This article is part of our Mash’O’Meter review series, where Mashable India delves deep and obsessively into technology. Sit back, grab a cuppa. This is going to be a long ride.
When we look at a smartphone, we only see it for what it is. But if you take a retrospective look at the number of gadgets this little computer in your hand has killed, you’d probably be disinfecting your hands. Telephone, alarm clock, hand-held gaming consoles, point-and-shoot cameras, radio, music players, USB drives, navigation devices, calculator, compass, newspaper, phone books, are just some that I could remember from the top of my head. Smartphones, if you look at it in a way, is only a black hole that’s sucking in as much as it can to increase your reliance on it and minimise the usage of independent tools and gadgets.
Samsung dreamt of taking this ahead. What if, it asked, the phone could somehow even swallow a tablet? This thought took the form of a concept known as Galaxy Youm that was teased at the CES conference in 2013. A commercial that played on the screen nonchalantly showed what the future of smartphones might look like. The phone shown in the commercial could be folded open to take the shape of a tablet. As a 16-year old teen then, I couldn’t have opened my mouth wider. But since it’s 2013 we’re talking about, concepts took much longer to come to fruition then, than they do today. Also, making a foldable display was no walk in the park. I mean, if a global tech giant took more than 6 years to materialize a concept, could you imagine how difficult it might’ve actually been to achieve this!
After years of perfecting the technology, Samsung finally unveiled its first phone with a foldable display. But with an unfortunate early run of a few review units, Samsung quickly realized that the Galaxy Fold wasn’t quite there yet. Eventually, with more than 6 months of deliberation and refinements, Samsung redelivered the Fold by making some integral changes, especially with the curved display, to make the phone more durable. I had the opportunity to check out the phone for a week and this is my experience with what feels like the future of smartphones.
1) Bigger Display
The Galaxy Fold is all about its foldable display. The conspicuous phone opens up to reveal a 7.3-inch AMOLED display panel that invokes the excitement of seeing the future cradled in your hands. Since the existence of this phone is on the basis of this foldable display, I had really high expectations from it. And I’m glad to say that it delivered. The panel is crisp and puts on an exuberant display of colours. I’ve seen a lot of people wrongly complain about how ugly the fold crease looks on the phone. Firstly, the fold isn’t visible at all when looked at head-on (the way you’d look at any normal phone). It’s only visible when you look at the phone from an angle, or if the display is showcasing whites. But even then, it’s not as jarring as it might seem to be.
The best part about the Galaxy Fold is how intuitive it feels to crank open the phone for a bigger screen. If you’ve ever opened up a newspaper, you almost already know how it feels. But instead of being exposed to more news stories that you can glance at once, the Galaxy Fold opens up to let you enjoy the same content on a bigger display. The best part about folding it open is how surprisingly intuitive it is. It doesn’t feel gimmicky at all.
2) App Continuity
When Samsung showed off App Continuity at the launch of the event back in February, I had my doubts regarding its seamlessness. But after using it in person, my opinion completely changed. Samsung has done a bloody brilliant job in terms of app continuity. Most applications seamlessly transfer to the main display without moving even a hair’s worth of content on the display. In fact, it’s so seamless that neither the visuals or the audio skipped a beat when I switched watching The Office from the smaller display to the bigger one.
But obviously, everything doesn’t work as well. For instance, you can’t switch to the bigger display mid-game. Since the aspect ratio changes, the game needs to be reloaded again. Also, switching from the larger display to the smaller display required me to individually toggle the switch for each application. But when you consider that Android doesn’t natively support foldable phones on Android Pie, Samsung’s software work is really applaudable.
The Galaxy Fold, unlike other Samsung flagships in India, makes use of a Snapdragon processor. Although it isn’t the latest, the phone is powered by the octa-core Snapdragon 855 SoC. The 855 keeps everything zippy and there’s not a single frustrating moment of lag that I experienced on the phone. One UI also does a wonderful job in making everything feel zippy with smooth animations.
Multitasking, too, is a pleasure on the huge display. The phone can support up to 3 application at once and there’s still no visible lag when doing so. Also, since it’s a Samsung phone, you can also float applications on top of others if you’re into that kind of stuff. Gaming was a pleasure on the bigger display. I found myself to enjoy playing Call of Duty on the phone way too much. The bigger canvas provides for an immersive experience and it’s quite comfortable to hold as well.
“A 4,230mAh battery on a phone that has two displays, one of which is a 7.3-inch panel?! Has Samsung lost it!”, is almost what my first reaction was when I heard the capacity of the battery that’d power the Fold. But boy, was I wrong! The Galaxy Fold has excellent battery backup that always lasted me a day on a full charge. In fact, I once ended a day with about 15% left despite having played COD for almost an hour (on the bigger display), having streamed Spotify for 3.5 hours and having seen The Office on Prime Video for about an hour.
Long story short, the bigger display doesn’t impact battery life and the phone will last a day without sweating. Charging, on the other hand, is quite standard. Nothing that’d blow your socks off. There is a 15W fast charger that’s bundled with the phone that takes about an hour and 45 minutes to juice up the phone from early 10s to a full 100%. The phone also has support for 15W wireless charging with a compatible charger.
The Galaxy Fold has cameras on every surface to make sure that clicking pictures isn’t a hassle no matter how you hold the phone. There’s a 10MP selfie camera sensor above the smaller display which has support for face unlock. Unfolding the phone will reveal a notch situated at the top right that houses a dual-camera setup that comprises of the same 10MP sensor from the front and an additional 8MP RGB sensor that’s used for depth information. Finally, the back of the phone makes place for a triple-camera setup that consists of a 16MP ultrawide camera, a 12MP wide camera and a 12MP telephoto sensor.
In terms of results, it’s very much what you’d come to expect from a Samsung flagship. The images are characteristic of eye-pleasing vibrant colours, great dynamic range and good detail. Night shots are definitely not as impressive as what we’ve seen on the iPhone 11 series or the Google Pixel 3. Selfies taken in good lighting conditions are quite likeable too. The camera application gives a lot of flexibility in terms of settings so that you can make the most. Again, this isn’t the best camera setup on a phone. But it’s versatile and good enough for most shooting conditions.
What’s Not Smashable
1) Smaller Display
Owing to the flexible display inside and the resultant form factor, the display up front suffers from a lack of space and practicality, The 4.6-inch display is good and is legible in sunlight, but its sheer size is what makes it a pain to use. If the phone didn’t have such heft and the massive top and bottom bezels, I wouldn’t have complained and would’ve made friends with a smaller display. But on the Fold, I found it hard to acquaint myself with it. Anything more than a few texts or changing tracks would involuntarily force my hands to flip open and use the bigger display.
The Galaxy Fold tips the weighing scale at 276 grams which is ridiculously heavy for a phone, but quite handy for a tablet. This is one reason why the smaller display on the phone is not as usable. And since the Galaxy Fold is meant to be a phone, this is something that doesn’t fare well for it. Important to note that the phone isn’t as tall as it seems in pictures. It’s roughly the height of the OnePlus 7T or the iPhone 11. But with a thickness of 17.1mm, when folded, the phone does lose appeal.
This is probably the first question that comes up in every mind. Even if I spend a fortune on it, will it last me for a couple of years? Well, I don’t have an answer for that. But yes, if you’re quite a reckless guy, then it most likely won’t. When I got the phone, I babied it given its spotty record. Although, the phone did eventually convince me to be a bit more free-handed in my usage. The reworked hinge felt pretty solid when I snapped it shut. The gap between either side, when folded, is also now reduced which makes it a bit less susceptible to damages.
When you first fire up the phone, Samsung warns you to keep the plastic panel away from things like keys, cards and even fingernails that can damage it. Although I don’t have long nails, I couldn’t notice a single scratch on the display in my week’s use of it. Also, Samsung has bundled in a one-time discounted screen replacement for INR 10,500 in case anything, unfortunate happens. But all things considered, this is still a fragile phone that’ll need to be pampered if you want to make it last until the 4th generation of Galaxy Fold comes out.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is currently the most expensive phone in India. With an unflinching price of INR 1,64,999 the Fold is not an expense, it’s an indulgence. This price tags includes the phone, an Aramid Fiber case, Samsung Galaxy Buds, Fold Concierge (24/7 phone assistance), and Samsung Mobile Care (discounted one-time screen replacement). Also, customers who buy the phone via Samsung Shop will get the phone delivered to them through a concierge.
I know, this isn’t a normal phone by any means and it’s plain stupid to compare how you could get a solid flagship, a laptop, a smartwatch and a pair of truly wireless earbuds for the same amount of moolah. Samsung wants you to pay for experiencing the future, right now, and that’s fair. But I wouldn’t suggest anyone who is looking to buy a phone, to get the Fold. I mean if you really have that kind of money lying around, you probably already have your hand on it.
So let’s wrap up. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a gutsy step from Samsung that’s trying to push the industry in a different trajectory, at the cost of its own reputation. For a first-generation device, the Galaxy Fold gets a lot of things right. It has single-handedly me convinced that foldable phones are not a gimmick, and can actually go on to be mainstream in the future. That, in itself, is the biggest accomplishment of the Galaxy Fold.