Samsung Galaxy Fold reviews: Awesome idea, crap execution

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Galaxy Fold specs
Reviewers who tested the Samsung Galaxy Fold agree it’s a brilliant idea marred by terrible execution.
Photo: Samsung

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is the first mass-market phone with a foldable screen, something a future iPhone might someday have as well.

Reviews of this handset are starting to come in and they have a theme: the reviewers really like the device, despite it being terribly flawed.

Perhaps Dieter Bohn from The Verge summed it up best, “I have never used a device with this many problems that I have liked this much.”

Or The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern wrote “The shame is, before #peelgate, I was really enjoying the foldable-phone life. I saw the future, and I liked it.”

Stern is referring to the significant percent of Galaxy Fold review units that broke almost immediately. This unprecedented fiasco caused Bohn to write “I cannot recommend that anybody buy this thing until we know what’s up with these broken screens.”

Galaxy Fold: Some positives

There’s apparently much to like in the Galaxy Fold. Lauren Goode from Wired wrote “As soon as folded and unfolded it, I wanted one, but I’m not quite sure why.”

The device has both a 4.6-inch external display and a 7.3-inch inner one. Goode was pleased with the Android device’s ability to “auto-magically” transfer an app running on the outside screen to the inner one when the device is unfolded. She also highlighted the ability to run up to three apps simultaneously on the larger display.

Bohn, pointed out that the combination of small and large screens means “It is less useful than a phone when you’re walking, and it’s way more useful when you’re sitting down.”

Stern called the Galaxy Fold “a small phone when you need to do phone things, a tablet when you need to do more.”

Bohn later got a bit rhapsodic, saying “Using the Galaxy Fold in tablet mode is a joy.” More down to earth, he noted this folding handset has excellent performance and great battery life.

Galaxy Fold: Plenty of negatives

Answering one of the most commonly-asked questions, the reviewers say there is a crease where the display folds. According to The Verge review, the crease isn’t obvious when looking straight at the screen, but it is from any angle.

And because the screen is made of plastic, it isn’t as smooth as glass. And it’s frighteningly easy to damage. Bohn‘s test unit already has a number of little nicks. “Those flaws are hard to see when the screen is on, but I shudder to think what this plastic layer is going to look like in a month, six months, or a couple of years,” he said.

Problems with the display shouldn’t distract from the Galaxy Fold’s other drawbacks. The WSJ review says “Some apps didn’t resize properly on either screen; the fingerprint sensor on the side of the phone failed to register my finger quite a few times; the half-pound body made me walk lopsided; and opening the phone with one hand is unexpectedly tough.”

Of course, the reviews make frequent mention of the jaw-dropping $1,980 price. A meeting with DJ Koh, the head Samsung’s mobile division, left Wired’s reviewer sure that the company is positioning this a luxury purchase.

The potential of folding phones

Despite all the issues the WSJ’s reviewer had with it, Stern called this handset a “new and exciting experiment.”  And The Verge’s reviewer said “There might be the start of something really new here, something really different.”

Apple is undoubtedly exploring the idea of a folding iPhone. As evidence, it recently received a patent for a hinge design in a handset. Still, the company iisn’t expected to release one until 2020 at the earliest.

And it’s undoubtedly learning from Samsung’s mistakes. There’s a very good chance it won‘t have to use a plastic screen, for example. Corning is hard are work developing glass that’s flexible enough to be used in a fold up phone. This is anticipated in two years or less… just in time for a potential folding iPhone.