Samsung refines its foldable tech with Galaxy Z Fold2
Samsung has made no secret of its commitment to pushing the envelope with smartphones using flexible display technology. After years of teasing the market with concept devices, it finally unveiled its first commercially available foldable, the Galaxy Fold, in February 2019 to a frenzy of media coverage. But this first iteration of the device had a troubled birth. Not long after putting the product into the hands of leading tech influencers in the US, a few of the early units started having screen failures, forcing Samsung to go back to the drawing board.
To its credit, the company dug deep, re-engineered the Galaxy Fold to fix the problems, and released it back into the market in October 2019, when I was lucky enough to get my hands on a unit.
I have to admit that up until that point I’d been sceptical about foldable smartphones, regularly posing the question of whether they were merely a solution looking for a problem. My hands-on experience with Galaxy Fold and later with the Galaxy Z Flip (and Motorola’s reboot of the iconic Razr) definitely opened my mind to the possibilities of the technology, and I’ve become a lot more optimistic about the potential for this breed of device.
Between the Galaxy Fold and the Z Flip, I found the Fold to be the more impressive smartphone. Although the Z Flip is an absolutely stunning device and beautifully engineered, I struggled to see many meaningful benefits beyond the ergonomic perk of being able to take a large smartphone and fold it in half. The same is true of Motorola’s reboot of the Razr. Nostalgia certainly got the better of me on that one, but in the cold light of day the resurrected Razr just didn’t deliver enough to justify its price tag.
The first Galaxy Fold, however, was a far more intriguing product, blending a “standard” smartphone with a mini-tablet inside for a very attractive offering. That said, the phone certainly had some shortcomings, most notably the 4.5-inch display on the outside, which felt tiny compared with the six-inch (or larger) screens I’m used to on flagship smartphones. The small external screen of the Galaxy Fold made it extremely tricky for me to use it with one hand. In the end, I was constantly defaulting to opening the phone to do simple tasks like sending text messages, which rather defeated the object of this multifunctional device.
Fast-forward to the new Galaxy Z Fold2 and it’s clear that Samsung has taken in all the feedback about the original Galaxy Fold and delivered a significantly refined device. Before I go on, I should also note that I’ve only had very limited hands-on time with the new model so the thoughts below are based on my initial conclusions.
There’s little question the Galaxy Z Fold2 is a hugely polished version of Samsung’s first foldable. My biggest bugbear, the small external display, has been replaced by a new 6.2-inch screen that seems far better suited to one-handed use. However, the device’s long and thin design, which has a 25:9 screen ratio, can make it a little difficult to reach the extremities of the screen with one hand. It reminds me a little of the Sony Xperia 1, which has a 21:9 screen ratio and was likened to a TV remote control.
But that’s a trade-off I’m definitely prepared to accept, because by pairing the new larger external display with a whopping 7.6-inch internal folding screen (which is only marginally smaller than an iPad Mini), the Z Fold2 delivers the best of both worlds. I absolutely loved the 7.3-inch screen on the original Galaxy Fold and the internal display on the new device looks even better. Samsung has also axed the camera notch, creating a seamless viewing experience and making the Z Fold2 a superb device for leaning back to browse the web, watch videos, edit photos and more.
Another notable area that Samsung has been working very hard to perfect is the new hinge. This is a big improvement on the previous Fold device, which was only really viable when it was fully open or closed. The Z Fold2 can hold itself open at various angles between 75 and 115 degrees (and can be locked flat at 180 degrees), which presents some new opportunities. For example, having the device opened at 90 degrees — a bit like Nokia’s Communicator — enables some clever enhancements to the user interface, including changeable keypads, video controls, camera options and more, which adds even more utility to the device.
My initial conclusion is that the Galaxy Z Fold2 marks a significant step forward in the foldables journey, and certainly helps to address my worry that foldables are a solution looking for a problem. I continue to believe that flexible display technology will play an important role over the next decade, not only for smartphones but for a whole swathe of consumer electronics devices, and Samsung is a clear trailblazer right now.
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