I've been pretty ambivalent towards folding phones since I first heard of the concept years ago. It's a cool idea in theory, but I'm still completely content with my boring, functional, flat-faced smartphones that fit easily in my pocket and don't come with a laundry list of problems like the potential for damage and incompatible software. But while that's still true, I was a lot more content with flat phones before I spent a day with the Galaxy Fold.
Last week, I flew into New York City along with my colleague Andrew Martonik to get our hands on the Galaxy Fold for the first time, after we were teased by a display unit behind glass back at MWC. We shot our initial coverage and, to our surprise, every press outlet in attendance ended up leaving with a unit, giving everyone time to formulate full reviews.
As it turned out, this ended up badly for a number of units, including one of our own as a major hardware issue of the Fold quickly made itself known, but luckily the unit that Andrew and I left with is still doing fine (knock on wood). While Andrew was tasked with writing Android Central's review, I ended up taking the Fold home to shoot for the day before overnighting it back his way.
I spent most of that day pointing a camera at the Fold, but between shots, I really got to appreciate the insane hardware design that went into making this crazy first-gen device possible, both good and bad. Samsung's predictably excellent build materials, surprisingly loud dual speakers, and impressive series of cameras all shine on this gadget — and the huge notch, crease, and frustratingly slim fingerprint sensor that just as frustratingly doubles as a Bixby button are all here, too.
That crease really didn't bother me at all (though I'm not thrilled to be seeing reports that it quickly becomes both more pronounced and less even), because I couldn't stop thinking about how wild it is that this folding phone concept is finally a reality. That reality is coming with some growing pains, sure, but it's one that I'm much more willing to be a part of now that I've gotten to actually use the Fold.
The outer screen is hilariously ugly and tiny, there's not much getting around that, but … it's functional. I was surprised by how much scrolling around on apps like Twitter felt totally fine, and for as outdated as those massive bezels look, they're part of the reason behind that, since they keep my thumb from having to reach way up to the top of this extremely tall phone. I do wish the Fold didn't feel monstrously thick when closed up like this, but it is what it is.
Of course, the extended screen is the most compelling part, and while it was a bit clumsy to use at times, both because of its physical size and the somewhat lacking software, two things made me absolutely fall in love with the idea of having a huge pocketable screen like this: reading and photography.
Whether it's an online article or a Kindle book, the Fold felt like a nearly perfect size for fitting ample text and images, and if all you're doing is scrolling through pages, it can even be used one-handed. I absolutely loved having all of that space, and it made going back to my comparatively tiny Pixel 3 feel … cramped.
Taking photos was another thing altogether; you can use the outer screen in a pinch, but it's way too small to comfortably shoot with. With the screen folded out, you get a huge viewfinder that lets you see every detail of your shot, and it's an absolute delight to use. Yes, some people will joke and compare you to iPad photographers, but honestly, who cares? It's great for shooting with, and even better for editing. I shoot a ton of photos on my phones, so this was definitely what won me over the most about the Fold.
With all that being said, I'm not so sure I'd actually buy a Fold, even if they weren't breaking left and right. $1980 is a lot to ask for a device as impermanent as a phone, and I'm not sure those two features alone can make me look past other factors like my preference towards the Pixel's software and main camera performance. Still, I'm finally ready to embrace a folding future.
The Galaxy Fold is a stunning look at a future full of folding phone/tablet hybrid devices. It's significantly more expensive than Samsung's other flagships, and it's currently facing a number of #bendgate issues, but the future doesn't always come easy.
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.