I'm always excited to see new form factors start to emerge in tech. Gadgets like foldables or even dual-screen devices recall a more experimental time before the ubiquitous glass slab smartphones we know today, and they come with unique new use cases that can eventually influence the entire mobile industry.
But naturally, with new ideas come various problems and setbacks. The necessary materials for foldable displays, including thin, flexible glass and plastic, aren't as durable as the glass used on most smartphones, and with so many moving parts, these gadgets can't be water-resistant, either. You'll also inevitably run into apps that don't support the often-unusual aspect ratios of foldable phones, which can lead to letterboxing, poor scaling, or some combination of the two.
Foldables are very much still a work in progress, as companies like Samsung and Huawei race to solve the problems they largely already tackled years ago in traditional phones. Here's the good news, though: they're getting there at an incredibly fast rate.
Last year's Galaxy Fold was riddled with so many display issues that Samsung had to delay its launch by nearly six months — yet just a year later, the followup Galaxy Z Fold 2 has outstanding build quality that rivals even Samsung's mainstream Galaxy S and Note designs. There haven't yet been any widespread display issues on review units (fingers crossed), and the specs are exactly what you'd expect from a flagship phone in 2020.
I think we're finally a point where foldables can be actual products worth recommending to consumers, rather than neat experiments to admire from a distance. They're still expensive, sure; the Z Fold 2 costs a whopping two grand, and even more affordable foldables like the Z Flip 5G cost as much as top-end devices like the Note 20 Ultra.
But I can't remember the last time I've been as sad to return a review unit as I was last week, when Samsung sent me a shipping label for my Galaxy Z Fold 2. It was the first foldable I'd used that felt like a finished product, and one with immediately clear benefits over a typical smartphone. Being able to switch from a somewhat standard smartphone experience to a 7.6-inch mini tablet enabled a unique multitasking experience, and created a feeling of deliberacy with every app I opened.
Its drawbacks were few and far between; the only one that regularly stayed at the top of my mind was the lack of water resistance, which made me particularly careful not to pull out the Fold 2 in the middle of the rain. Otherwise, using the Z Fold 2 felt like using any other phone, and that's a remarkable feat.
Does that mean you should go out and buy a Z Fold 2 right now? Not necessarily; I don't know that anybody should spend $2000 on a smartphone unless they're really convinced it'll positively impact their life. As much as I loved my time with the Fold, I'm not even sure that I would spend that kind of money on it — though Samsung's high trade-in offers would certainly help ease the blow.
It's getting harder to make the argument that foldables aren't ready for the mass market, though. Not everybody needs one, just like not everybody needs the S Pen on Samsung's Note line, or a 108MP camera, astrophotography, or reverse wireless charging. For those that think they can take advantage of the various advantages of foldable tech, though, I don't see many reasons not to buy one at this point.
Even the Z Flip 5G has the latest Snapdragon 865+ processor, and fits more easily into a pocket than any other phone in years. The Motorola Razr 5G has a large cover screen that makes it easy to take selfies with the main cameras. The Z Fold 2 opens up to become a tiny tablet that fits in your pocket. These are all great features that you won't easily find elsewhere, and they're a testament to the weird, wacky, and wonderful world of foldables. If you want one, go out and get it.
A foldable without any fatal flaws
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is an incredibly refined device that folds out from a tall, narrow phone to a mini tablet, giving you plenty of room to comfortably multitask with split-screen apps. The three rear cameras are great as well, and the battery can last through the day with ease.
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.