The race for folding smartphones has slowed in these weeks of global lockdown. 2020 should have been a year of expansion for this market, with the arrival of new models and a progressive, albeit minimal, drop in costs. At the end of May there are not many folding phones on the horizon and the main protagonists have remained the same. Motorola with its Razer, which does not seem to have managed to break through on the sales front, Huawei with its Mate Xs, an innovative but expensive and niche product, e Samsung with its Fold and Z Flip.
In the last month we have tried the Galaxy Fold, the first folding of the Korean house, discovering a product that is not suitable for those looking for a classic smartphone user experience. The Fold is not a phone like the others and is also different from the other folding ones, thanks to a form factor that pushes to use it more open than closed.
So much quality
As soon as you pick up a Fold, you immediately perceive the quality and attention paid by Samsung in the creation of the product. When closed, the ergonomics are exceptional, the thickness, similar to that of two superimposed smartphones, does not have to worry, because in this mode the Fold is only about 6 cm wide. The weight is high, of 263 grams, but in comparison to other models it is not even so pushed. Mate Xs reaches 300 grams, S20 Ultra reaches 220 grams while iPhone 11 Pro Max at 226 grams. In short, if at first the weight of the Fold seemed high, given the competition and the trends of the current market its 263 grams are no longer so many, especially when you consider that open you have access to a 7.3-inch screen.
The whole body is made of glass and metal, there is no trace of plastic, including the centering element of this phone, the hinge that allows you to open the screen. The opening and closing system also uses magnets to hold the screen in place, there are no problems but be careful to place the Fold on metal surfaces, because the force of attraction is quite strong and it might get out of hand.
Speaking of wear resistance, our test sample demonstrates how Samsung managed to make an excellent compromise. Resistance to liquids and dust is lacking and attention is required during use, but there are no scratches on the panel, nonetheless the sample we have used has been around for several months and changed hands several times.
A definitely positive sign, which however does not give any guarantee in the long term. Samsung however offers, to those who buy a Fold, one year Care + warranty, which also covers accidental damage, included in the price.
The design, however subjective element, we liked a lot, either because of the quality of the materials and the assembly, or because it is drastically different compared to the other smartphones. The news can only please technology enthusiasts, only element that out of place is the internal notch, located in the upper right part of the screen, which causes the whole to lose symmetry.
The interface manages to integrate it within the applications, although sometimes it can happen to find apps that are not fully compatible. Even if you use the zoom with videos, indispensable to exploit the whole available surface, it becomes a limit, because the notch cuts a part of it.
A different way of using the smartphone
Samsung has designed the Fold for two types of use, closed and open. When closed, you have to rely on the 4.6-inch Super AMOLED 1680×720 Pixel screen with 21: 9 format. The dimensions, similar to those of the iPhone SE 2020 display, are not small, however the elongated format makes it difficult to write messages. The thumb covers the virtual keyboard area well, the idea of Samsung is good, but the little horizontal surface compacts the letters a lot, with the result that typing errors become a constant. Writing short messages is fine, thanks to the automatic proofreader, but with longer texts the experience becomes frustrating.
This screen is also suitable for taking a quick look at websites, or managing the camera with the phone closed, but if the goal was to reduce the use of the main screen then it was not achieved.
In our Mate Xs review we saw that the form factor chosen by Huawei leads to greater use of the smartphone when closed rather than open, like a normal smarthpone, with the Fold it is the exact opposite. Also due to a more natural opening process, reminiscent of a book, there is almost always a tendency to take advantage of the 7.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED panel, even for rather short tasks.
The resolution of 2152×1536 pixels offers an excellent general definition but what is most surprising is the brightness, very high for this type of screen, which allows you to make the best use of it even outdoors. The plastic material chosen by Samsung for the cover of the display gives a good feeling under the fingers, if you exclude the crease area it almost seems to be in front of a glass cover.
About the fold, this can be seen and felt under the finger, but disappears after a few days of use. In the images it is accentuated but we can assure you that it is much less during use. Looking at the Fold from the front it is almost invisible, after a few days you simply get used to it.
On the ergonomics front, the external screen can be used with one hand, it was designed for this, once opened, instead, you have to use two. Samsung has optimized writing in this mode, with a keyboard divided into two parts and moved to the outer edges, which facilitates the task.
Hardware still on top, super battery
After seeing what this Fold can do with Qualcomm CPU instead of Exynos, we really hope that Samsung will review its processor policy in Europe in the near future. Unlike the other top of the range of the Korean house the Fold uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, in Europe usually only models with Exynos processors arrive. It is certainly not the most updated today but it is still very powerful and allows use without any lag of the operating system, with excellent performance in any context, without even heating up.
At present, then after updating to Android 10 with OneUI 2.1, the Fold is the top of the Samsung range with the best autonomy in circulation. This is possible thanks to the 4300 mAh battery, the 60 Hz refresh rate of the screen, the software optimization and the use of the Qualcomm SoC instead of the Exynos. To understand each other, we are facing an autonomy that easily exceeds that of Galaxy Note 10+, which has a battery of the same size.
Two days of normal use are a target within reach, you can do a little more if you don't spend hours every day using the phone. If you are looking for a smartphone with high autonomy, the Fold is certainly one of the best on the square.
Specifications also provide 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of internal memory, not expandable. We then find LTE up to 1200 Mbps, no 5G, Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 6, NFC and support for all GPS standards. A configuration with two SIMs is possible but only using a physical SIM and an eSIM.
The recharge, from 15W with the supplied power supply, takes place via USB Type C, instead the 3.5 mm jack for audio is absent.
Samsung has managed to obtain in the body the place for two stereo speakers, very good in quality even if it happens to cover them with your fingers during use.
Cameras and software
Samsung did not aim to create a revolutionary photographic sector with the Fold, after all its innovative load can be seen elsewhere. In fact the three rear cameras are the same as the Galaxy S10 + which we reviewed last year. The main cam is 12 Megapixel with variable aperture from f / 1.5 to f / 2.4, with optical stabilization. Then we find a 12 Megapixel cam with f / 2.4 aperture dedicated to 2x zoom, stabilized, and finally a 16 Megapixel wide angle cam. It is a system widely used by Samsung last year and which guarantees excellent quality shots both day and night. In low light, night mode helps but is less effective than that found in other smartphones. Automatic HDR works well as well as AI-related optimizations, which perform visible but not exaggerated post processing.
The external front camera is 10 Megapixel with F / 2.2 aperture while the notch integrates the same sensor plus an 8 Megapixel one, which is used to obtain a more effective blurred effect. For more information in this area, please refer to the Galaxy S10 + review.
On the software front, Samsung has done an excellent job of optimizing and Android 10 gestures make it much easier to control. With the disappearance of the nav bar, menu navigation is more natural and faster, but the integration between the two screens and multitasking are the real flagship of the offer. The external screen serves as a service display, in our case we have used it little preferring to open the Fold on almost every occasion, others may find it more useful.
Often, however, you start to perform a task with the phone closed and then continue opening it: in this case the application is moved in real time on the main screen, without interruptions whatsoever.
Multitasking is full of options, up to three applications can be opened simultaneously dividing the screen into as many sections, or open more than 5 applications inside floating windows. Multitasking is implemented very well, in our opinion, however, to take advantage of more than two windows together larger sizes are needed. Up to two use is functional, for example to keep Gmail and Word open, more is possible but the size of the windows make everything more complicated.