Samsung Galaxy Fold is more of a novelty than a consumer product at this stage. Should you invest Rs 1.65 lakh into it?
There’s not much in design innovation you can expect from handset makers these days. Design innovations have meant bezel-less phones, infinity displays and far more cameras than one can understand or operate. The next design innovation has arrived, and the first to get a phone in this line is Samsung. The company has outdone itself with the new Fold. The premier segment phone (Rs 1,65,000) is a tablet, a phone and much more. The brand name will play in Samsung’s favour as also the stunning fold-display, but the company will need more than a folding design to hold the market.
At 269 grams and 0.66 inches of thickness Galaxy Fold is probably one of the heaviest phones in the market—Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max is 226 gms and Samsung Note 10+ weighs 190 gms. Although the phone is clunky, it does make up for the older design formulation when it unfolds. Although Samsung has made design changes to correct for faults—screen problems were common with the last iteration—the screen still doesn’t feel as sturdy as it should.
The feel though is premium. Given that wireless buds come with the packing, the absence of a headphone jack is not much of a downside. The slipper body is a downside, a gawdy-looking protective case makes it worse. Three operators—volume, power and a fingerprint scanner—are on the side. The fingerprint scanner is a welcome step, but I fail to understand why Samsung did not merge this with the power button. While the volume button is placed perfectly, the fingerprint scanner has an odd placement.
I know, I should be mesmerised by the folding screen, and it indeed is exceptional as far as display is concerned, but the ergonomics does not work well with the camera placement. Having used the Communicator series, I was hoping that one side could turn into a full-fledged keyboard. But then again, perhaps it’s just me.
Galaxy Fold comes with two displays. A front 4.6-inch display and the laid-out 7.3-inch screen. The front display is disappointing. Despite having ample space it does not accommodate a bigger screen. Most of the action (75%) happens on the foldscreen. The colours on the front display are off, and it’s not as responsive. Given the narrow screen size, using the phone closed is not ideal, you can hardly get the keys right at the first go.
Samsung does make up for it with the fold display. The 7.3-inch screen is just too stunning and does not disappoint one bit. The colours are rich, given the AMOLED panel, and HDR10+ allows a wonderful viewing experience. The fold is barely noticeable. While it is not seamless, overall it is not an issue. The transition is a problem though. The transition from top to inside screen is without a hitch, but the other way round requires activation and does not happen that fast.
But where Samsung performs best is the sound. The device has unparalleled sound. The Dolby Atmos setting works perfectly well with audio at all times. The wireless sets are the highlight. It’s not a Bose or a B&O, but AKG does well to provide noise cancellation. The speakers fit snuggly and can survive exercise and running. In dynamic mode, Samsung is noise cancelling. The range is, however, a problem, but the compact design does make them a delight. Battery life is a good 18 hours.
This is where it gets confusing. Samsung comes with six lenses. One in the front, two inside and three at the back. The front camera, much like the screen, is utterly disappointing. The inner fold cameras—there are two at 10MP and 8MP (depth)— work beautifully. It is not an iPhone selfie camera, but yet there is clarity and a good amount of saturation. The back camera is what works wonders, with the same specification as a Note 10+. Colour saturation, picture, light —all is perfect. Not an iPhone though.
At 4,380 mAh battery, Fold had surprising capabilities. The phone survived over a day with medium use—streaming, listening to music, and web browsing and some amount of gaming. With heavy use the batter life is a good nine hours. The phone does not do over seven hours with a Fortnite or a PUBG install. More important, gaming is difficult, given the large screen and the weight.
Given that this is a premium phone, one would expect Samsung to offer something different. But that isn’t the case. Apps do run well, and transitions to larger screen are okay, but there is no oomph factor. The app drawer is not something exceptional. The three apps-at-once feature comes in handy, but not all apps are calibrated.
With 12GB RAM and Snapdragon 855, you can expect the phone to do everything. There are no heating issues despite hours of streaming and gameplay. Multi-tasking is smooth, even with multiple tabs open and loaded data. The 512 GB space ensures you can load the phone. The face recognition works well even in low-light, whereas fingerprint scanning is unbeatable. I felt the phone is missing a stylus for taking notes; at Rs 1,65,000 Samsung should have found space for it.
Who will be the end-user? The phone, no doubt, is a style statement. And, has functionality that goes beyond just video watching. But will it click? At the steep price of Rs 1,65,000 it may find some takers, but not many. Close to Rs 1,00,000, it would find many. Samsung needs to get its pricing right and one or two iterations for Fold to take off. For fans of the Communicator series, this is indeed the phone. However, I would say, wait for a Fold 2 or Fold 3, and Samsung will get everything right. Samsung has given us a peek into the future, and taken a stab at full-fledged integration of a laptop, a tab and a phone.