A lot of flex, a lot less weird.
Full disclosure: this Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G hands on/first look/first impressions is based on one day use. Also, for all intents and purposes, let’s just call this thing, the Fold 2.
The Fold 2 would have you believe that this is Samsung’s second fold-able. But it is not. Samsung has been doing foldables for a while now but you know what, it doesn’t really matter how many generations the Fold has had in the past. What matters is how many generations it will have going forward and if foldables are well in fact, the future. Samsung clearly has its eyes set on such a future but it is also doing this keeping its ears to the ground. There’s method here, and intent, and eventually if all goes well, hopefully precision will follow. The Fold 2 is a big step in that direction.
It is just like the original Fold in spirit. Like the original, the Fold 2 is also designed to fit a big screen tablet in the body of a smartphone. It has two screens and one of them folds vertically in the middle. There’s a visible gap when it is folded, though it does seem like Samsung has been able to reduce it ever so slightly. All of this by extension means that the Fold 2 is still pretty thick, long, and weird-looking. It’s still got that “have deep pockets, will travel” vibe going for it. Until you fire it up and you’re instantly teleported to a parallel universe, one that’s bustling with possibilities.
A lot of the decisions that Samsung has made with the Fold 2 seem guided by feedback, both user and critic. And that is why it is such a big deal. It is sturdier, it has bigger and better displays, it has a few new software quirks too, and it is priced more reasonably.
The Fold 2 is built really well. It’s very solid. But that is not saying much because of two things. For one, the Fold 2 does not have a direct competitor you can benchmark it against. Secondly, it won’t exactly be fair to compare it with a conventional smartphone. At best, I can tell you that it is a noticeable improvement over the original Fold but again, it does not mean anything.
At its heart lies Samsung’s Hideaway hinge. This is what will essentially make or break this foldable. Samsung has taken some inspiration from the Galaxy Z Flip here bringing its CAM technology and elastic bristles to the Fold 2. The former imparts structural rigidity to the hinge while also allowing the Fold 2 to prop up on a surface through multiple angles. The latter help keep dust and debris from entering and interfering with the internal mechanism.
While their proper use case can’t be really judged on the basis of a day of usage, I can tell you Samsung has really improved upon the hinge. The way the Fold 2 snaps close (and open again) firmly and very reassuringly, it’s all very satisfying, to an extent, even addictive.
The Fold 2 has two screens but it is the inner one that folds, that really matters. Samsung has made two big changes here. Like the Galaxy Z Flip, the Fold 2 also gets Samsung’s Ultra-Thin Glass or UTG to give the impression that it’s all a lot sturdier. How it holds up with time I can’t say for sure, but here’s what that UTG does, it reduces some friction so the all-round touch experience on the Fold 2 feels a bit smoother. There’s still a protective film of plastic at the top that you’re advised against peeling off or even so much as scratching with your finger, plus a pre-installed screen guard that attracts a lot of dust and fingerprints.
The other big change comes in the form of screen size. The inner screen is 7.6-inch now and has a uniform plastic bezel all around it as opposed to the Fold’s smaller 7.3-inch display where the bezels were frankly all over the place. Not only does this bode well for looks and experience, it also helps protect the flexible display from all that folding and unfolding you’re going to do with it. There is still a visible crease where it folds though, so that’s something that you’ll have to get used to, the way you get used to punch hole cut-outs. Speaking of which, the Fold 2 has one on the inner screen (as well as on the cover). This houses a 10MP camera.
The inner display is dynamic AMOLED (QXGA+ resolution) this time which means that it has a high refresh rate of 120Hz.
The cover display is bigger too. At 6.2-inch (this was just 4.6-inch in the original) it is actually useful now. Useful in the sense that you can choose to use the Fold 2 like a regular smartphone though its tall 25:9 aspect ratio will need some time getting used to. The cover display is Super AMOLED with an HD+ resolution.
A combination of a bigger inner screen with minimal bezels and a layer of glass underneath paired with a high refresh rate ensures that the Fold makes a lot of sense as a mini tablet now than it did last year. The cover screen also comes handy for most tasks rather than being just another parlour trick.
Now because Android is so bad on tablets, Samsung had to do its own thing to make things work and add a value proposition to the Fold 2’s unique form factor. The Fold 2 runs Android 10-based One UI software by the way.
The first feature worth talking about is app continuity which allows an app you open on the outer screen to automatically switch to the inner display when you unfold the Fold 2. There will be instances where an app will need to close and reopen when you do this but it works most of the time, plus because all of this is app dependent, Samsung has little role to play here.
Second is multi-window support. This allows you to run three apps side by side on the Fold 2’s inner screen. That’s in addition to Samsung’s floating windows that allow for more apps to remain open simultaneously basis of your mileage. Samsung’s software also lets you pair up to three apps so you can open them all at the same time. Again, all of this is app-dependent.
The third feature is Flex mode that lets you prop the Fold 2 up on a surface and run two apps simultaneously, for instance, the camera viewfinder on the upper end and gallery app on the lower. The angle of the fold can be adjusted as per your need. While not many apps support this, the ones that do, work well.
All these features are surely not new, but there’s a general fluidity to them in the Fold 2. Everything feels snappier and that’s a good thing. Samsung also lets you set system-wide tablet mode if you’re really looking to take the Fold 2 out for a swing.
Fold 2 hardware
- Under the hood, the Fold 2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor and there is support for 5G connectivity. This makes it Samsung’s most powerful phone in India right now, and it’s a big deal because its most powerful conventional phone, aka Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G comes with an Exynos 990 here.
- The Fold 2 has 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage – this is non-expandable.
- The foldable has three rear cameras, a 12MP main, 12MP ultrawide-angle, and another 12MP telephoto. Don’t buy the Fold 2 for its cameras.
- Battery capacity is 4,500mAh and there is fast wired and wireless charging.
- There is no headphone jack. It does have stereo speakers which can get really loud.
- Like the original, the Fold 2 also has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner for biometrics.
- There’s no IP-rating.
To sum up
The Fold 2 is a classic example of how a brand, even of the stature of Samsung, can turn the tide if it takes time out to listen, listen carefully, and make products in tune with the audience rather than going the other way round. It is only then it can launch better products. Remember this is the same company that came back even stronger after the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. The original Fold was also a fiasco in an entirely different way. But it did not stop Samsung. The company actually took feedback, went back to the drawing board, and fixed all the grueling issues with the original Fold.
If you are someone who has seen and spent some time with the original Fold, or fancied it, you’d be instantly in awe of what Samsung has been able to pull off here. The Fold 2 is both surprisingly solid and shockingly addictive.
Samsung has launched the Fold 2 in India at an aggressive price of Rs 1,49,999. The reason why it is aggressive is because India price of the Fold 2 is same as its US price which is $1,999. The Fold 2 India price is also aggressive considering its predecessor’s launch price. The original Galaxy Fold was launched in India at Rs 1,65,000.
Clearly, the Fold 2 tries to improve upon almost every aspect and while it is still far from being perfect, it is important that it exists today. I liked the original Fold too but it was not a recommended buy. I have similar thoughts about the Fold 2 as well but I think that it surely deserves a second look. Watch this space for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G in the days to come.