Spending some time with the Samsung Galaxy Fold has given me butterflies – there, I said it. Quick thoughts – the Samsung Galaxy Fold isn’t surreal like the Huawei Mate X, I tried out in March, but close. As weird as the Samsung Galaxy Fold is, in design and functionality, I like that it’s a lot more grounded at heart. It’s very practical. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is also a device that’s ready to ship to consumers – unlike the Huawei Mate X that currently seems to be in some sort of sabbatical following a recent US trade clampdown.
That’s not to say that the Samsung Galaxy Fold has had a smooth ride. That’s also not to say that, just because it’s now shipping, you should go and buy it.
The Galaxy Fold was first teased by Samsung at its annual developer conference in November last year. Back in the day, it was sealed in a case and it did not have a name. It was Samsung marking its territory – it would be the first ‘mainstream’ company in the world to come out with a fully functional foldable in the days to come. By foldable I mean, a smartphone-tablet hybrid, that folds and unfolds to let you access the two separate form factors in one device. It was the next step in smartphone evolution. It is the next step in smartphone evolution.
And the concept Samsung Galaxy Fold was indeed brought to life, six months later, at Unpacked 2019. Samsung would be ready to sell the Samsung Galaxy Fold, come April 26.
Until, things took a downturn. The Samsung Galaxy Fold was pulled off the shelves ahead of its scheduled April 26 launch after many review units of the foldable started breaking – either because of debris that made its way inside from under the exposed areas of the hinge, or when the top protective layer of the main display (which looked like it was a screen protector) was peeled off. Samsung recalled all the review units and started an internal investigation to find out the root cause(s) of the problem(s). The Samsung Galaxy Fold was delayed – indefinitely.
Samsung did not give up on the Galaxy Fold dream, however. It got back to the drawing board, once again, to make amends. It has seemingly fixed the Galaxy Fold since then. The top protective layer of the display has been extended beyond the bezel, so it’s apparent it’s an “integral” part of the display – and isn’t meant to be removed. Samsung is also a lot clearer in letting users know, they must handle the Galaxy Fold with care. It has also strengthened the top and bottom of the hinge area by adding protection caps and reduced the space between the hinge and body to prevent debris from entering.
And, the Galaxy Fold, as mentioned earlier, is ready to ship again.
While structurally it would remind you of the Nokia Communicator of yore, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is a whole new breed of foldable. One where Samsung has been able to fully bend the display, rather than stapling two in the middle. That’s no walk in the park – even for a company like Samsung that’s known for its curved AMOLED screens.
Samsung, in fact, had to build a whole new kind of display for the Galaxy Fold – called Infinity Flex. The idea seems simple on paper – the Galaxy Fold has been designed to give users access to two categories of devices - a 7.3-inch primary tablet kind and a smaller 4.6-inch phone form factor – all in one device. But it’s another thing to build it. And to ship it.
Like a book, the Galaxy Fold has a spine or hinge in the middle, only there is no partition on the inside since Samsung’s signature curved OLED or Infinity Flex simply passes through – hence the name, Galaxy Fold. There’s a secondary cover display on the other (outer) side, that allows you to continue using the device as a makeshift smartphone for when it is folded.
Building a device is one thing, building an experience is another. You can make as many foldable devices as you want but no one’s going to buy them, if the user experience is lacking. Samsung says it has worked extensively on the software side so users will be able to seamlessly transition between smartphone and tablet mode on the Galaxy Fold – Samsung is particularly touting app continuity and the ability to run as many as three individual apps simultaneously.
Being a high-end Galaxy device means Samsung hasn’t cut any corners with the Galaxy Fold – except that it does not have a headphone jack, storage expansion and IP rating.
The Galaxy Fold is powered by an Exynos 9825 in India, has 12GB RAM and 512GB internal storage, and a total of six cameras (triple rear cameras consisting of one 12MP wide (77-degree field of view) sensor with f/1.5 aperture and dual pixel OIS, a 16MP ultra-wide (123-degree field of view) sensor with f/2.2 aperture and fixed focus, and a 12MP telephoto sensor with OIS, dual front cameras consisting of one 10MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture and a secondary 8MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture, and another 10MP camera on the cover). The Galaxy Fold further packs two batteries which entail in a total battery capacity of 4,380mAh. There’s LTE and support for Samsung Dex as well.
I have spent some time with the new and hopefully “improved” Samsung Galaxy Fold but while that’s not enough to give you a full judgement, here’s what I can say with full conviction -
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is the future of all smartphones. Or at least, this is what all smartphones should aspire to be in the days to come. I have absolutely no doubts about that.
The Galaxy Fold isn’t there yet, and I will not recommend all of you to invest Rs 1.65 lakh on it, but if you do, chances are you won’t even care about the whole back story. You’ll be in it for the experience. That experience, for the lack of a better word, will be magical.
Somehow, there’s something very satisfying about unfolding the Galaxy Fold – and then folding it back as it snaps together. It's a very confident snap too. Very solid. Not everybody will be able to put it in their pocket, but if you do have deep pockets – you should, you just bought the Galaxy Fold after all (pun intended) - sliding the Galaxy Fold all the way in, then taking it out – the feeling, that’s priceless.
The Galaxy Fold exudes luxury from the get-go – no wonder, Samsung will be offering deliveries through a concierge.
As for usability, well let’s just say, I have mixed feelings – but mostly they are positive. The inner screen is obviously plastic – no one's been able to bend glass that way yet – and there’s a distinct crease at the center where the thing folds. You may be able to not see it while watching content but it’s definitely there all the time – and you will definitely see it when the screen is off. That’s what you’ll have to get used to, the way you get used to display cutouts.
Speaking of which, there’s a thick notch at the top left, that you can’t also ignore. Especially while watching content.
Coming to the outer screen, it’s sharper, but it’s largely unusable because of the size and aspect ratio. At best, you can use it to view the time, and check on quick notifications – that's about it.
Samsung’s app continuity feature works as advertised. This means if you have an application open on the outer screen, it will be right there on the inner screen when you unfold it, and it will be there fully resized for that form factor. Running three apps together on that inner screen also works like a charm – those looking for more, can of course, use Samsung’s floating multi-windows.
Flagship-grade hardware ensures everything works seamlessly and without any visible lag – at least, that was the case during my brief usage.
But should it all hold up together beyond that first magical stint, is something that only time will tell. The same is true about the durability of the Galaxy Fold. I can’t vouch for it, no one can. And that’s what makes it a tougher sell.
Still, if that insanely new form factor entices you, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy Fold in India, or rather pre-order it, starting October 4 online on Samsung’s official online store, Samsung Shop, and offline in 35 cities across select 315 outlets, including the Samsung Opera House in Bengaluru. Shipping will commence from October 20.
(Photos by Saurabh Singh)