Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 REVIEW: A Phone For The 5%
PAT PILCHER covets Samsung’s Galaxy Fold 2 smartphone/tablet hybrid, even if he has no hope of ever affording one with its gobsmacking price.
The newest foldable from Samsung, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, is their second attempt at a foldable phone. While it is upgraded and addresses the issues with the original Galaxy Fold, the question that must be asked is whether it’s just nice to have or whether it’s a must-have.
From a design perspective, Samsung has smartly chosen not to fix what isn’t broken and to fix what was problematic with the original Galaxy Fold. To this end, they’ve added a more durable display and improved its hinge.
The marketing focus with the original was ‘gee-whiz’. This time, marketing messaging is positioning it as a productivity tool with an emphasis on multitasking.
Perhaps the most immediately noticeable improvement is the Fold 2’s cover display. At 6.4-inches (up from 4.3-inches) it is now sufficiently big that when the folded 2 is closed, it can be used just like a run of the mill slab-style smartphone. It’s a sensible upgrade in that being able to reply to texts and make calls without unfolding is handy. Having the ability to unfold it when a bigger display is needed made running multiple apps dead easy. In short, it marries the versatility of a phone (pocketability, portability) with the killer features of a tablet (more screen real estate).
A year ago, a foldable phone was a huge deal. Back then, foldable phones were like something from the future – they were novel. A year later, the Fold 2 doesn’t quite have the same futuristic feel. That said, the most significant selling point to my mind is how intuitively the Fold 2 marries the good bits of a standard smartphone and a tablet. The not so good news is that you’ve got to part with an astonishing $3,399 to buy it. (Gulp).
So, what does $3K of foldable phone get you?
It’s a chunky wee monkey when folded. That said, it isn’t huge. It might’ve put a bulge in my pocket, but I could still hold it one-handed with no discomfort. This made navigating its external AMOLED display manageable. Unfolding it reveals a gorgeous 7.6-inch AMOLED display. The screen is made up of what Samsung’s marketing folks call Ultra-Thin-Glass. It’s flexible glass, which has a soft layer of plastic over it. Where the original’s screen seemed fragile, the Fold 2’s display felt a lot more durable.
The flexible display on the Fold 2 is really something. It’s an HD beast, sporting a 1080 x 2636 resolution. Being AMOLED, colours were both bright and vivid, and using it in direct sunlight was not a problem. Samsung has kitted it out with a 120Hz refresh rate. This makes all that extra on-screen real estate super smooth and responsive for gaming. The refresh rate and screen resolution can be set to dynamically adjust, extending battery life. Like the original, there’s a crease in the middle of the screen. This is part and parcel of any foldable display and wasn’t an issue in use.
When closed, the Fold 2 sports a lot of the same design language as the Note 20 Ultra 5G, thanks to its brushed aluminium chassis and rectangular camera module. On the external control and ports front, the Z Fold 2 has a USB-C port, a power button (with an integrated fingerprint sensor), volume controls, and two speakers (one at its top, the other on its bottom).
The hinge also deserves mention. Where the original opened and closed, the Fold 2 can open at different angles and stay put. This makes it handy for watching Netflix as well as zoom video calls. The hinge also has what Samsung calls ‘sweeper’ technology. This helps it keep dust, dirt, and pocket lint out of the phone’s gubbins. The hinges can also be customised with four different colour schemes (Metallic Silver, Metallic Gold, Metallic Red and Metallic Blue).
Under its hood sits 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, which is ample for demanding apps/heavy multitasking and extensive media collections. Its beating heart is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+. A Snapdragon CPU is used in all regions. (Patent issues have to date seen most other Samsung phones using Snapdragon silicon in the US and their in-house developed Exynos silicon internationally). It is a smoking fast CPU.
Multitasking is the Fold 2’s big selling point. What Samsung calls Flex mode lets users split apps between the two halves of the Fold’s screen, which Samsung says makes for better multitasking. A powerful example is Capture View Mode. Using the bottom half of the screen, you can see photos or videos instantly, without exiting the camera app. This handily works on the cover screen too, so the subject you’re taking a snap of can see the photo while they’re being photographed.
Sammy’s Multi-Active Window feature also lets users open multiple files from the same app or from numerous apps at once by dragging and dropping them from the Edge Panel. While it may sound gimmicky, it is an excellent way to make use of the extra on-screen space afforded by the Fold 2’s larger screen.
There is a catch though: you’re mostly restricted to multitasking with Samsung and Google apps (Slack, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Office, and a few others also work). I also found I could do things like drag and drop images or text from one app to another.
Perhaps the niftiest feature when it comes to multitasking is what Samsung calls ‘App Pair’. This lets you specify three apps you frequently multitask with so they can be launched at once and pre-positioned in ‘multi-active window mode. For productivity and power users, it’s bound to be hugely useful.
For all the hype around the Fold 2’s multitasking, I found myself using all of its unfolded screen for one app at a time. Watching Amazon Prime, catching up on Twitter and Google Maps became enjoyable as they were less cramped.
All that screen space demands more power, which is provided by a 4,500mAh dual battery. Not only is it marginally bigger than the 4,380mAh battery of the original Fold, but its dual design makes for faster charging. I found that with typical use I got through a day with enough juice left to make it through the morning before needing a charger. With heavier use, I’d typically need to charge it in the evening.
When it comes to storage, you can have the Fold 2 with any amount of RAM and storage you want – provided you choose 12GB of RAM and 256GB internal storage.
Samsung’s recent flagship smartphones were notable because of their excellent cameras. The Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra 5G both featured 108-megapixel sensors, periscope zoom and 8K video recording. Sadly, these are missing on the Fold 2 which is an odd omission given its ultra-premium sticker price. Instead, you get a 10MP front camera and 12 MP rear shooters. This probably has more to do with a lack of space for bigger sensors and a periscopic zoom module.
All the usual Samsung camera modes are present, and Samsung has added a few innovative wrinkles. I liked that I could use the free-standing hinge to prop the phone up while using a remote shutter app on the Galaxy Watch to capture photos. Additionally, on the top half of the unfolded screen, there’s a viewfinder and the bottom half of the screen has a preview of the last photo I shot plus camera controls.
There’s another feature baked in that’s in keeping with Samsung’s newfound focus on podcasters. When filming video, the camera can recognise people and will smoothly reframe the shot to keep them front and centre. It’s a nice touch which proved handy for zoom calls.
While there’s a tonne of stuff to like, the 2000-pound gorilla in the corner is its wallet wounding $3,399 sticker price. Put simply, the Fold 2 is stupidly expensive. There are a LOT of other things most of us would choose to spend that sort of money on. A foldable phone simply isn’t likely to be a priority for most of us in NZ’s price-sensitive market. In a time characterised by increasing economic uncertainty, dropping incomes and hints of a recession, the Fold 2 represents a brave move for Samsung.
If you’re a member of the 5% club, these issues are unlikely to affect you. The Fold 2 is probably a must-have Android phone for those who can afford it. For the rest of us, its features are frustratingly out of reach, which is a real shame as it’a gorgeous.