Do not buy the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It is almost strange to have to write those words explicitly, because after everything that happened with this phone / tablet hybrid, you would want to think that everyone already knows the score. The assessment units that broke, the launch that was postponed, the newly fixed version, the sky-high price – it is all well-known and well-documented. But Samsung sells the Fold, albeit in very limited quantities, as if it is perfectly normal and reasonable to walk into an AT&T store and buy a fragile, experimental device for $ 1,980.
It is not. But that does not mean that there are no interesting things to learn by looking at the Galaxy Fold – again. I have already thoroughly reviewed and published the Galaxy Fold once before Samsung canceled the original launch. I will not go into this in more detail as then, because less has changed than you would expect. Six months later, and it's clumsy in my pocket, refurbished to make it less likely to be destroyed by random debris.
And no, this is not broken, even after a few weeks of regular use.
The Galaxy Fold is a scientific experiment, only one that you could theoretically buy. The purpose of any scientific experiment is to test a hypothesis. With the Fold, the hypothesis is that a flexible OLED screen could successfully become a consumer product. From that perspective, the experiment is a success because I can confirm that the hypothesis is incorrect. Foldable screens are not yet ready.
But there is another hypothesis that Samsung – perhaps unintentionally – has suggested: a phone that is larger on the inside is actually a good idea.
As we reported earlier, Samsung has made fairly small adjustments to the hardware in an effort to prevent damage to the delicate screen. Most importantly, it has extended the factory-installed screen protector to the edges so that it is covered by the plastic edges and does not tempt anyone to pull it off.
Although that change can protect against users doing something wrong, it doesn't do much more than that. The plastic is still very soft and can be easily tied. My device has visible notches from when I was scrolling too fast without realizing that my fingernail was pressing on the screen. The new unboxing experience from Samsung includes an optional concierge to guide you through the many, many warnings that are now in the box. One of those warnings is to keep fingernails away from the screen. Whoops.
Other Samsung hardware changes must prevent debris from entering the hinge mechanism. There are plastic caps where the screen bends, closer tolerances in the openings around the hinge and even the opening when the whole thing is closed is now smaller. And if debris gets into the hinge (which happened to my first review unit), there's a metal layer between it and the screen.
Is that enough? I don't know. Nobody knows. Since the re-release, people have certainly taken Galaxy Fold units. I didn't destroy mine in the few weeks that I had it, but I was also terrified that I would do it if I wasn't careful. I did not go live in a bubble like Joanna Stern The Wall Street Journal did, but I've treated the thing tenderly and carefully – more than anyone should have with a phone, even one that costs $ 2,000.
Samsung offers a one-off screen replacement in the first year for $ 150. That's nice, I think, but right now, the only people who buy the Fold will be the kind of Samsung superfans that is certainly worth over $ 150 for the company.
Either way, the reality is that because it exists in the Galaxy Fold, the flexible screen will be delicate and you have to handle it subtly. Its use will affect your life in a way that a more sustainable phone – or even carries both a phone and a tablet – won't.
As far as I know, the only software change to the note on the Galaxy Fold is that Samsung has assigned the Bixby assistant to the on / off button instead of the (still strange) fingerprint sensor. Everything else is the same.
That is usually bad news, but it is not usually Samsung's fault. Android still suffers from an identity crisis when it is on a screen of more than seven centimeters. Many apps remain open when you switch from the small screen to the large, but not as many. Some apps look nice, both extended on the large screen and work reasonably well on the small front screen; many more don't do that.
Samsung cannot solve all these problems, but I wish it had tried repeating more about the installation with multiple windows. You can technically place three apps on the screen and add pop-over app windows on top if you want. But in practice, the use of something more than simple split screen is a huge hassle. That is not a problem in itself; only main users may want more than two apps visible on the 7.3-inch screen of the Fold.
But even split-screen apps on the Fold feel uncomfortable and nervous compared to the multi-window options on the iPad (and forget to compare all this with Windows). The Slide Over from iPadOS just feels much more natural and the animations are much smoother. Android as a platform still has a way to go.
The other thing that hasn't changed is how difficult the fold is when it is closed. I did not expect this, but if the most important thing that prevented me from using the Fold was not the fragile screen, it was annoying to take it with me. It is too thick to fit comfortably in a pocket, and it is also too long.
When I reviewed the fold in April, the awkwardness was rather intriguing. It meant that I used the phone less because I didn't want to worry about the small screen. When I unfolded it and actually used it, I was much more involved. It turned the Fold into a device that I actively chose to use instead of a device that stole my time invisibly by tempting me to browse social media all day.
I still feel that way about the Fold, but it goes too far. I want a good screen that I can hold on the metro with one hand. It may cause me to lose an hour for Twitter, but that is my job.
The Galaxy Fold forces you to make too many compromises. You have to compromise on sustainability, on a phone that you can have in your pocket and especially on the price. All these compromises exist only to give you the flexible screen, which is itself corrupted because it still has that fold in the middle.
This made me think: what if instead of a fold in the middle, the screen was simply split? You would lose if you had a seamless canvas to spread a window over, but in theory you would lose all those other compromises. A phone with a split screen can be thinner, pocket-sized, more durable and cheaper.
In the past there have been phones with a split screen, and now even some are coming out. The LG G8X is an example. If the software was good (by which I mean it is supported at the Android platform level), a two-screen device could offer you many benefits of the Galaxy Fold with fewer problems. You would miss futurism, but you would get something more useful.
That seems to be the idea behind Microsoft & # 39; s Surface Duo, but it will only be available in a year. That is probably best because I suspect that it will take so long for Android and app developers to get ready.
The day before I published this review, Samsung teased another foldable phone, this time with a vertical form factor such as the clamshell phones of the past. There is no timetable for release, but here is my advice: wait for the screen to be made of glass or other more durable material.
As for the Galaxy Fold, don't buy one. But you have to go to a store and play with it. As an experience there is one There there, if you understand what I mean, even though the screen technology and software are clearly not there yet.
Vox Media has affiliated partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media can earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. See for more information our ethical policy.