My first impression of the Samsung Galaxy Fold when I first unboxed it turned out to be quite accurate, in that it’s a device that will cater to the affluent early-adopter who wanted this premium smartphone for not just its large screen but to also show their wealth and prestige. It’s is no wonder then that the first batch of Galaxy Folds sold out in a matter of hours in Singapore!
Strangely I recall feeling the exact same vibe when I reviewed the Nokia Communicator E90 more than a decade ago, and there are quite a few similarities between them. Like the Galaxy Fold, the Communicator shared a similar form-factor, a thick vertical clamshell that opened in two. Where the Communicator’s big ‘wow factor’ when showing off was its huge screen (back in the day) and keyboard when you opened it, likewise the Fold’s party pleaser was when you unfolded the phone and showed it’s 7.3-inch AMOLED Infinite Flex display in all its glory.
And like the Communicator, the Galaxy Fold was conceived for a similar user, for the seasoned business traveller who always replied to emails while at the airport transit lounge. It’s an appealing device from a productivity standpoint because it is essentially a small tablet in your pocket, one that is easier to reach than the tablet in you briefcase or your notebook in your backpack.
It’s an occupational hazard that as a technology journalist that I often carry a couple of smartphones in my pants pocket, and due to it’s 15.5mm thickness when closed the Galaxy Fold actually feels like I have two smartphones tapped together. When you get a message notification it is displayed on the Fold’s 4.6-inch outer touch screen, which is fully functional so you don’t have to unfold the device all the time to answer a basic message. I’m used to using large screen smartphones, so in this mode the Fold actually felt a bit chunky and narrow in my hand. Unfolded into tablet more and it suddenly feels different because it’s now a 6.9mm thin tablet in your hand with an almost bezel-less display and unless you view the screen from an angle you won’t notice the ‘crease’ line of the screen in the centre, though the notch for its front camera and sensors is located on the top right of the display and gives the screen a slight asymmetrical look.
There’s also a very slight tactile difference when you tap or slide the screen in the centre, and it’s large enough that you can easily multitask and view two app windows side-by-side. Internally the Galaxy Fold uses the same processor and cameras from the Galaxy S10+ so the Fold captures excellent photos and that screen performs well when watching videos or playing a game.
When you purchase the Galaxy Fold from Samsung’s Vivocity showroom part of the experience is that they demonstrate to new users not just how to unfold the device but more importantly, what’s the best method to fold it, which you need to use your thumb to light push down on the central hinge. There’s also a two-part carbon fibre case in the box which we highly recommend you use, as the glass back feels a little slippery and is a fingerprint magnet.
Undeniably gorgeous and powerful, the Galaxy Fold seems to herald that the future of smartphones is in foldable screens, but as a first generation device it’s still a little too fragile that users can’t treat it like ‘just another smartphone’.