The Galaxy Fold, has had something of a turbulent launch since Samsung first let media get their hands on it. It wanted to be at the fore-front of a new folding phone revolution, but in doing so, arguably rushed out a product too soon. The early units developed display problems that should have been caught before releasing the device to the wild.
Unlike some other foldable phones, Samsung went with a book-like experience that folds inward, and has fitted this device with the best-of-the-best specifications and features.
Rather that scrap the whole idea, Samsung went back to the drawing board and finally announced it had addressed the design and display issues, and will finally launch the phone in September 2019. And it'll cost around £1,900. Is it worth it though now that it's fixed?
- 160.9 x 117.9 x 6.9mm unfolded
- 160.9 x 62.9 x 15.5mm folded
Samsung's approach to foldable phones makes a lot of sense. Rather than have a screen that folds outward and is constantly exposed to the elements, it folds in, like a book. When shut, it's really narrow, easy to hold and use in one hand, and easy to fit in a pocket.
It's quite thick when shut, essentially the same as two regular smartphones stacked on top of each other, but the narrowness certainly makes it easy to quickly perform actions on the outer display.
A big part of Samsung's design efforts were spent on the internal gears and mechanism that allow the hinge to open and shut. With the phone folded closed, it locks into place, but the cogs inside allow very smooth and easy open and shut action.
Once open, it locks again. Obviously, it doesn't feel as solid as a rigid smartphone that doesn't open or shut, but it holds pretty well, and is easy to close again with a reassuring snap. Or at least, that's our initial impressions of the phone - especially in the case of the updated model.
Despite its innovative form factor, it still features the usual set of ports and buttons, including the Type-C port on one half of the bottom edge, with the other playing home to a loudspeaker. This speaker is mirrored by another on the top edge, to offer true stereo sound, while the left and right edges house the power button, fingerprint sensor, volume keys and the Bixby button.
It's available in a number of colours and we've seen a couple of them. Word of warning: the glass is a massive fingerprint magnet. We spent every couple of minutes of both our hands-on times cleaning the smudges off with a microfibre cloth.
Since our first hands on, Samsung changed the design slightly, which we have now updated this initial review to reflect. Most of the changes are hidden, or at best very subtle but they include elements like wrapping the protective film all the way around the screen, tucking it in to the bezel.
Samsung has also strengthened the display panel itself with extra layers of flexible metal, and placed caps on either end of the hinges. You can read about all the changes in more detail in our separate feature.
- Folding 7.3-inch 1536 x 2152 screen
- AMOLED/HDR+ compliant
- 4.6-inch narrow HD+ display
To answer the question on everyone's lips first: yes, there is a visible crease on the main 7.3-inch AMOLED screen inside. But the thing about that crease is that in our time with the device, awe didn't think it was really noticeable at all when looking at it head on. Browsing the web, play games, watch videos, and you almost certainly won't see it. You only really catch it when looking at it from an angle, or looking at a plain white screen.
We didn't come away from either of our times with the device massively put off by that crease at all. Of course, having only spent a short period of time with it, we didn't have the time necessary for the display to start showing its weakness. Many US media units that went out developed the issues over the course of a week using the device.
What's great about this internal panel is that - like the Galaxy S10 and S10+ and the more recent Note 10 devices - it's compliant with HDR and HDR10+, so colours and contrast ratios are fantastic. Content looks really good on it. Its size and shape might make it a little impractical for some media forms; for example, videos have big bars on them. However, some games and apps - particularly Instagram - look fantastic on the big, square-ish panel.
With the right media on it, the big panel just looks eye-poppingly good. And it's a great canvas for multi-tasking (which we'll get on to in the next bit).
As for that secondary screen on the front cover, that's not really designed to be used for everything, and it shows. It's really narrow and small at just 4.6 inches. The idea here is that you can do your quick interactions here: answer your calls, reply to messages, take selfies and such. Essentially, functions that don't require much time or attention.
UI and software
- Three apps run simultaneously in multi-window split screen
- Seamless app continuation between front and main displays
One of Samsung's biggest challenges, apart from coming up with the gear mechanism and the display coatings was redesigned the OneUI interface to work well on a big 4:3 ratio display. We expect some quirks to turn up here once we've had a bit more time with it, but the parts we saw made a lot of sense.
There are two key features here, one of them is the way apps continue from the small screen to the big (or vice versa) when you open or shut the device.
Open Google Maps, search for a location, launch navigation while walking, close the phone and the navigation continues on the small outer screen. The same is true of virtually any app, and you can turn the feature on or off on an app-by-app basis.
The second key feature is multi-window multitasking. Because of its large square display, the panel is great for having apps running concurrently on the display. And you can have up to three of them.
Just load up your primary app, then swipe in a list of apps from the right of the screen and select the one you want to run next to the primary one. Do the same again to load a third, and you'll have three apps split, with the primary one taking up all of the left side of the screen, and the other two sharing the space on the right.
If you decide you want one of the other two apps to be the primary one, you can tap and hold the little bar on its window and drag it across to switch places. It's pretty intuitive and easy to use once you know how to do it. Cancelling the multi-window view is as easy as dragging the vertical line split all the way back to the right.
Performance and hardware
- Two batteries work together
- 4,380mAh combined
- Wireless power share
- 7nm Octa-core processor
- 12GB RAM - 512GB storage
This phone is a flagship by every standard imaginable. Inside, it has the most powerful mobile processor currently available, offering an octa-core 7nm chip combined with a huge 12GB RAM and 512GB of storage.
To keep that big screen powered for a full day, there's 4380mAh of battery capacity made up from two separate batteries (one in each side) that work together.
While we can't say how well these components perform in our short time with the phone, there certainly seems to be enough power here to make for a smooth, high-end experience.
- 6 cameras total
- Main triple-camera system same as Galaxy S10
- Single selfie camera on the front
- Dual selfie cameras above internal display
Samsung went all out with cameras on the Galaxy Fold. The main camera system on the back is exactly the same hardware as that on the Galaxy S10 and S10+. That's to say it has a primary 12-megapixel camera with dual aperture, a secondary ultra-wide camera and the third telephoto 2x zoom camera.
On the front, is a basic selfie camera which - combined with the front screen - make for very easy framing of selfies. But for the selfie addict, there are two more cameras built into the top edge inside the phone, in a weird looking cutout in the corner. This dual system is made of a 10-megapixel camera with dual pixel autofocus (the same as the front camera), and a secondary 8-megapixel camera for additional depth information.
Given the hardware is virtually identical to what exists already in the Galaxy S10 series, we anticipate performance to be the same, but the viewfinder on offer on that huge screen will mean it's much easier to frame and set up shots than it is on the smaller standard screens (especially given the 4:3 ratio, which matches the same default ratio as the camera sensors).
In the Galaxy Fold, Samsung has created a really compelling first foldable device. We came away from our time with it wanting more, not worried about its issues at all. Having seen the 'fixed' device, we're now excited again to see what this device brings in real world use.
If its shaky start hasn't put some people off, what might is that £1,900 price point. It's expensive.
Samsung has attempted to alleviate that cost by offering a great in-box package. For that £1,900 you get a really premium unboxing experience, that includes a pair of Galaxy Buds earphones, and a durable, lightweight case.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the phone, particularly around app optimisation on those two unusually ratio'd displays, and about the durability of the hinge and the crease in the screen. But from our initial time with it, we're excited about its future.
Hands-on review first published in April 2019, and has since been updated after we saw the 'fixed' model during a briefing at IFA 2019.