my index finger than my thumb right now.
  • It has wireless power sharing like the Galaxy S10 phones
  • It supports Samsung's DeX dock
  • In the box: Galaxy Buds and a case (made of same material as bullet-proof vest)

Galaxy Fold vs. the Huawei Mate X

Specs


Samsung Galaxy Fold Huawei Mate X
Display size, resolution 4.6-inch Super AMOLED; 7.3-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 6.6-inch (2,480x1,148 pixels); 6.38-inch (2,480 x 892); 8-inch OLED (2,480x2,200)
Mobile software Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI TBA
Camera 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 4 rear cameras
Front-facing camera Two 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel 3D depth At least one
Video capture TBA TBA
Processor Octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Kirin 980 processor
Storage 512GB 512GB
RAM 12GB 8GB
Expandable storage No No
Battery 4,380-mAh dual battery 4,500-mAh dual battery
Fingerprint sensor Power button Power button
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No
Special features Foldable display, wireless charging, fast charging Foldable display, fast charging
Price off-contract (USD) $1,980 TBA, converts to $2,600 (2,299 euros)
Price (GBP) TBA, converts to £1,500 TBA, converts to £2,000
Price (AUD) TBA, converts to AU$2,750 TBA, converts to AU$3,620

Originally published April 15 at 6 a.m. PT.

You may also like...