When was the last time a smartphone really captured your attention? Quite frankly, I cannot remember a phone that had everyone in office genuinely excited about a phone that had landed on our desk for a thorough review. Yes, there is always the flutter of activity when a new Apple iPhone or a new OnePlus phone launches, for instance, but nothing quite like this. Everyone was excited to know what it is, how it works and what’s the big deal about the folding bit. Yes, we are talking about the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the phone that didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. Good then on Samsung’s part to go back to the drawing board and try to fix whatever niggles there were, in what is still a first-generation foldable phone. Perhaps a version 1.1 if you may, but this is very early in the era of foldable phones. Niggles will be apparent, and a lot will change in the coming years. But you will truly enjoy the here and now too.
Whether it is a true success or not, only father time will provide any guidance. The Galaxy Fold will cost you Rs 1,64,999 and what you’ll get with that is the premium delivery and service experience. Samsung is bundling the Galaxy Buds wireless earbuds with the Galaxy Fold, which is a great value addition, in my opinion.
What will perhaps stay with me for a long time is the note that Samsung has kept in the Galaxy Fold’s box, which lists out what you shouldn’t do with this foldable phone. That includes not keeping any keys, pens, coins or some such thing in the same trouser/chino pocket as the Galaxy Fold itself.
There is a reason why Samsung is saying what it is saying. When the Galaxy Fold folds (now I realise what I did there!), there is a slight gap which runs through and through near the hinge-side. A coin, pen or even keys could easily get lodged there, and possibly damage the larger foldable display.
Mirror, mirror on the wall….
As I held up the Samsung Galaxy Fold for the first time, there was that trepidation about a gamut of issues. The build quality. The form factor and size. The unfolding mechanism. The display quality. The lot. Surprising though, it really didn’t take too much time to get used to it. You’ll get more than the usual dose of envy as you walk around with the Galaxy Fold in your hand. The aluminium chassis is a good base to build on, but the elaborate hinge mechanism plays an equally significant role. Samsung has taken pains to talk about the robustness of this hinge, and from the time we had with it, we saw no reason to dispute claims that it has been strengthened. The hidden recipe has to be the interlocking gears that click in and out of place every time you open and close the Galaxy Fold—keep the phone close to your ear as you open and close it, to hear the mechanicals at work. Samsung says this has been tested to do as many as 2,00,000 folds. All that being said, it is perhaps only natural to feel a tad apprehensive about moving parts on a phone—and only time will tell the real tale. The price tag surely adds to the fear factor.
You have two colour options to choose from—Cosmos Black and Space Silver. They both look gorgeous, so your pick and preference in terms of what you finally splash the cash for.
This will be subjective and different for people, but it may take time to get used to the Galaxy Fold. Muscle memory needs to be trained, and you need to be attentive. It is thick when folded, and large when unfolded. That is compromise for the mix of two worlds in one device—a phone and a tablet. And flaunt value like no other.
Look Ma, my phone has two screens
The Samsung Galaxy Fold puts two displays in your hand. First, when the Galaxy Fold is folded (see what I did there again!), you have a rather compact 4.6-inch display at your fingertips. Thick bezels above and below this, well also because there are a lot of pieces of the hardware jigsaw that need space between the two screens. This is your quick gateway into the world that resides inside the Galaxy Fold, for all your apps, notifications and more. This is pretty much a phone in itself. As my wife remarked, and she loves small screen phones for some reason—maybe Samsung should bring back smaller display sizes in smartphones.
It is hard to ignore the crease that is very apparent as it runs down the centre in a straight line. But that is perhaps to be expected. It is only really visible when you are looking at a dark background and not when using apps in general—unless you have OCD-esque issues like me, you’ll probably not even waste an iota of mind-space on this. Personally, I would keep a darkish wallpaper on the Galaxy Fold, but then again, I’m not rich enough to buy one either. But this square-ish aspect ratio display is incredibly immersive for pretty much any app that you are using. Best utilized for videos, that being said. I am quite particular about never using a phone for streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or YouTube or any video streaming app for that matter (no video streaming apps are signed in on my phone)—but the Galaxy Fold with its tablet-esque display just lures you in. Yes, the large front facing camera module does get in the way on one side in the landscape mode, but you’ll pretty much ignore it to focus on the brilliance elsewhere.
The screen itself isn’t short of smartness too. It is HDR10+ compatible and also has Local Tone Mapping to keep the colours accurate. The viewing angles and the overall richness are two areas where the Dynamic AMOLED is doing a great job. That is before we factor in the truly deep blacks. Dual speakers as well, tuned for Dolby Atmos too, and the entire media viewing experience is sorted. But it is hard to shrug off the observation that this display tends to become a tad too warm at times. Toggled all sorts of display settings on and off, but there were times when the warmth of the colours was a tad too much.
Samsung has added something called App Continuity. Basically, you open an app on the smaller display, and then decide to make things larger in life and switch to the bigger display. The app that was already open will seamlessly switch to the foldable display now, and you can carry on doing whatever it is you were doing. Instagram, emails, web browsing, the lot. However, apps don’t necessarily switch back from the larger display to the smaller display.
It came as a bit of a rude shock that YouTube video that I was watching continued playing even after I folded the Galaxy Fold (I really need to stop now!). Would have expected a video streaming app to detect the screen usage behaviour change and react. But it didn’t. This is perhaps to enable music streaming apps to continue working seamlessly when a person may have folded the phone and kept it on the side. A setting to enable or disable this behaviour for video streaming apps would be appreciated—at least I didn’t find any right now. At least till app developers smarten up for this usage situation.
You can also share the screen space between three apps. And there is a lot of space, which makes it a genuinely neat experience rather than just a tick off on the spec sheet. And maybe even a spreadsheet that you may be working on.
Powerrrrrrrrr (insert screaming emoji)
Samsung is bringing only one variant in India at the moment—12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Do we even need to get into the specifics of how fast this phone is to use? The one trick that Samsung perhaps missed with the One UI wrapper around Android is that it feels the same as the on most other Samsung Galaxy phones. Perhaps something more unique, or a few more tweaks exclusive to the Galaxy Fold would have perhaps made those who buy this phone feel a tad more special.
There are dual batteries inside the Galaxy Fold, primarily because of the requirement to keep them really thin. When one finishes and the other starts working, you don’t need to be bothered with that. As a user, you need to know that there is the combined power of 4,380mAh battery capacity powering the Galaxy Fold. This will easily last two days on a single battery charge in most usage scenarios.
Selfie Love isn’t the only love
There are as many as 6 cameras on the Samsung Galaxy Fold. On the back is the triple-camera combination with a 16-megapixel ultrawide, a 12-megapixel wide and a 12-megapixel telephoto doing the photography duties. When folded, you get a 10-megapixel Selfie camera for the selfies and video calling duties. When unfolded, there is the dual camera setup of a 10-megapixel Selfie camera and a 8-megapixel depth camera. All said and done, each of them does a solid enough job with the photographs that you click. And then you have this large display to edit these photos. Any shortcomings show up even more on this canvas.
Is money resting uneasily in your bank account?
If you want to be a part of Samsung’s bold vision for the future, that will cost a significant amount of money. As one would perhaps expect. I genuinely got used to the Galaxy Fold form factor much better than I had initially imagined. And that should be classified as a successful start. The design, the thickness and the two screens can all become a part of your routine and habit in no time at all. It is perhaps to be expected that lot of people will have apprehensions about the strength and rigidity of the entire package. More so if it accidentally falls. To be honest, I didn’t try that—my bank account cannot handle the potential repercussions.
While we have established that the Samsung Galaxy Fold is perhaps a first glimpse at the future of smartphones, it is also important to talk about the price. The Rs 1,64,999 price tag will make people share a variety of reactions, some quite unprintable and unfit for family consumption. However, I would say it is wrong to resent a company for the price tag they plaster on any product they intend to sell. Contrary to what you may imagine, there is a method behind the madness. This is a phone for the true Samsung fans. And they are worth much more to the company.