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5 problems that could keep the Galaxy Fold from true success

The Samsung Galaxy Fold marks the start of a new evolution of smartphones that have foldable displays aimed at providing a balance between capabilities and size with an amount of flexibility that just wasn't possible before. It's a truly unique and fascinating device. But as a first-generation product, it faces an uphill battle of convincing people to look past notable compromises in order to get a taste of the future today.

There are five problems the Galaxy Fold is facing that have the potential to get in the way of it being a success on any level.

The screen 'crease'

Galaxy Fold

You can't have a discussion about foldable phones without talking about the "crease" created by the phone's main feature. At this point the foldable display panels themselves have reached excellent quality levels, but they just can't get around the fact that the flexible plastic covering the panel is, well, plastic. Whether we're talking about the Galaxy Fold, the Huawei Mate X, or any other upcoming competitor, the screen crease problem hasn't been solved and isn't likely to be for some time.

We're used to pristine screens with Gorilla Glass — this is far from that experience.

In regular use you really don't notice the crease, so I don't want to make it sound like it's some massive eyesore. But it shows up now and then and really detracts from whatever you're looking at in the moment you notice it. If your brightness is set a little low, or you're in harsh direct lighting, it's more likely to be visually distracting. And if you hold the Fold in landscape mode, you're far more likely to be bothered by it as you scroll and swipe with your thumbs across the crease line.

The crease isn't actually a detriment to usability, but it isn't particularly flattering and can be something that takes away from the experience of using an otherwise futuristic and expensive phone. We're honestly spoiled by curved Gorilla Glass displays at this point, but it's what we're used to — and a plastic screen covering with a crease is far from those quality levels.

Thickness and weight

Galaxy Fold in pocket

Perhaps the biggest issue with the Galaxy Fold is its sheer size. It's slightly taller than even the Galaxy S10+, while also being twice as thick and 50% heavier. Even though the weight is very well distributed and the phone is narrow when closed, there's no getting around just how awkward it is to hold considering its thickness and weight.

Technological improvements over time will easily fix this problem, but the first-gen Fold is at a dimensional disadvantage.

It's actually a bigger problem when closed because you're using it one-handed, where the weight and thickness just makes it tougher to use for a long period than any "normal" phone. But the thickness and height are big considerations when you think about putting the Fold in your pocket — most people I spoke to that had used a Fold remarked that it did fit in a jeans pocket, but it produced quite a bulge and in some cases was reaching the very top of the pocket.

In many ways, the appeal of having a phone that's "small" and folds out to be twice the size loses some of its appeal with the folded phone is still twice as thick as a regular phone. Technological advancements over time will easily fix this problem, but the first-gen Fold is certainly at a dimensional disadvantage.

App (in)compatibility

Galaxy Fold

Foldables are a new frontier in Android devices, bringing both larger displays back into the conversation and throwing in the extra wrinkle of screens that can change their size and aspect ratio at a moment's notice. And that's a problem, because Android apps have historically struggled with looking good and working properly on large screens. And with Android tablets being effectively a non-factor in the market, the situation hasn't really changed in the last handful of years.

Most apps make no more use of the Fold's huge display than the Galaxy S10's.

This manifests itself in two distinct problems. The first is the lack of app continuity between the small and large screens, which is something that Google and Samsung (and surely others) have been working on leading up to the Fold's launch. This is the feature that lets an app load on the smaller cover screen at 21:9, and then immediately switch to the larger 4:3 screen and resize without missing a beat. Some apps do it, and the experience is exactly as you'd expect, but many do not. Apps need to be closed and restarted when you open the Fold in order to fill the screen, which Samsung gives you a button to do or you can opt to have happen automatically. It's annoying, at a minimum, and in some cases causes you to lose your place or text you've already input into an app when on the smaller cover screen. This is a problem that will be theoretically fixed through Google's coaxing of developers to write their apps to reflow properly, but we've seen this sort of scenario play out poorly before.

Thankfully multi-window works, but sometimes you just want to focus on one big app that fills the screen properly.

In a similar vain, Android apps in many cases just don't look good on large screens. A 7.3-inch 4:3 display isn't exactly a traditional "tablet" size as we're used to, but it's pretty darn close, and in many cases you start to notice that you're just using a scaled-up phone app with no more usable screen space or information than if you viewed it on a regular phone. Apps like browsers, Google Maps, YouTube, calendar apps and many others in the productivity space naturally make more use of the space as they expand out, but most of people's mainstays like Twitter, Instagram, Slack, Pocket Casts, chat apps, financial apps, password managers and the like make absolutely no more use of the Fold's huge display than a Galaxy S10's.

Even apps that ostensibly have a "tablet" interface, like many of Google's own, don't seem to trigger the more information-dense tablet-style UI unless you drop your display scale down below the default. That's a real shame, because the Fold really is big enough to utilize the tablet-style interface of apps like Gmail, and it just doesn't show up unless you make other usability compromises in scaling down everything on your screen. Thankfully the Fold has a great multi-window functionality that lets you do a two-thirds/one-third split view of two apps to use the "phone" interface of both, but there are many times you want to focus on one app and have it also be more useful than on a phone.

Cover screen too small, but main screen too big

Galaxy Fold open and closed

This is somewhat tough to explain, but hear me out. The main appeal of the Galaxy Fold is of course its big foldable display that can be stowed for one-handed use and deployed for extra viewing area at a moment's notice. But with its in-folding form factor, it necessitates having a "cover" screen on the outside of the phone. While it's actually the correct combination from my point of view, the proportions aren't quite right: the cover screen is too small, and the inside screen is a bit too big.

The cover screen is a crutch for when you can't devote two hands to using the Fold extended.

That front display is just 4.6 inches at a 21:9 aspect ratio, which just feels tiny by modern standards. It's extremely narrow (just three app icons wide), and because it's nestled inside of pillow-like bezels it's rather tough to use like you would any other phone that even had the same sized screen. Typing with the on-screen keyboard is difficult because of the tight key spacing, and I've even come across a few apps that don't even render and reflow text properly. It's fully functional and completely usable, but it's absolutely not enjoyable for more than a handful of minutes. The cover screen really is designed only for those times when you have just one hand free and need to have a firm grip on the phone because you can't open up to the big screen inside.

The issue with the Fold's interior screen is mostly summarized in the previous section: it doesn't always make great use of the display real estate because even the biggest and most popular apps out there today don't properly resize and reflow information into every inch of it. But larger than that is the issue that the Fold is too big when extended to comfortably use with one hand for any extended period. It's fine if you're casually reading and scrolling slowly with one thumb, but if you have any sort of interaction to do with the display beyond that you need to get a second hand involved. If you don't, it's time to close the phone and go back to that cover screen, which as discussed feels just a bit too cramped to comfortably use for long.

Price

Galaxy Fold box

I struggled with including this one as a true "problem" facing the Galaxy Fold. Yes, it's expensive (opens in new tab). $1980 is at least double what most people will pay for their phone in 2019. And yet, it's not exactly a problem when you consider that it's the easiest thing on this list to "fix." As Samsung matures all of this new technology, it will make phones with fewer manufacturing issues and will eventually recoup enough of its R&D costs to drop the price.

Unlike all of the technical problems, pricing is ostensibly the easiest to fix.

Unlike all of the other problems Samsung has to fix with technical solutions, it's relatively easy to simply drive down the price of foldable phones. I wouldn't sit around waiting for a price drop on the Galaxy Fold itself, but going forward with future generations we can absolutely expect prices to come down considerably.

So first, we need Samsung to surpass the technical hurdles. Then we'll get to discussions about what price makes sense for a mass-market foldable phone.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

34 Comments
  • They're the primary reasons I'm waiting for gen 2, but I'm glad for everyone who buys one of these, as they'll be the ones who validate or vilify the form factor.
  • I see review units are failing miserably with display issues.... wanna defend this crap anymore?
  • don't peel the screen apart and perhaps it will not revolt
  • It's a cool concept and obviously the future, but there's no real world use yet beyond bragging rights. I'll wait for the price to come down and for these types of devices to actually fill a need. The Huawei device feels even more gimmicky and quirky. I'm not spending 2,000 for a plastic folding tablet. I have no use for it beyond content consumption, which I already do too much of as it is.
  • Excellent points in your post and I agree.
  • It would be cool to own one. If I had a good amount of money I would buy one.
    Any tech guy/gal will appreciate the technology and cool factor once they have it
    on their hands.
  • This is a first generation product. It is what it is. Very pricey, but I like the innovation. I give Samsung credit for trying something new!
  • Definitely. I give Samsung credit for trying new things and helping to push forward technology. They are seriously excellent hardware manufacturers.
  • The crease is there to ensure the fold happens in the same place. They probably beefed up the thickness and/or flexibility in that area compared to the rest of the screen. The thickness can't be helped right now. The external screen is small compared to the height of the device, but it would be easier to use one handed if they moved it lower. I'd be ok with a larger external screen too. App incompatibility is a temporary issue as devs release updates. The main screen is not too big. It's the right size for a tablet experience, but being able to crop into a YouTube or other video to fill the screen would be nice. I use that all the time on my S8+. Price is always high for something new, but $2,000 for a phone screen, tablet screen, decent battery, and an insane number of cameras isn't that crazy. It's too much for me, but it's fairly priced given the current market.
  • I'd say just front screen too small and price tbh
  • "As Samsung matures all of this new technology, it will make phones with fewer manufacturing issues and will eventually recoup enough of its R&D costs to drop the price." Really?? You really think so?? When was the last time we saw prices drop AFTER an incremental release was was delivered to market. If anything, you usually see incremental price increases.
  • I think the statement he made was not just about smart phones but in products over all. Look at the prices of microwaves when they first came out, or VHS machines, they were expensive, and it was quite a while before prices dropped to the point it wasn't a major purchase. Yes, i do agree, in the smartphone world we don't see prices drop because there is always "something" new added to keep the prices up. But i understood what he was probably meaning by his statement.
  • Don't mind the plastic nor the crease but that miniature front screen is worthless. I would not pay for this. I much favor the Mate X design.
  • Is it a phone trying to be a tablet or a tablet trying to be a phone?
    It's neither... It's a Phlab-let
  • I commend Samsung for the engineering and taking a risk on such a unique device, but I just don't have a real need for this. It wants to be a Jack-of-all-trades, but is master of none. I don't need a foldable phone to act as a surrogate tablet. I'd rather have a smaller, more pocketable device to make calls, read email and light browsing, and a *real* tablet for serious media consumption. You can buy any number of great phones plus an iPad or Galaxy Tab for much less than $2000. I guess if you absolutely must have one device instead of two, then this is the one to get. But imo it has too many compromises to be a real tablet replacement.
  • It's $2,000 dollars to start.
  • Reminds me of a handheld, flip open donkey Kong game I had in the early to mid 80s.
  • Great article. Hope they do one for the upcoming Pixel.
  • A Moto G7 for $199 puts these prices in a different perspective. I could buy a new device every 6 weeks and still be money ahead.
  • It is a good start, for a - one size fits all - type of phone. Next it will be a projectionable - wearable phone - that will have bone conduction for sound and possibly AR for navigation.👍
  • The thickness/weight doesn't bother me & the apps will get worked out. Even the line may be something we just have to live with and the price will inevitably come down of this form takes hold - $1500 ish would be palatable. One more point IMHO and what could keep me away is the plastic screen. That aside, a Foldable Note, which was rumored, would be a must have to even consider it. Optimally, I'd prefer a it looked & acted like a normal phablet on the outside with a large (6"+) display and unfolded into an even larger tablet (a Phablet/Tablet). I hope the form evolves - I'd love to have one.
  • Reminds me of the first Note. Everyone was saying there was not a need for such a device and it was too expensive. Compare the price to a fully spec'd out iPhone XS Max. You are getting more for your money with the Fold. Definitely, there will be a market for this type of device in the future.
  • Totally agree. I have the top tier Xs max and it’s expensive for nothing. You are getting your money’s worth with the fold. I really believe in the fold as the way for the future. I also had the first gen galaxy note and loved it. It’s still one of my favourite phones I’ve owned. When I got the phone I was laughed and and told I looked ridiculous, who wants such a big phone. Now the same people are carrying galaxy note 8’s.
  • I seriously don't know why anyone in their right mind would buy this. I wouldn't use it even if it was free
  • LIAR, you would use it if it was free. Or, resell it.
  • Folding hunk of overpriced ****
  • Other than the price, the other 4 reasons are bullshit. You must expect some glitches and issues on 1st generation always. if you dont like it, dont buy it. Plain and simple.
  • So they don't exist?
  • It's an answer to a question that most consumers haven't been asking. When rumors about a Microsoft device like this popped up several years ago, they were met with ridicule. Few people were interested then, and few are interested now. And $2k takes away whatever little interest exists. Only tech writers and tech nerds are really interested in this.
  • I agree with many of these critiques. The tiny cover screen makes no sense. I know the point of the device is to fold open the screens for more space, but sometimes you just need to look something up quickly and put your phone back in your pocket. For these times a 4.6" screen doesn't really cut it.
  • If the front screen was a lot bigger then I wouldn’t really use the phone unfolded that much. I currently have an iPhone XS Max which is 6.5 inches. I do everything on there. The only thing I use my iPads for is watching videos. The rest I do comfortably on my phone. For me If the front part is anywhere near as big as my current phone (a la mate X) then I wouldn’t have much use for opening it out except for watching videos.
  • "Samsung matures all of this new technology, it will make phones with fewer manufacturing issues and will eventually recoup enough of its R&D costs to drop the price" I don't see that happening. OEM's are getting people used to paying $1k or more for a flagship now and over the next couple years $1,500 isn't going to be uncommon, so at $2k for the flagship that's also a 2 in 1 foldable, it's going to sit right in that spot. I'll be absolutely shocked if a gen 2 or gen 3 comes out at $1,500 or less. I don't see it happening.
  • If this phone was available on my carrier I’d get one. I’d have to see the crease to see how much it bothered me in real life but if I could live with the crease then I’d be happy to get one from my carrier and pay it off in instalments. That way the £1,800 price tag doesn’t hurt as much. I’m already paying a ridiculous amount of money for my Xs max which is just a regular phone. Beyond the crease being acceptable I don’t have any other issues with this phone. I have a phone, 2 tablets and a laptop but it’s the phone that I use 98% of the time. Because it’s my most personal and convenient device. I have it with me all the time. So a foldable phone that I can make bigger when I need to is the perfect device for me.
  • I haven't seen an actual side-by-side of the Fold vs. the Mate X, even in mock-up. The people who've had the Fold in their hands are coming back with some initially favorable reactions, and the early interest (if the out of stock stories are genuine and not contrived) suggests that there will be a market no matter how much opposition and criticism there is from people not interested in this kind of form factor? You see a lot of this in the early assesments of both devices -- complaints about the fundamental concept, like the folded-out screen being "too big" or the hyper-fixation on the dread "crease". Or complaints, particulalry with the Fold, that the folded-out screen works better than the folded-up screen and being critical of that, to me, obvious and essential prioritizing of the large-screen aspects. Yeah, if there has to be trade-offs, sacrifice the folded and make the unfolded work as that is the main point and the pay-off for all those many, many, many dollars. That said, it does look like Huwaei has managed the compromises better in that I like the look of the Mate X better in both folded and unfolded states. I saw one commentator compare the folded out Mate X favorably to the Kindle Oasis which is just a nice device to hold and look at. But I've also heard that the Fold looks and feels more durable. Early days that can't get here soon enough! I am impatient for the launch. As much sense as wait for gen-2 or gen-3 makes, I can't hardly wait half that long.