Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold2 is good enough to be the breakthrough taking folding phones in the mainstream.
Or at least it would be if not for the NZ$3500 asking price. Few people reading this can afford to pay that much for a phone. And few of those who can pay need the phone.
For almost everyone, it is a Ferrari option. That is: nice to look at, fun to own, hideously expensive and more show off than practical.
Even Samsung admits this is a luxury item. At last week’s product demonstration a company executive used the giveaway term: “status symbol”. That tells you everything you need to know.
There is a practial argument for buying the Fold2. The bigger screen means you can read more and do more work than on an everyday phone. It’s like an iPad mini that you can stick in your pocket. You can’t argue that this isn’t useful.
Whether it is NZ$3500 of useful is another question entirely.
At a pinch you can use the Fold2 as a laptop replacement. It works with Samsung’s DeX set-up.
We have seen three, more if you count the missteps, iterations of Samsung folding phones. The Galaxy Z Fold2 is the most impressive to date.
Galaxy Z Fold2 updates earlier Fold
The Fold2 brings three obvious advances over original Fold.
First, it feels far more robust in your hands. In particular, the screen can take more punishment. The Galaxy Z Fold2 is not a phone to take on a building site or anywhere the going gets tough, but it will take a lot more rough handling than the earlier Fold.
There is no longer a feeling that you are one small user error away from throwing $3,500 of non-functioning phone in the landfill.
The second advance is related. The hinge design is much improved. There’s a solid, positive feel when you open the phone. More snap when you close it. The original Fold could be open or shut, but positions somewhere between the two were not practical. You can keep the Fold2 part open, if that’s useful.
Advance number three is the much bigger front screen. You can now do many everyday phone things without unfolding the phone.
In practice this front screen is like the cover of a small book. It has a 6.2-inch display with 2260 by 816 pixels in a long, thin 25:9 ratio. A thickish bezel runs down the left hand side, it’s part of the hinge. Otherwise the front screen runs edge to edge.
While a closed Fold2 is a lot like an everyday phone, it isn’t exactly like one. It is hard to type on the keyboard because the display is too narrow. I found myself giving up and opening the device if I needed to type more than a handful of characters.
This revealed one of the neatest aspects of the Fold2’s software. It depends on the specific application, not all do this, but often software on the inner screen can take you to the exact point you were on the outer screen before opening the case.
Inside the case is a 7.6-inch screen with 2208 by 1768 pixels. It is much squarer, in a 22.5:18 ratio. There are thin bezels around the edge. In the case of the review model, the edge is a metallic copper colour. Samsung calls this ’mystic bronze’.
When you fold out the phone, the screen can lay flat. You can see the fold, but it doesn’t get in the way at all. At first this looks like a big deal, but soon, you’ll find your brain ignores it.
It’s possible, with the right software to fold the phone to use it like a tiny clamshell laptop.
You need big pockets
Apart from the prestige and status, the big selling point of the Fold2 is that it can fold up and fit in a pocket. You need large pockets in both senses of that term. This fold and carry idea may not even work at all with the pockets on women’s clothing, although jackets should cope.
When folded it is a lot bigger than any other phone. And at 282g it is heavy by phone standards. It is not a comfortable to live with as a standard phone. Let’s put that another way: you’ll never carry one of these and forget that it is there.
Samsung packs five cameras in the Fold2. On the outside is a 10 megapixel ‘selfie’ camera. There’s a similar camera on the inside screen. The back has three 12 megapixel cameras. There’s an ultra-wide angle camera, a wide angle and a telephoto.
You wouldn’t buy a Fold2 for the cameras. They are not as good as the options on other high-end Samsung phones. In practice I found them harder to use, thanks to the physical form of the folding device.
Is it worth it?
You can buy a lot of technology elsewhere for $3500. That is enough for a great phone and a great laptop. There are people who like the idea of owning a head-turning phone. It would be, in effect, like buying jewellery.
When opened, a tablet-format Fold2 is roughly the size of an iPad mini. It’s a useful product to compare. The iPad mini has a large 7.9-inch display and at 2048 by 1536, about 20 percent fewer pixels. It is a touch harder to carry, few pockets can take an iPad Mini. And yet, you can buy five iPad Minis for the cost of a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2.
There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy Z Fold2. It’s impressive and has that living in the future feel that you no longer get from other phone models. From a strictly impractical personal point of view I love this device, but I can’t justify buying one. Nor can I recommend it to you, but you should try to get a closer look at one.