Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: The foldable phone still feels fabulous

The new and improved Galaxy Fold still has us excited for foldable phones

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Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: The foldable phone still feels fabulous

“Samsung's improved version of the Galaxy Fold still feels fabulous.”
  • It's fixed
  • Gorgeous 7.3-inch screen
  • Fold mechanism is satisfying
  • Unique multitasking features
  • Absurdly expensive
  • Still warrants worry about reliability
  • Front screen is still a bit useless

Yes, there’s still a seam down the middle. Yes, the price is still astronomical. Yes, it’s still the coolest thing to happen to phones since Neo and Morpheus phoned home in The Matrix. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is back: fixed, and finally ready for you.

At IFA 2019 in Berlin, Samsung showed off the new and improved version of the Galaxy Fold, something it has been working on for the past four months after it had to put its original launch plans on hold. You see, the Galaxy Fold was supposed to launch in April, but Samsung recalled all the review units it sent out when journalists almost immediately noted problems with the hardware. Some peeled off layers on the screen meant to protect it because it looked like a screen protector. Others noted issues when dust and debris found their way into the hinge mechanism, although we had no problems when we reviewed the Fold this past summer.

The Galaxy Fold, repaired

The new Fold (which Samsung notably isn’t calling the Fold 2.0 or the New Fold or anything other than “the Galaxy Fold”) addresses those issues. Samsung has moved the protective layer all the way to the edges of the screen, which should prevent people from peeling it off. It’s completely invisible, and my efforts to pick away at the corner of the screen were fruitless. There’s also a new protective element over the hinge mechanism, which should eliminate dust entry.

But other than a few cosmetic tweaks, this is the same device we tested earlier this year and simply loved. The concept is great: picture two longer-than-average phones glued together like a book, with a slight gap between the two screens at the hinge. It’s a touch heavier than your average phone, at 9.74 ounces. The Note 10 Plus, a big phone in itself, is 6.9 ounces. The lighter and smaller Pixel 3a I’ve been carrying around lately is just 5.2 ounces.

But that weight is there for a reason. Open the Fold up and you’re greeted to a gorgeous 7.3-inch AMOLED screen. This is a tablet-sized screen. Reading on it, watching a movie, surfing the web — I’ve been conditioned to think that 6-inch screens do this well, and 6.5-inch screens do it really well. The reality is I’ve forgotten the pleasure of a large screen. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is simply a better experience for most of what we do on the Internet.

The updated Samsung Galaxy Fold, reintroduced to address issues with the first version of the foldable smartphone.
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The elephant in the room isn’t an elephant at all but a crease, the seam which remains stubbornly visible down the middle of the device, marking the line where the Fold folds. It’s visible, which had some purists crying bloody murder when the first version of the device was unveiled. Samsung hasn’t done anything to change this, and you’ll still see it when you use the new version. If you’re the type of person who views a notch on a screen as a blemish, this might bother you. If you’re the type to get lost in the book you’re reading or the video you’re watching, odds are good you’ll love the Fold’s convenience and quickly learn to ignore this crease.

The act of opening and closing the device is very satisfying. The two halves of the phone snap together firmly and open easily. I found myself clicking it open and snapping it shut over and over; it’s the kind of unconscious gesture pencil spinners and widget wielders of all sorts will go ape over.

The act of opening and closing the device is very satisfying.

Close up the Fold and you’ll see what Samsung refers to as the “cover display,” a second, 4.6-inch screen. At under 5 inches, it’s limited relative to what you’re used to though it’s fully functional. I played Asphalt Legends (a driving game) on it for a minute or two, for example. I crashed. So you probably wouldn’t game on it, but you could.

A device like this cries out for some power-user features that some people might be unfamiliar with. The screen is great for watching movies on, for example, but you can multitask effectively by launching a second or even third app.

Price and availability

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Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Samsung said it has also rethought the “customer journey,” announcing a “Premier Service” that gives owners of the nearly-$2,000 phone access to Samsung experts for 24/7 guidance and support. Sounds handy, and I’d want experts on hand if I shelled out so much money.

The original Fold was priced at $1,980, but Samsung hasn’t mentioned if the price is changing for the improved version — it’s likely the same. There’s no official confirmation of a release date, but I’m hearing September 27. There’s a 5G model in the works as well, which is certain to add a few hundred dollars to the price. If you’re willing to plop down close to $2,000 for a phone, it might just be worth it to drop a few hundred more for early access to 5G — if it’s available in your state.

I’m not the type to spend that kind of dough, personally. But if you are, I’d love to come by and spend a few hours playing with your phone. Folding phones are fun, after all.

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