The biggest downfall of the Z Fold 2 is completely out of Samsung's control

Galaxy Z Fold 2
Galaxy Z Fold 2 (Image credit: Samsung)

Even if you have zero interest in the Galaxy Z Fold 2, you have to admit it sure looks nice. Not just the phone itself, either, but the way Samsung's demonstration showed us apps that could resize on the fly, break themselves into different parts for each side of the screen, and automatically transition from the front display to the inner display.

YouTube and Microsoft Office looked great on the Z Fold 2. Will Instagram?

But there is the rub. Samsung showed off a handful of Google's apps (Google helped with building Android to work this way on Samsung's foldable phones), Microsoft's apps (also a big partner), and Spotify. How will all the rest of the apps in Google Play work?

I'm almost certain that Samsung will have all its ducks in a row and the company's first-party apps like the browser, the messaging app, email, etc. will work "properly" and do the same things that the YouTube app and Microsoft's Office apps will as you use the phone in different ways. But what about Instagram? Or Twitter? Or Facebook? Or whatever apps you use every day? We have no idea.

I'm not very optimistic here, and I only need to look back at how Android tablets have "progressed" on the app front since their debut almost 10 years ago. Things are not great. In fact, they are so bad that Google has basically ceded the tablet space away to Apple with Samsung being the only major holdout — because Samsung does the work to make its apps tablet-ready.

If tablet-optimized apps are any indication, a lot of the apps you use aren't going to work very well on the Z Fold 2.

This is not Samsung's fault, and it's mostly not Google's. Since the beginning, Android has been written in a way that apps can be resized to fit on any screen size, and year after year, we've seen Google provide more tools for developers to make their apps tablet-friendly. It kind of works if you only look at Google's own apps and the top 100 apps in the Play Store, but once you dive deeper, you'll find apps that force close when they try to open on a big screen or that run fine in the upper right corner leaving 80% or so of the screen empty.

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Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

If you use an Android tablet or even use Android apps on a Chromebook, you know what I mean here. They work, but many just don't work well. The Z Fold 2 brings more complexity into the mix, and even fewer apps will be optimized for continuity across multiple displays or showing different features and controls based on the display orientation/hinge angle.

There's not much Samsung or Google can do to fix it, either. Google could globally blacklist every app that isn't optimized from being installed on a tablet across the Play Store and face the backlash and inevitable accusations of market share abuse. Samsung could block access to any app that doesn't meet its standards the same way, and that means nobody would want a Galaxy foldable phone because the app selection would be trash.

Samsung may have to pay developers to get on board if it wants it's foldable line to inch towards the mainstream.

The one solution sucks for both companies — pay developers to rewrite their apps. Most apps in Google Play are free, and developers mostly struggle to make any money based on ads. This means a developer has zero incentive to spend money and time to rewrite an app just so it works on a series of phones that are not going to sell in any quantity. Paying the development costs (plus a bit of profit) creates that incentive.

Google isn't going to do this, or it would have done it long ago when the first Android tablets appeared or when Android apps came to Chromebooks. But I can see Samsung courting specific developers so that the best way to experience their apps is on a Galaxy Z Fold 2. Samsung has very deep pockets, and something of this nature could be easily justified as marketing costs, like paying a pro photographer to travel the world taking pictures with a specific phone is.

I don't want to dampen anyone's excitement for the Z Fold 2; in fact, if it weren't so expensive, I'd be very interested myself. I just can't help but point out a very big weakness that even the might of Samsung's corporate wallet can't fix — app quality on a very unique foldable phone.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • The phone is marvellous!
  • Interesting POV. Probably very valid. Should be noted that a number of MS apps that are taking advantage of the wide screen were likely given that functionality to work well on the DUO. That device might have the advantage of not expecting an Android app to span the whole screen if it doesn't understand how. In the end though MS has the same issue, in trying to get developers to support the new form factor.
  • Nobody needs this phone. The Fold has a foldable gimmick, with a screen that is weak and will fail, and that's it. It's impractical as a phone. Like the Microsoft phone, it's a form size in search of an intended use. There is no chance Samsung makes money on this device. At best, an aspirational gimmick... A consumer product to justify their fold screen research and development investment. A display tech in search of an end use.
  • Until Apple does it according to you right?
  • You said it's impractical as a phone. You didn't explain why. You only provided your personal opinion on why it's not practical as a media device.
    I doubt Samsung will argue with your last paragraph, except for the "gimmick" comment and the last sentence. Nothing relevatory there. No "Gotcha" moment. It's common practice across industry.
    Your opening Salvo was, "Nobody needs this phone." In your personal opinion, what phone does everybody need?
  • The fold2 screams Multitasking. MS/google apps are integrated for inner and outer screens. Other apps that won't upscale dont have to. They're fine on our bar styled devices we have now. Just open some other apps too instead of flipping back and forth like a traditional phone.
  • Look at unbox therapy, on youtube, and tell me you don't want it. Looks like a multitasking marvel. It is pricey, and not for the clumsy. It's for people that can afford it, and not bumblers, that don't care how they treat their stuff. In five years, as it gets cheaper, and more reliable, all this controversy will be a thing of the past. Someone's gonna hit a homerun eventually.
  • I watched it on Unbox Therapy and I'll tell you I don't want it. I'm sure I'm not alone. And I, as well as millions of people, can afford it. Affording only means having enough money to pay for something. Hell, my 16 year old brother works two part-time fast food jobs, cuts grass/landscapes and delivers carry out. He bought the Samsung Note Ultra full price. Which means he could afford it. So people coming up with $2000 isn't an issue. But people with $2000 of loose change will choose not to buy it for various reasons, including convenience issues, ergonomics, pocketability etc., and instead choose to pocket most of that $2000 and land on something else more in line with their needs/wants/financial justifications. Or they just don't care for it and buy two samsung notes instead.
    It's gorgeous and fun to play with. It's just not practical for dally driver use for the vast majority of folk and the price isn't attractive for what you get.
    I agree wholeheartedly with your last two statements. I'm not a fan of Samsung products but I like that they are pushing innovation.