Gears & Gadgets

Samsung Galaxy Fold review: The future is an ugly disappointment

The Galaxy Fold was supposed to be The Future™. Samsung, the world’s leading display manufacturer, invested six years and $ 130 million to birth its ultimate creation: the flexible OLED display. And with the holy grail of display technology under its belt, Samsung would revolutionize the smartphone industry by introducing the “foldable” smartphone—a device that would be a portable, pocketable smartphone when closed and a multi-pane, multi-tasking, big-screen tablet when open. Samsung might have started the modern smartphone era as “that company that just copies Apple,” but after surviving a thousand lawsuits, ushering in the big-screen smartphone, and eventually surpassing Apple in sales, Samsung would finally, indisputably plant its flag atop the smartphone market with the Galaxy Fold, a device that would redefine the modern smartphone.

At least, that was the plan. Things have not gone to plan.

Catastrophe struck, allegedly during the development of the Galaxy Fold. At the end of 2018, Samsung said the foldable display technology it spent so much time and money to develop was stolen by a supplier and sold to two Chinese companies for $ 14 million. All of Samsung’s R&D work was supposed to give it a sizable head start in foldable smartphones, but that technological lead was suddenly evaporating.

It’s about a year later now and, related to the alleged theft or not, Chinese companies are quickly spinning up rival foldable devices. Motorola, Xiaomi, and Oppo are all hot on Samsung’s trail, but the Galaxy Fold’s biggest competition has been the Huawei Mate X. Huawei announced its foldable a whopping four days after Samsung’s Galaxy Fold unveiling, and Huawei’s phone shipped, in China, on November 15. Samsung and Huawei ended up constantly shuffling their respective foldable release dates around, but at the end of it all, Samsung beat Huawei to market by only 70 days. Samsung has been publicly demoing foldable OLED displays since 2008—a time when Huawei’s smartphone business was still in diapers, by the way—and for Samsung’s market lead to come down to two months shows just how badly things have gone for the company.

After investing so much in this display technology and showing off prototypes for something like 11 years, it would be understandable if Samsung wanted to beat this surprise batch of Chinese rivals to market no matter what. With this background information in your pocket, it’s not impossible to imagine that maybe, just maybe, the Galaxy Fold’s development was rushed.

The Galaxy Fold’s launch event kicked off in February 2019, with all the usual Samsung pomp and circumstance. Once the phone hit the hands of early reviewers in April, though, signs appeared that something was very wrong. Of the limited amount of Folds sent out to the press, two broke within the first few days after regular usage. In one case, the display pixels just started dying along the crease in the display. In the other case, debris worked its way inside the sizable gaps in the phone hinge, landed under the display, and damaged it from behind. Several other reviewers also accidentally damaged their Fold review units by peeling a protective layer off the top of the display, which, thanks to exposed edges, just seemed like a screen protector used for shipping. With so many problems present in the initial shipment of Galaxy Folds, Samsung doesn’t seem like it spent enough time to properly test the device.

A tweet from Mark Gurman: "The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not."
Enlarge / A tweet from Mark Gurman: “The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not.”

After the problems found by reviewers, Samsung cancelled the Fold’s original April 26 launch and refunded any pre-orders. The company went back to the drawing board with the Galaxy Fold, tried to patch up the design a bit more, and finally shipped the device five months later. Samsung reduced the gaps in the phone body, reinforced the hinge area with chain-mail armor underneath the display, and cut down on ingress points with protective dust caps on the top and bottom of the display fold.

The damage to the phone’s reputation was already done, though. Durability concerns about the wild new form factor existed when the phone was announced, and seeing it fall apart in the hands of reviewers only confirmed those suspicions. Carriers were never that enthusiastic about the Galaxy Fold—only AT&T and T-Mobile were originally signed up to carry the phone in the US—and T-Mobile dropped out after the first delay. Samsung Electronics’ CEO, DJ Koh, called the launch delay “embarrassing” and took responsibility for the whole fiasco, saying, “I pushed it through before it was ready.”

And that brings us to today—the Ars review. This one is going to be a little different, since I don’t think the Galaxy Fold has any viability as a serious device anyone should consider purchasing. Should you buy a Galaxy Fold? NO! God no. Are you crazy? The sky-high price, durability issues, nascent form factor, and new screen technology should rule the phone out for just about everyone. (Save your bendy tech dreams for Westworld season three.) Rather than a viable product, right now the Fold feels more like a publicly available prototype device that demonstrates an experimental new form factor.

Why?

So while you shouldn’t buy the Galaxy Fold, that still doesn’t answer the question, “Is this form factor a good idea?” Let’s put aside the sky-high price—which will, of course, come down over time—and the durability issues—which will hopefully be fixed in the future with the wild concept of “flexible glass” that Corning is hard at work on. Is Samsung’s current vision of a foldable phone a useful improvement? Unfortunately, the answer here is also a firm “no.” During the initial announcement of the phone, Samsung said the device would be “a powerful smartphone and a revolutionary tablet,” and the Fold is remarkably terrible at being either of those things. Samsung may have delayed the phone to put Band-Aids on the show-stopping design problems, but the overall product still shows a lack of thought and consideration for how actual people will want to use a device like this.

The launch of the Galaxy Fold was a disaster, and while Samsung fought through and got to market, that doesn’t mean the disaster is over. I’m still enthusiastic about the idea of a phone that converts into a tablet, but the Galaxy Fold puts on a master class of how not to do it.

Listing image by Ron Amadeo

No, really, the displays are too small

Ideally, for these phone/tablet hybrids, a foldable smartphone would fold up to display a smartphone-sized screen in its compact mode and then unfold into a larger, tablet-sized device that was significantly bigger than a normal smartphone. The phone part is there for phone things—like checking notifications, sending text messages, and doing quick searches—while the tablet mode is there for media consumption, reading webpages, and side-by-side app usage. The Galaxy Fold falls short of both of these “phone” and “tablet” aspirations. The front screen is too small for normal smartphone duties. The inside screen is too small to use as a tablet.

The Galaxy Fold’s dimensions are weird. When open, the device is almost a square. The body closely follows the inner, foldable display: a 7.3-inch, 2152×1536 flexible OLED panel. The display (and therefore the body) has an aspect ratio of 4.2:3, basically the same as a 4:3 iPad display. When you fold this shape in half, you then get a crazy-skinny device with a 4.6-inch, 1680×720 OLED to the front.

From Samsung’s perspective, I understand the desire for an iPad-like aspect ratio on the interior display. After all, the Samsungiest answer to “What shape should our foldable tablet/phone be?” is, of course, “Let’s copy the closest Apple product—the iPad—and work backwards from there!” An easy way to arrive at the Galaxy Fold design is to shrink down an iPad, chop off the bezels, and fold it in half. This doesn’t give much thought to how the front would work out, though.

Samsung fitted the front with a 4.6-inch, 21:9 aspect ratio panel, which is probably the tallest and skinniest display the company could easily source. It still doesn’t seem anywhere near appropriate for the front, as there are still miles of bezel above and below the front display. The whole front of the Galaxy Fold looks kind of ridiculous. I calculated a screen-to-body ratio of 49 percent for the front of the phone, which feels right—the front of the phone is about half display and half bezel. It’s an embarrassing design when a modern smartphone design will be about 88-percent display.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: Samsung Galaxy Fold
OUTSIDE SCREEN 1680×720 4.6-inch OLED
(399ppi, 21:9 aspect ratio)
INSIDE SCREEN 2152×1536 7.3-inch flexible OLED
(362ppi, 4.2:3 aspect ratio)
OS Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung’s OneUI skin
CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855

Four Cortex A76-based cores (One 2.84GHz, three 2.41Ghz) and four Cortex A55-based cores at 1.78GHz

RAM 12GB
GPU Adreno 540
STORAGE 512GB
NETWORKING 802.11b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC
PORTS USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
CAMERA Front:10MP Selfie,

Inside: 10MP Selfie, 8MP RGB Depth,

Rear:16MP Main, 12MP Wide-angle, 12MP 2x telephoto

SIZE Open: 160.9×117.9×7.6 mm

Closed: 160.9×62.8×17.1mm

WEIGHT 276g
BATTERY 4380 mAh
STARTING PRICE $ 1,980
OTHER PERKS side fingerprint sensor

The front display isn’t even centered, horizontally, on the phone body. Samsung technically centered the display on the front panel but didn’t include the hinge in its calculations, so there’s around 5mm of phone to the right of the display and 9mm of phone to the left of the display. Visually, I don’t think that works. My brain views the whole phone as the phone, hinge and all, and the display looks like it’s in the wrong spot.

You might think a 4.6-inch display sounds plenty big enough for a smartphone, especially when you have a 7.3-inch screen at your disposal, too. But remember this is diagonal measurement for an extra-tall 21:9 aspect ratio, so that 4.6-inch size is greatly inflated. A better way to measure screen sizes of different aspect ratios would be by the width of the display, which determines things like how big the keyboard will be or how many icons you can fit in a row.

The width of the external Galaxy Fold screen is 1.8 inches, and that, by width, is one of the smallest displays ever fitted to a smartphone. Even if you go back to when screens were at their smallest, like the original iPhone with its 3.5-inch diagonal screen, the 3:2 aspect ratio meant that display was still 1.9 inches wide. The recent phone that reminds me most of the Galaxy Fold’s exterior screen is 2018’s Palm phone, one of the only devices that can claim to have a smaller screen, by width, at only 1.65-inches.

All the problems of the tiny Palm phone are here on the exterior of the Galaxy Fold display. Using the front display to fire off a quick text message or do a quick Google search doesn’t work well, because the display is too small to comfortably type on. A thumb covers around four keyboard keys at once, so you have to gingerly tap around with the lightest fingertip touch and hope autocorrect does most of the work for you. Speedy, two-handed typing doesn’t work on the front Galaxy Fold screen because the device is too skinny and cramped to hold with two hands. Your best bet is one-handed keyboard pecking or trying to swipe, which, again, is putting autocorrect in charge of everything.

If you’re like me and don’t like any of these input methods, that means opening the Galaxy Fold for every. Single. Text input. Opening the Fold’s hinge takes some effort (it’s not a flip phone), so this is slower and more cumbersome than a regular smartphone. By Samsung’s own words, the front of the Fold is supposed to replace your smartphone, and thanks to the small screen, it is bad at one of a phone’s primary functions: text input.

With no way to reliably type, the front display becomes less of a smartphone and more of a big smartwatch. It’s there to show the time, notifications, a few basic apps, and not much else. Calculator and music app—the same types of big-button, low-information apps that translate well to a smartwatch screen. It’s really just a big smartwatch on the outside—for everything else, it’s too small. Reading webpages is a chore, the app drawer can only show rows of three icons each, and in apps like Gmail, you’ll get to see the first four words of an email subject before it gets lopped off.

Samsung seriously dropped the ball on the exterior screen. Because the outside screen is too small, you’re forced to open the phone and use the inner screen for most functions. Having to crack open the Fold every time you want to use it is a major hassle compared to a normal smartphone. This is one of those things you’ll have to do dozens of times a day, and opening the Fold is a slow, two-handed operation. By Samsung’s own admission, the front of the Galaxy Fold isn’t supposed to be an afterthought; it’s supposed to be the “smartphone” part of the Galaxy Fold, and it’s a terrible design for a phone. The phone screen is so small that you’re pushed to use the clamshell tablet all the time, and that is slow and cumbersome.

The interior screen—this is not actually a tablet

The outside screen is 7.3-inches, and while that might sound huge, the screen is not any taller than a OnePlus 7 Pro or Galaxy S10+. If you account for the gigantic notch in the upper right corner, there is actually less vertical space than a normal, plus-sized smartphone. If you take a modern “plus-sized” smartphone, and make it about 50-percent wider, you’ve got the interior of the Galaxy Fold.

The Galaxy Fold is not a tablet—it is a large phone. I was shocked to discover this when I opened it, but the Fold does not run in Android’s tablet mode. You do not get dual-pane tablet apps or any other UI optimized for a larger screen. If Samsung configured the software differently, you could have access to genuinely good Android tablet features, like a version of Chrome with a desktop-style tab bar at the top and a multi-pane version of Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, the Play Store, and YouTube. Out of the box you just get the phone versions of these apps, and that weakens the argument for the Galaxy-Fold-as-a-tablet. The Galaxy Fold is a wide smartphone, and that’s it.

The problem with the “smartphone but a bit wider” form factor is that you don’t gain much—if anything—from a moderately wider screen on Android. The way Android works under the hood is that the size of the UI is determined by the phone’s width. (The display size setting in Android’s Developer Options is literally called “Smallest width.“) Since everything in Android is basically a scrolling vertical list—the notification panel, the settings, the app drawer, Gmail—your vertical space is, in a way, infinite. You can just scroll forever. When Android is scaling the UI, then, it’s the width that matters, since the height of a scrolling list is unrestricted. Plenty of apps are written to have images or some other piece of UI go edge-to-edge based on the width of the display, so a wider phone often means bigger, zoomed-in apps that look like they were designed for someone with a visual impairment. This is bad, and Google knows it’s bad, and this is why tablet mode exists. Tablet mode addresses app scaling on a wide screen with dual-pane UIs or different scaling behavior. Samsung isn’t using Android’s tablet mode, though.

Chonk

Thanks to Samsung’s software decisions, everything on the Galaxy Fold is big. The best-case scenario is that the Galaxy Fold shows the same amount of information as on an S10+ or OnePlus 7 Pro, just stretched out horizontally a bit. You can see some comparisons above, and they are ridiculous. For apps that use edge-to-edge thumbnails like Twitter, you’ll actually see less information on the Galaxy Fold than you will on a regular phone since the thumbnails will balloon in size and push content down. The same goes for the Play Store, which can show seven apps in a list on the OnePlus 7 Pro, but only four on the Galaxy Fold. Remember, you can buy three OnePlus 7 Pros for the price of a single Galaxy Fold. All that extra money and you’re not seeing a benefit.

Email, mobile websites, social media apps, and messaging don’t benefit from a wider screen. The only big uses I’ve found for the wider display are using some of the better-coded games that can adapt to any screen size and viewing the desktop version of websites.

Advanced users can sort of fix the tablet-mode problem on the Galaxy Fold: you can switch Android over into tablet mode manually if you 1) enter the secret developer options Konami code and 2) dig through the dev settings to find “Smallest width” and set it to a very high number. This will kick some apps over into a tablet mode, but some of Samsung’s default apps don’t play nice with this setting.

I’ve seen arguments from Samsung that the Galaxy Fold is good for split screen, but again, the Fold is full of hardware and software decisions that limit the usefulness of split screen. Remember, the Fold is only 50 percent wider than a normal smartphone, so in portrait mode, you don’t really have the horizontal space for side-by-side apps. The landscape orientation will give you a more normal amount of horizontal space for apps, but then the vertical space is severely limited. You lose most of the vertical space to things like on-screen navigation buttons from the system and tab bars from the app.

The lack of vertical space in landscape mode isn’t helped by Samsung’s decision to not ship Android 10 or a good gesture navigation system on the Galaxy Fold. Instead, the most viable navigation option is an old-school navigation bar that sticks the usual “Back,” “Home,” and “Recent Apps” on the right side of the screen and then stretches all the way across the bottom of the device soaking up a ton of pixels. If the Fold had a decent gesture navigation system, you could hide the bar and get back a bit more vertical space. The Fold does have Samsung’s half-baked gesture navigation system built on Android 9, but that is bad for a number of reasons we’ll go into in the software section.

As for video on the Galaxy Fold, well, that depends what aspect ratio your content is and how well that lines up with the 4:3-ish display. 16:9 content—most of YouTube—will be a bit bigger on the Galaxy Fold than on a normal, plus-sized smartphone, but it’s not a world of difference. You’ll also have to deal with it being cut down by a sizable display notch, though, which YouTube, annoyingly, won’t correct for. Movies and more cinematic shows in any kind of super-wide aspect ratio won’t see a size increase at all on the Galaxy Fold, since wider media already fits neatly into the screen of a device like the OnePlus 7 Pro or Galaxy S10+—the Fold just adds more letterboxing. The real sweet spot for the Galaxy Fold display is watching content in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Fire up an old TV show like The Simpsons, and you’ll get a hugh jass image.

So what justifies this shape?

With the extremely awkward and skinny outside screen and the too-small-to-be-a-tablet inside screen, the question we have to ask with the Galaxy Fold is: Why is it this shape? The Galaxy Fold is a skinny, tall, brick of a smartphone, and nothing about the shape benefits the device’s form or function.

For a foldable smartphone, the dimensions that really matter are the folded, more compact dimensions: how big of a deal is it to carry around in its folded state? Does it fit comfortably in a pocket while folded? These are the questions you should design your foldable smartphone around. So why is the Galaxy Fold so skinny when folded? We know what a good, pocketable device size is: a normal smartphone, which is much wider than the Galaxy Fold. If Samsung made the Galaxy Fold, in its folded state, as wide as a normal smartphone, everything would be better.

The inside screen would benefit a lot from being bigger. While the inner aspect ratio is the same as an iPad Mini, in practice the two devices are nothing alike. The 7.3-inch Galaxy Fold display is noticeably smaller than a 7.9-inch iPad Mini, and, critically, the iPad doesn’t have to waste space on an on-screen navigation bar and a giant camera notch. An iPad aspect ratio doesn’t work when you have to chop off sections of the screen like this—iOS dedicates nearly the entire display to the app area, and the Galaxy Fold does not. Overall, there’s just not enough room on the Fold display for apps to make it a significant improvement, or any improvement at all, over a regular smartphone.

A wider body would also allow for a smartphone-sized front screen instead of the tiny, useless screen that is on the front now. It could display apps at a normal size, with a normal width, and the keyboard would be usable. A wider body would also allow for a wider interior screen, which would be better for split screen, better for media, better for multi-pane tablet apps, and more normal for most Android games.

However Samsung arrived at this form factor for the Galaxy Fold, it’s a disaster. Nothing justifies this shape. Neither screen is good for its intended purpose, and this is something anyone could figure out if they just tried the phone for a few minutes next to a normal smartphone. You don’t see more Android content on the bigger screen, the app area is not the right aspect ratio for split screen, and most forms of media would benefit from a wider, less square screen. With such a considerable increase in price and heft over a normal smartphone, the Galaxy Fold just isn’t worth it.

Heavy, clunky, and unrefined

The other thing to talk about when it comes to the Galaxy Fold is that, while Samsung wants to position this as a premium, desirable object, it doesn’t live up to that billing in reality. In person, the Fold is a heavy, clunky, ugly object. It doesn’t feel like a $ 2,000 phone from the future—it feels like an aborted prototype that isn’t ready yet.

The first thing you notice about the Galaxy Fold is that it’s just so heavy. The Fold weighs more than half a pound (276 grams), making it a good deal heavier than even the heaviest smartphone out there. That complicated hinge mechanism probably adds substantially to the weight, and the phone gained some weight during the redesign, too. The Fold was originally listed at 263g when it was first unveiled, but during the redesign Samsung added metal chain mail under the flexible display for more protection. With the super-skinny profile and considerable heft, most people I’ve shown the Fold to mime a dumbbell curl while remarking on the weight.

You could argue that, because the Galaxy Fold provides a bigger screen than most smartphones, a weight comparison to a normal smartphone is unfair. But remember: the whole point of a foldable is that you’re supposed to bring it with you and use it as your main device. This is something you’re expected to carry in your pocket (or purse), and when the Fold is 40-percent heavier than a Galaxy S10+, you’re going to feel it.

There’s no magic going on with the Galaxy Fold in terms of thinness. The two halves really are basically two separate smartphone bodies that are glued together, with batteries, displays, and cameras in each half. The Fold is as thick as a single smartphone when open (7.6mm) and as thick as two smartphones stacked on top of each other when closed (17.1mm).

The hinge

The hinge of the Galaxy Fold is an engineering marvel and probably the source of a lot of the weight. The spring-loaded design allows the two halves to fold and unfold, while still letting the requisite cables through so the two halves of the Fold can communicate with each other. This is normal flip phone stuff from 1999, but 20 years later, it’s novel technology again. Flip phone hinges get to be a lot shorter than the Galaxy Fold hinge though, and you might be concerned about durability issues with such a long hinge. Fear not, because the Fold hinge is actually rock-solid. As much grief as the display gets for being soft plastic and damaged by nearly anything, the hinge is built like a tank.

I’d say the hinge, especially the spring, is actually too strong. The hinge is very resistant to folding when open, and it almost feels like you need to break the phone in half to get it to close. The hinge is so strong that closing the Fold is a two-handed process. Usually I have to wrap my hands around the left and right side of the Fold, put a thumb on either side of the hinge, and push. With the initial hinge resistance defeated, you can either gently close the Fold with your hands or let the spring do the work, but letting the spring take over is pretty scary. The spring is, again, super strong and will close the Fold with a thunderous SNAP, which sounds like it could shatter the plastic bezels at any moment. I did this once to my $ 2,000 smartphone, and then never again. Would it be too much to ask for a bumper, or a soft-close function?

Thanks to how tight the spring-loaded hinge is, opening and closing the Galaxy Fold is always an effort. When it’s closed, it takes two hands to pull it apart. When open, it takes two hands to start the folding process, then you have to gently lower the two sides together so the two sides don’t violently collide. If you were hoping for a return to the effortless, one-handed closing opening and closing of a flip phone, this device does not do that.

Let’s go over those dimension numbers again. The Fold is 7.6mm when open but more than double that amount—17.1mm—when closed. The reason for the extra millimeters is the Galaxy Fold’s hinge, which doesn’t fold flat. The hinge closes with a gap on one side, giving the display fold a little more breathing room, so it doesn’t get completely creased when it is closed. This gives the phone an odd wedge shape when closed, which contributes to the “weird and ugly” aesthetic that permeates the Galaxy Fold. The wedge shape makes the fold look like it was assembled incorrectly or like the hinge has given out and is now closing off-kilter.

That crease is not well supported and forms a valley on the face of the phone. You'll feel it every time.
Enlarge / That crease is not well supported and forms a valley on the face of the phone. You’ll feel it every time.
Ron Amadeo

And yes, there is a big, fat crease running down the middle of the display. Honestly it’s not that visible when the display is on, and if the Galaxy Fold came in a decent size, I wouldn’t mind it. I think the crease, which is not especially visible, would be an acceptable trade-off for a radically bigger, more productive display. What is bizarre about the crease area is that you can feel it when you use the touchscreen. The whole hinge area is not at the same level as the rest of the display. It sags, so there’s a valley in the middle of the display—a visible, feel-able trench that you’ll run your finger in and out of as you use the middle of the display.

Using a display that has a big, long trench in the middle isn’t just alarming—it’s genuinely annoying. We’re accustomed to gliding our fingers across strong, smooth, glass surfaces, and the bumpy Galaxy Fold takes a lot of getting used to. I mostly just wanted to stay away from that area of the screen. This is a particular problem if you want to enable Samsung’s custom version of gesture navigation, which puts three swipe-up areas at the bottom of the screen. Samsung didn’t do anything to adjust its own gesture navigation for the Galaxy Fold, so the Home gesture is right in the middle of the display valley. It’s not nice.

The whole display is very strange coming from a life of hard, glass smartphones. The Galaxy Fold display is a sheet of plastic secured only around the perimeter, so it’s free to move around. And it moves around quite a bit, squishing and flexing under the pressure of your finger. It’s a bit like an old resistive touchscreen.

Speaking of things that interfere with your day-to-day swiping around the Galaxy Fold, let’s talk about my favorite topic: bezels! The plastic bezels around the flexible Galaxy Fold display are skinny enough, sure, but they’re raised. It’s literally just a strip of plastic stuck over the edges of the display, and it’s another deviation from the smooth, flat glass smartphones are normally made with. There are quite a few Android apps and features that require you to swipe in from the edges of the display, but that doesn’t really work when the display and the bezel aren’t the same glass surface. Again, take Samsung’s gesture navigation. On the Galaxy S10, you put your hand on the bezel and swipe into the display. On the Galaxy Fold, putting your finger on the bezel means it’s not on the same plane as the display. It doesn’t work with a raised bezel. You can kind of awkwardly stick your finger in the corner created by the bezel and display, but that’s slow.

Ron Amadeo

Next annoying Galaxy Fold design decision: this notch. The Pixel 3 XL was the previous record holder for “largest notch on Earth,” but the Galaxy Fold has snatched the crown away. The Galaxy Fold notch is huge! It stretches about a third of the way across the top of the screen. What’s baffling is that there’s nothing really in it. It’s just two cameras, the usual brightness sensor, and then miles of empty space. Why is it so big? The cameras being all the way on the left side makes me think that maybe they need to be somewhat centered to not get a weird angle, and for some reason, the company stretched the notch all the way to the corner.

Besides being ugly, a big problem the notch causes is that you can’t open the notification panel from the right side of the screen. To open the status bar on Android, you need to swipe down from the status bar, but the status bar starts on the left side of the giant notch. If you’re right-handed, you can’t easily open the notification panel from a natural position with your dominant hand. The Fold is so heavy you always want to hold it open with two hands, like a book, and reach your thumbs into the display. With the notch in the way, though, you’d have to stretch your right hand alllll the way across the notch to the center of the display. Like with opening and closing the phone, opening the notification panel is one of those core phone actions you’re going to do many times a day, and it’s a hassle.

An embarrassment from start to finish

The Galaxy Fold fails at everything it sets out to do. It’s a bad smartphone and a bad tablet. The front screen is too small for phone duties like typing and reading. The interior screen is too small for tablet apps and split-screen apps, and it’s the wrong aspect ratio for media. Since it doesn’t even run in tablet mode, you get blown-up phone apps that often show less information than on a normal smartphone.

For the nearly $ 2,000 Samsung is charging for this device, the Fold needs to be a homerun productivity hit, and it’s not even close. There’s nothing here that is an across-the-board benefit over a normal smartphone design, and the host of negatives outweighs the one or two good use cases, like gaming. Even for the same amount of money, I’d rather have a normal smartphone, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of screen switching, opening the hinge, and the constant fear of breaking the thing.

The Fold doesn’t even work as a tantalizing look at the future. It is an ugly, awkward, undesirable device. The front display is off center, and it’s surrounded by giant bezels. The interior has a huge, mostly useless notch that blocks you from reaching the notification panel. The raised plastic bezel that surrounds the flexible display looks and feels cheap, and this arrangement makes Android’s numerous edge gestures more difficult to pull off. When closed, the phone is as thick as two smartphones stacked on top of each other, and Samsung’s clunky hinge design means the Fold doesn’t close all the way, making it an awkward wedge shape. The phone weighs a thousand pounds in your pocket, so it’s a hassle to carry around. The hinge is tight enough that it is more of a hindrance than a help, and having to constantly fight with it makes me yearn for a normal slab smartphone.

I am still optimistic about the future of foldable smartphones. A device that can switch from a tablet to a smartphone still sounds like a killer idea. There are times when I am busy and need to quickly do something on a smartphone and times when I am relaxing and would like a bigger screen, and it would be hard to argue with an elegant device that could cover both of these use cases. We’ll need the basic design to actually fulfill the duties of being a smartphone and a tablet, though. We’ll need much thinner and lighter devices so this future tech actually fits in a pocket, and we’ll need a screen cover that is durable yet flexible.

The Galaxy Fold is an exercise in how not to build a foldable smartphone. Developing a totally new form factor like this is something that requires careful consideration of how the hardware and software would work together, but Samsung seemed more concerned with being first to market than making a good product. The embarrassing, fumbled launch period wasn’t an aberration, the Fold is a start-to-finish rush job that can’t back up any of the hype. This is an aborted prototype that was rushed onto the market for rich suckers. Let us repeat: do not buy it.

The good

  • Samsung took a risk and tried something different. You at least have to give the company that.
  • Some games are pretty good on the larger Fold display.

The bad

  • The front screen is too small for phone duties, the inner screen is too small to be a tablet.
  • The display is exceptionally delicate, and I had constant anxiety that I was going to break it.
  • Samsung didn’t put any effort into the software. It runs basically the same phone OS as a Galaxy S10, despite being a radically different device.
  • This is a real pocket buster. It weighs a ton, and it’s twice as thick as a normal smartphone.
  • The hinge takes two hands to open and close, and the spring assist has way too much power behind it.
  • The raised bezel makes using Android’s numerous edge gestures a chore.

The ugly

  • The phone. It’s a thick, heavy, clunker of a device, and somehow Samsung wants to pitch this as the future.

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Tech – Ars Technica

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