The only other folding phone worth taking note of right now is the Huawei Mate X, which is said to launch before November, but without any stronger confirmation than that, yet. It takes a very different design approach to Samsung’s: it has a single screen on the outside, which wraps all the way around when you fold it. This gives it some clever features (like a camera selfie screen), but may also leave it more prone to drops.
There are some question marks over the Mate X still, the biggest of which is that it looks unlikely to have access to Google’s apps and services, due to US/China trade issues. Huawei has also said there may be plans to put the company’s next-gen Kirin 990 processor in it, but this looks unlikely to happen at launch, so early orders would get the (still massively capable) Kirin 980.
Beyond Huawei, other folding phones are coming, but when they’ll be out is anyone’s guess. Oppo has shown off a pretty solid prototype, and we’d put money on it being next in the race. Xiaomi also has a device in advanced development, though. And then there’s the Motorola Razr, which the company says is coming… some time.
A good example is that it has moved the home, back and recents tab. On the original Fold, this was locked bang bottom-centre of the device. Now, though, you can choose whether to place it at the bottom-right, bottom-left or bottom-centre, depending on your handedness or preference. You can just choose which you want from the Settings menu – it’s a nice touch.
Along similar lines, the device’s virtual keyboard can now also be split down the centre, so that two parts sit on either side of the screen. Again, it will largely be down to user preference, but from our time with it, we found it comfier to split the keyboard when using it open, which reduces finger stretching to hit keys that would otherwise sit near the centre of the screen. The keyboard can also be floated, too, for positioning wherever you like.
Aside from these other improvements, the major takeaway from our time with the Fold is that, at least in Australia, it is likely to be a 5G device. A 4G-only version is being made, but Australia is possibly only getting the 5G variant. This means the potential for giant speeds where available – or you can think of it as futureproofing your $3k phone. And with the core spec of the new Fold unaltered from the original, which is top, top-level premium for current Android models (Snapdragon 855 processor, Adreno 640 graphics, 12GB RAM, 512GB storage), it’s future-proofed all over, really.
All that power means you can run three apps live side-by-side on the screen when folded out, with no freezing or slow-down. We’re cruising towards desktop multiclassing on a device that fits in your pocket. It’s a little odd that you can only run three apps with a horizontal split, not a vertical one, which isn’t ideal if you want to watch video while doing other stuff, but we’re sure this will be tweaked in the future.
Beyond that oddity, it’s clear Samsung has thought really carefully about what people want from a changeable device – the centrepiece is the App Continuity feature. This enables you to move from the exterior Cover Display to the Infinity Flex display (or vice versa) without interrupting what you’re doing. So, if you plan a route on Google Maps using the expansive 7.3-inch display, then fold it closed; the directions will appear on the smaller Cover Display right where you left them no sooner than you hear the magnets snap into place.
It’s seriously impressive stuff. We tried to trick the software a few times, seeing whether it would keep our place in a list on Spotify (it did), and whether half-drafted messages in WhatsApp would safely make the journey between screens (they did).
If you’re speaking to somebody on the phone and decide to unfold the Galaxy Fold, your call will automatically be switched to loudspeaker, because Samsung knows you’re never going to want to hold the massive 7.3-inch display to the side of your head and shout. When you’re using it, it’s clear that it isn’t just a concept that was
Apps go seamlessly between screens when you fold it
rushed together to show off the pliable OLED screen – this feels like much more.
Samsung says it has updated all of its applications to support App Continuity, while Google has tweaked the “majority” of its apps. There are some third-party apps, such as Instagram and Spotify, which have also been updated, but early adopters are likely to be in for a wait before all the apps they use day-to-day support the feature. Likewise, the curved notch in the top right-hand corner of the internal screen, which houses the dual selfie cameras, did cut out the corner of a few apps that we loaded up. Small quirks will undoubtedly be fixed after the handset launches, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to be one of the first to jump in.
Given the potential for more weird issues, is it worth the high price tag? You’ll have to wait until next issue for a full review, but so far, we’re more optimistic than we expected to be.
The gorgeous 7.3-inch OLED display will make reading ebooks and articles, playing the latest graphicsintensive mobile games, or bingeing
Game of Thrones an absolute pleasure. Folding the screen away feels solid, sturdy. Samsung is confident the Infinity Flex display will last for 200,000 folds, and it feels safe enough for that from our play.
We’re not sold on everything about the design – it’s quite thick, so don’t expect it to slide seamlessly into your skinniest of skinny jeans. And it is possible to spot the crease in the display, if you turn it in the right light – though we never found it distracting when actually using it normally. However, this is the first folding smartphone to ever launch, so we are prepared to cut it some slack in certain areas.
After using the Galaxy Fold for an hour or so, you really start to get it. Being able to carry around a gorgeous, colourful, iPad Mini-size screen in your pocket feels truly transformative. And after having to leave the Galaxy Fold, we were a little miffed when we were stuck reading and browsing social media on a single, static, comparatively cramped smartphone screen.
More than a decade ago, smartphones were aimed solely at businessfolk, and when most ‘normal’ people saw them, they dismissed them as way too expensive and big for your average user’s needs. Initially, the Fold feels a bit like that – a productivity powerhouse that most people will dismiss initially. But, like smartphones, people will start to try it, and when they do, there’ll be no going back.
The Galaxy Fold isn’t perfect. But it’s ambitious, futuristic, and feels like it could completely change smartphone design in the years to come. If you’re willing to put up with some of its charmingly clunky first-generation foibles, this is the future.
Carrying a tablet in your pocket is truly transformative