Answering Your MagSafe Wallet Questions

Despite ordering weeks ago, out of the blue my MagSafe Wallet turned up yesterday. I happily posted a picture on Twitter and all of a sudden quite a few people wanted to ask questions about it. So, I thought I might as well answer them all at once.

How Many Cards Can You Fit In It?

There is space for three cards to fit, that’s it. No more. However, the case is quite a snag fit so you won’t have any issues using one or to cards in there without them falling out.

There is also obviously no space for money, it’s very minimalist.

What Colour Did You Get

I opted for Baltic Blue, which pairs really well with the Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro I have, and also the Blue silicone case I occasionally use.

How Strong Are The Magnets

The real question we all wanted to know. The short answer is they will be fine. However, the longer one is, probably not as strong as they should be.

When in use I don’t think the wallet will slide off without you knowing about it, but it doesn’t sit nearly as solidly as the iPad Magic Keyboard. Particularly at the bottom it doesn’t take much force to move it around, and when using the phone you can feel it move around some times.

The reality is if you are not paying attention and wearing slim fitting trousers it may come off when you put your phone in your pocket. Using the wallet with a case adds a bit more friction, but I would like to see the address in a future update — I don’t think it is as secure as it should be.

Can You Charge With It On?

Nope, not at all, no wireless chargers work with the wallet attached. Not only it is probably too thick, but the wallet is shielded so you don’t ruin your cards, so nothing will get through anyway.

About The iPhone 12 Design

As soon as Apple showed off the iPhone 12 new design I was already dubious about how it would feel in the hand. Flat edges are great to look at, but there is a reason that no one uses them for modern smartphones. Put simply your hands are curved.

Sure the design of the iPhone 4/5 is lauded above all others, and the flat sides are part of that excellent design package, but this was at a time when screens and screen-time counts were much smaller. It still is a truly iconic design, but when your screen is 6.1inches and the phone weighs in at 183g it just doesn’t work.

Undoubtedly, some people love the new design. Looking at it from afar it’s easy to see the huge change in design, and how great it looks. However, design has as much to do with function as it does form, and this just doesn’t work in your hand. The edges are uncomfortable, the weight is needlessly excessive, and it hurts my hands to use it.

Perhaps I am spoilt. After using the Pixel 5 and Note 20 ultra, they both feature a great feel it the hand. With the Pixel 5 sporting a similar 6inch screen in a much smaller, more ergonomic package that truly is a wonder to use. Sure it doesn’t feature the same types of materials, but high quality doesn’t mean great design. New users must take this into account when thinking about buying an iPhone 12 Pro especially.

I can understand why the change has been made. The iPad Pro, and new iPad Air, share a similar aesthetic and it’s important to reflect this in your line up. Without changing the design of the iPhone 12, what actually would have been updated from the iPhone 11? Growth at all costs leads to changes for changes sake, and you can claim that the flat design is ”timeless iPhone design” all you like. The fact remains that the iPhones design was curved for much longer than to was ever flat. For good reason.

The once notorious equal chin and forehead bezels with a round home button could be picked out in a crowed market. This iconic design has been replaced with the notched all screen display. Apple did not need to flatten the edges to make the iPhone stand out, it needed to work harder to build value to the design they have.

Perhaps the iPhone 12 mini will feel much better, perhaps it’s a non issue that people will get used to, and no doubt we will see loads of copycat designs now. However, right here, right now there is a reason other phones are not flat because they are designed to use not to look at. When all is said and done, a £1000 should feel better than this.

Pixel 5 Review

It’s been three years since I used a Pixel device. Not since the first version was I even motivated to pick one up and try it out. They all excelled in specific areas, but always suffered from some frankly jaw-dropping issues or hardware omissions — and when they somewhat sorted it all out with the Pixel 4 they wanted to charge premium prices and not deliver on the premium part.

Something changed with the Pixel 5. Amid a pandemic Google began to focus on what they could do to bring a device together, and perhaps what their customers wanted. So instead of weird and wonderful new developments they absolutely promise to develop, they took half a step back. Creating a device that leans on tried and tested hardware, not the bleeding edge. Just reliable specs, done well and priced at a point that Google felt it can complete.

At £599 in the UK (yay for no mmWave) it is a steal of a smartphone. Googles very own Android version, on hardware chosen to run it at peak optimisations — or at least thats what we are led to believe.



Mid-tear Performance

Despite there being loads of progress in this middle-top section (between £400-£800) the Pixel has an advantage that it is Googles flagship. So, it gets more development attention than many phones at this price point. While some companies cut things out to save costs and also not overshadow their top-tier handsets, Google can put in as much as they can for the price point they want to hit. While augments can be made that the Pixel 5 doesn’t have the bleeding edge of everything like other flagships, when you look at a phone such as the Note 20 Ultra, the Pixel 5 is half the price.

In actual use these supposed cuts are mostly nowhere to be found. The Snapdragon 765G provides more than enough power for every situation. Sure it isn’t as powerful as the 865, but who actually uses the power that these chips possess? I would challenge anyone that uses this phone to find any stutter or lag, or any situations where the thought of having a more powerful processor ever crops up. Even whilst gaming and editing images the phone never misses a beat — I am sure you could find lag somewhere that is caused directly by the processor but I have never seen it.

Usability

In fact, this ‘cut’ leads to battery life that is truly unbelievable. Let me say that again because it has never happened on a Google phone before — the battery life is insanely good. In fact, I can’t kill it! 8 hours screen on time is achievable, and some of my more leisurely days this week I got almost two days of use. Something helped by Googles option for a more reserved battery life processor, and no doubt software optimisations, squeezed every minute possible out of the 4080mAh battery.

Use it a lot I did because it is such a delight to use. The build quality feel, the ergonomic design and this hardware combination make a hard to resist package. Whilst the screen is a long way off the highest resolution on the market, its 6inch 1080 × 2340 (432 ppi) is one you won’t find major issues with, but it is very dim and the auto-brightness terribly slow.

Some slowdown or issues you may usually find in mid range hardware is smoothed out by the 90hz. Colours are natural and very pleasing to the eye, while text is sharp and the screen is all around absolutely fine to use. As we find with many of the choices made when building the Pixel 5, many words are written about the lack or this and that — but when you actually use it the phone, you realise what really matters.

There is no XL version this year, meaning that the Pixel 5 sits somewhere between the two, and with slim bezels and all metal build. In my opinion, this phone is the best feeling smartphone this year. The design may put some off as boring or utilitarian, but in a world on folding smartphones and weird innovations, Goole have carved out a simple but pleasing ‘candy bar’ smartphone that is both functional and still notably a Pixel.



The Sage colour I have is the only colour you should consider, the black version just doesn’t have the same appeal as the mottled green matte resin Google have covered the back in. This covering over the Aluminium body provides some rigidity to the design, meaning that wireless coils can be covered up, and the device always feel welcoming.

The design only broken by a slightly recessed fingerprint sensor, one that is fast and reliable and secure. It is a little strange to go back to rear mounted sensors after using more modern biometric options, but after a few moments it becomes smooth and natural, and you begin to wonder why things ever changed. Face unlock is fine, but this phone was designed in a pandemic, so you can understand the switch.

Camera

Since the very first version, Google put all its marketing and development into the Pixel Camera. It took top marks on DxOMarkMobile then, and has ranked very highly since then. The Pixel 5 continues this successful trend of doing more with less, and takes some truly amazing pictures. Its focus on black magic level image processing has led it to be lauded above many much more expensive phones and while it is still an extremely great camera, this year the sensor has really started to show its age.

Google definitely has its reasons, it couldn’t find another sensor to work very well with its processing algorithms, there is no avoiding the fact that newer more modern sensors are frankly much better. The 12MP IMX363 which first appeared on the Pixel 3, and is not far removed from the one on the Pixel 2, is now a long way behind larger higher quality sensors. While Google bridged the gaps with software in days past, the competition now takes as good, if not better shots.

With that said, the Camera is a delight to use — capturing images quickly and easily and achieving photos to be proud of in almost any situation. It punches well above it weight at only £599, and the edition of an ultra-wide lens makes it much more versatile.

The Pixel 5, as with those that have gone before it, excels in low light, and makes a mean portrait, but most of this is post-processing, so what you see in the preview window might not actually what the image turns out as. It also could be different again when you look at the photo on Google Photos later. Frankly that is usually a great thing, if a little baffling at first, and Google makes it easier to edit or revert changes made. Introducing a process of being able to change the angle of the light in portrait shots. Something that I feel only Google would do, and is amazing to play with, but ultimately, one of those features no-one uses.

Software

Which brings us to a larger discussion about Google and Pixel version of Android. It’s a version that crops up nowhere else. A few that get close, but no-one does it as well. The Pixel always stays true to a Google vision of their OS, pushing features to it first, or sometimes exclusively to the Pixel Line.

This is one huge reason why the Pixel doesn’t need the top of the range processor because Android on the Pixel is nearly always fast and smooth. You get updates first, with Android 11 on board a long time before some are every shipping Android 10 to handsets. Google have also promised this for three years from release, so users will always be up to date — but what happens when Android isn’t optimised for this processor is anyone’s guess.

There are loads of software delights that you sometimes stubble on such as the power menu now highlighting compatible smart home gadgets and Google Pay cards. Unfortunately, my version does not feature the Google Assistant On Hold feature as it is US only, but does have live transcribe for any audio just a tap away at any point.

Google want Android to be as useful as possible while collecting data it can use to sell you things and companies adverts. We are all well are of that, and Android on the Pixel is the best possible version of that. You forgive the little quirks and the pestering for maps reviews because the OS is straightforward and a delight to use. Surfacing information, sending you notifications when you need them and being all around a great experience. There is nothing getting in the way on a Pixel, no third-party layers of options, not OEM themes. Just you and Google, and I like that.

Conclusion

It’s easy to sum up a Pixel device. Good software, great camera and some compromises somewhere — but with the Pixel 5 they have found their hardware mojo. By actually stepping back and building a device for the current circumstances, they have made ultimately a better phone. No gimmicks, nothing new to learn, just tried and tested hardware all wrapped up in hardware that delivers.

I feel like my review is about a thousand words too short, but because we know what we are getting with Googles best the words have already been written. The Pixel 5 does open up a more interesting topic around the demand for keeping up to a specification race no-one needs, but when you pick up the device and use it all of that falls away.

You can point at this spec and that spec, but when you combine these things together in a Google package the Pixel 5 punches well above its weight. Although the camera shows its age, it’s still a delight to use and its software smarts sorts out shooting errors anyway. This is easily the best Pixel ever — and I wouldn’t recommend you buy anything else unless the few ‘cuts’ are things you simply can’t do without.



Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review

When I sit down and think about doing a review, I want to answer the questions I would have about using a device. I think about the unique things that make this phone worth while, and the things I need answering in order to buy one. When it comes to the Galaxy Note line of handsets it is becoming harder and harder to differentiate them past a stylus – but there’s actually a lot to look at in my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.

I realise that I am doing these two phones in the wrong order. Before the Galaxy Z Fold 2 came the Note 20 Ultra. But given how different the Fold is to use, arguably the better device sat in the side lines and waited its turn. I always give these phone a good use, I’m not one of these people the spends a day with a second sim in a phone and moves on, I’ve been using the Note 20 Ultra as my only phone for a few weeks now and I have to say I’m impressed.

The new Note 20 line up, although confusing, is one of the most interesting advances in this line for quite a while. This line topping Ultra model packs all the top of the line specs you’d expect and also expands on new technology first seen in the Galaxy S20 Ultra. This phone has been taken to a point where it is almost perfect on paper in every way, and although paper doesn’t always tell the tale of a smartphone, the premium nature of the Note 20 Ultra is apparent straight away.

Topping the scales at a mere 208 grams, it is surprisingly light for a device sporting a 6.9inch screen. Although it doesn’t feel light in any way, it is only 50g heavier than an iPhone SE that is a small portion of the size. Every inch of the phone feels premium and well made, with the matte backed Mystic Bronze version I have only adding to the appeal of such a premium smartphone experience. Its boxy, thin, glass and metal design carries on the same signature features as the phones before it but takes a step up in quality and finish.

Camera

Unfortunately we can’t go much further into talking about handling the phone without talking about that huge camera bump. It is ridiculous whichever way you look at it, a design choice that should be inexcusable. Not being afraid of the camera bump is one thing, but not designing it into the back of your phone is another. It makes the device slightly top heavy when holding, wobble when on a table, and also affects some stand up wireless chargers – so be fair warned the design choice does affect more than it looking a bit ugly.

With all that said I would live with the monstrous bump to get the camera it has inside it. The three camera set up is a delight to use, and gets some amazing results. I have never been the biggest fan of Samsung cameras, but this time I am blown away by the improvements. It might be the new 108mp main camera, it could be the assisted laser focus that removes much of the focus hunting plaguing the S20 Ultra. Or it could be Samsung’s improved processing of images. All of these things combine to make a camera that for once is a genuine competitor to iPhone shooters.

Not because phones before it got bad results, but because you no longer have to work for it. I have very little need to go into pro mode unless I want a specific look from my images, I can confidently point and shoot and get great results almost all of the time. Unless you play about with the setting the main camera takes snaps with the 108mp camera and then uses “nona-binning, pixel binning by a factor of nine” meaning your images retain loads of detail but don’t take up a huge amount of room on you phone. Making them much easier to share with people and social media.

You can opt to take images at the full resolution with a few taps, but there are very few reasons to do so. The main sensor is flanked by two 12mp sensors, one f2.2 ultra wide and one f3.0 telephoto. Each one giving the excellent results we expect from Samsung cameras, I particularly enjoy shooting with the ultra wide due to its 120 degree field of view.

Sure there are some instances in low light that grain creeps in, and sometimes it has a tendency to over expose, but 99/100 you are going to get a shot you are happy with. One word of warning though, the zoom can be a little fiddly and sometimes takes a few moments to realise which lens it should be using. In fact in anything other than good light, a zoomed photo will be using a cropped in version taken on the main camera lens and not the telephoto at all – but you will get great results regardless.

With regards the the 50x zoom, it’s usable but wont come in handy very often, whereas the 10x and even in some situations the 20x still gives out nice results and keeps plenty of detail in the shot.

Screen

As with every large screened phone, the in-camera experience allows for many more controls to be packed onto the screen, and still leave a large view finder. The 6.9″ edge Quad HD+ Dynamic screen is capable of 3088×1440 (496ppi) and 120hz refresh rate — but not at the same time.

This is frustrating to say the least, however I opted for the higher refresh rate of the two choices and suffer no ill effects. The screen is still pin sharp at FHD, vibrant and colour rich to make images and text really stand out.

Can we spare a moment to talk about these curved screens that Samsung keep insisting on producing. I am not sure they have ever been a good idea, and although the software does an ok job of rejecting unintended touches, it makes the phone much harder to grip onto. I simply have to use a case when using the Note 20 Ultra outside for fear of dropping it. Leading it to invariably shatter into a million pieces given its almost entirely glass construction.

The factory applied screen protector is frankly garbage. It has already started to gather dust around the top of my screen, and retains prints like it’s trying to collect them all. It should be one of the first things you replace if you don’t want to be polishing your phone all the time. Thankfully the Mystic Bronze version at least fends them off on the back, but if you opt for Mystic Black version it can get very annoying very quickly.

It is finished in Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass Victus, so should stand up to most things, but remove the screen protector at your own risk.

Finger Print Sensor

A criticism of the finger print sensors speed and accuracy posed by most reviews thankfully has been unproven in most cases. Although after a couple of weeks of use it is for some reason much slower, requiring me to record my prints again to improve results. The under screen sensor is a little strange to get used to, I am never quite sure where to place my finger on the screen, and I would much prefer one on the back with a tactile place to highlight where to put it. With that said it is light years easier than putting in on the side of the phone, and I combine this with face unlock to mean that the device is usually unlocked before I realise it.

Thankfully the Note 20 Ultra doesn’t blow past the lock screen once authenticated like phones of old, making interacting with the device much easier and very rarely needing to see the home screen if receiving a notification.

Battery Life

This is not something I usually have to call out specifically in a modern phone review. Usually a few passing remarks are enough to pitch this in the realms of all day battery life. However this version of the Note 20 I have, the UK Exynos version, is frankly rubbish.

In the first few days of usage I struggled to get 4 hours screen on time. Opting to leave everything as is out of the box and opting for 120hz refresh rate, and reaching for the charger a long time before I should be doing. When really digging into the setting and putting apps to sleep when you don’t need them etc 4 hours is achievable, but I frankly refuse to have to start turning off location, Bluetooth etc just to get good battery life.

Samsungs insistence to use their own processors in phones is inhibiting the experience for users, and when the Snapdragon version can see more than 90minute more SOT than this version it is frankly unacceptable. The experience of your device shouldn’t be limited by where you live, and I hope this is addressed very quickly. Galaxy Notes are usually known for their battery life, but this falls well short of the mark currently — bordering on completely unacceptable.

I have watched countless hours of videos claiming to have a set up that will improve my battery life, I have contacted Samsung who refuse to admit there is an issue. The fact remains the battery life is shockingly bad given the 4500 mAh capacity. Supporting fast charging of 25w and wireless of 15w is no replacement for battery life optimisations done in production.

Software

I can almost copy and paste my experience with Samsung from any other phone I have used from them in the last couple of years. The Note 20 Ultra features Android 10 and has Samsungs One UI 2.5 on top of this to add in additional features. I might be looked at a bit funny for saying this, but I really like ONEUI now it has matured a little. Of all the skins Samsung have done the best job in redefining what Android feels like, but also retain its charm and underlying features.

The tie with Microsoft again runs very deep with OneUI, and features almost every Google service matched, by not only a Samsung version, but also now a Microsoft version. A promised update later in the year with further attempt to solidify that partnership with task and note syncing between the two companies. Something that those tied into Office 365 will look at very seriously.

Unfortunately, for Samsung, some things still fall short and get frustrating in parts. The Software is still bloated with advert and notifications to use new features. You’re never quite sure if to update the app in Samsung Store or Google Play, and weirdness continues throughout the OS. The most frustrating of all is syncing a Microsoft 365 calendar to the stock Samsung app just gets you stuck in an endless loop. You must install the Samsung email to enable sync, yet are encouraged to use Outlook.



I am almost at the stage where I wish Samsung would just ditch Android and produce their own OS. They are stuck in this three-way pull between themselves, Google and Microsoft, leaving the end user slightly confused at what to use. Yet outside of this almost expected weirdness the OS is light, fast, and a pleasure to use.

Muti-taking

One of the biggest improvements made to the new devices is the ability to multitask more easily. Much like the Galaxy Fold 2, you can create app pairing stored in the side bar for easy opening of your most used pairings. Although only limited to top and bottom split, using the phone in landscape does allow for quite a lot of information to be displayed thanks to that big screen, so comes in more useful than you might think.

Of course option exist for floating windows, pinned notes on the screen and all manor of options to get things done. What this really shows is the sheer ability of both the OS and the underlying hardware to multitask with minimal effort. You can have 2 or 3 pretty intensive apps open at a time and never see the Note 20 Ultra miss a beat.

I would love to see drag and drop implemented into more apps, and Samsung work more closely with the Office team to allow for dragging over documents into email for example. I get the feeling this may be coming in future version, as Microsoft are already onboard with integrating services and also allowing for S Pen usage in more apps.

S Pen

It could be said that this is one of the major selling points of owning a Note series phone. When in practice I am never sure how many people use it sparingly and only for very few functions. Most long term users talk about never taking it out after the first month, so usefulness is clearly subjective.

How many people are writing notes on their screen, colouring in or annotating Pdf document remains to be seen. I do do all of those things, but my most used interaction with the S Pen is to allow another interaction element to exist.

Not only does the S Pen allow for much more accurate interaction with apps — Samsung have reduced latency from 45ms down to 9ms — it also allows for different options when in use. I can scrub through video with my finger but trim the start and end points with the S Pen. I can draw on an image while selecting elements with my finger, and any number of app interactions. I am already well onboard with a stylus as a separate interaction element, but the Note 20 proves to me that Samsung got this dead right by sticking with the included S Pen.

The real beauty is, if you don’t want to use it, you never have to pop it out of the bottom of the device ever again. I mean who actually uses it to take photos or wave it around like some kind of magic spell to go backwards on a web page.



Conclusion

I have used every version of the note line to date, bar the exploding one and the weird one that never launched in the UK. Some are great, some mediocre. The Note 20 Ultra hits every mark you want it to, bar battery life, it is a premium smartphone that feels like it’s worth very penny of the £1200 you pay for it. Those that use it will feel like they are using the best phone on the market, it seemingly does everything, has a huge gorgeous screen and packs a top of the line camera.

It’s hard to find downsides to the Galaxy Note Ultra — but then I shouldn’t be able to for this price. No words seem to quite get anywhere to summing it up other than, it’s great. When all phones are now the size of the Note line it’s hard to find a major differentiator other than an S Pen. If Samsung phones are your thing, you are getting a more refined version of the S20 in the Note 20 — one you wont be disappointed with.

Is Mystic Bronze Actually Pink?


After frequenting the Galaxy Fold owners forums and subreddits, one of the biggest and most asked questions is in relation to Samsungs new colour ‘Mystic Bronze’. Whilst it sounds all mysterious with the marketing panache of Apple’s colours — what people really want to know is if it is pink, and if so how pink is it really.

This is a difficult question to answer. Not because there isn’t enough of them about, there are loads of hands on videos and review of both the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and also the Galaxy Z Fold 2 — with Samsung providing Mystic Bronze to every reviewer. More so because there is a lot to take into account when deciding on a colour as complex as this one.

Much like the new Midnight Green colour that the iPhone 11 Pro comes in, Mystic Bronze looks different in different lights. Its matte texture adds to the colour shift and in many instances it appears very bronze coloured. Looking straight on at the phone you would be hard pushed to call the colour anything other than a muted bronze. However when you look at the phone in your hand, the camera bump, rings around the camera sensors and also the top and bottom edges have a much more Pink hue to them.

It is only when you place the phone next to contrasting colours such as dark jeans or a dark desk, that you really see the pink hue come to life. In comparison to something that is actually is bronze coloured there is really no comparison to the colour. While this defiantly isn’t rose gold, its not bronze either.

Adding A Case

You’d think that this could be mediated by putting a case on your phone, and while that is a great idea in principle it actually adds to the Pink colour. By isolating the Camera unit the phone takes on more of a pink vibe and may make some people even more unhappy. So bare this in mind if you are thinking about getting this colour.

Personally I think this colour is great and those that go for it will be very happy with its overall finish and it’s resistance to finger prints. However bear in mind that this phone defiantly is pinkish.


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G Review

About 10 months ago, I was invited down by Samsung KX to have a few hours hands on with their first folding phone. Mere months after it had been recalled due to major issues with the device, it was back with a bang, and already picking up quite a following. The appeal of having a tablet folded up in your pocket had a much larger pull than the £1500 price tag, as was the exciting move forward in technology that Samsung had been teasing for years.

Despite really liking the phone, it wasn’t ready for me to splash my own cash on it, there were far too many compromises with handset for me to bear. Fast-forward to now as the second version goes on sale, with many of the first versions issues fixed — but with a hefty price increase. Has Samsung done enough to justify the £1800 ($2000) price tag?



Premium Feel

There are lots of people that get annoyed when you talk about the price of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in reviews. They think that this shouldn’t be brought into it as there is nothing that lives up to the Folds usability. While this true, it is impossible to escape the £1800 price tag and the expectations it brings with it. You expect a premium smartphone with top of the line specs — and that is exactly what you get from the handset. In the hand it feels nothing short of magical, the weight (282g) is impossible to describe as anything else but heavy, but in the hand it is balanced perfectly.

Especially folded, the unit sinks into your hand with a reassuring heft. Samsung have done some great engineering to get all the technology in this size package, but you feel the weight every time you use it. There are no creaks or cracks from this Uber Smartphone, so the engineering needs some special appreciation when compared to others on the market.

Samsung have developed the hinge much further forward when compared to last years unit, and taken over much of the function from the Z Flip. Four CAM hinges allow the phone to be oped to whichever angle you wish, and provides more resistance to opening to allow more usability. Combined with a sweeper system to remove dust from the hinge should mean that this unit resists the issues plaguing the first attempt, and certainly those still using the Z Flip support this claim.

This re-engineered hinge further adds to the premium feel for the Galaxy Z Fold 2, where every part of the hardware feels thought through and designed to exude a certain type of extravagant image. As Flossy Carter says, you are going to see lots of images of these on tables surrounded by glasses of Cristal. There is a certain exuberance to the Galaxy Fold 2, and lots of flexing going on simply because it delivers on it premium price tag.

Screens

Perhaps the number one complaint against the first version of the Galaxy Fold was the tiny cover screen. While perfectly useful for notification triaging, on a device so futuristic it felt out of place. So, understandably this is the first thing that is immediately obvious when using the Fold 2. The cover screen now fills almost the entirety of the front of the phone minus a small hole punch camera cut out.

At 6.2” (2260×816 – 386ppi – 60hz ) the cover screen is now more usable, and even if a bit narrow to type on, is perfect for quick tasks or responding to notifications. Enabling swiping on the keyboard makes interacting with the keyboard at bit easier, but this is not to say it is impossible. The tall, narrow screen is perfectly suited to scrolling through emails or social media. Using the cover screen grows on you more than the last version ever did, and I found myself interacting with it much more than I thought I would.

However, why have a huge screen and not use it, open up the fold and the beauty of the screen is a wonder to behold. Samsung have done away with the huge notch from the first version as well as boosting the size and refresh rate (2208×1768 – 373ppi – 120hz). Dubbed the ‘Infinity Flex’ display, it goes closer to the edge now, encompassing the whole of the device, bar Samsungs signature hold punch.

Apps in use on the cover screen carry over to the inside screen (bar a little bit of weirdness from some), to give you something truly immersive. When using the inner screen it feels like you are moving pixels around the screen. The adaptive display varies refresh rate from 11zh all the way up to 120hz, meaning that no matter that you are doing you will get great battery life and also a smooth scrolling experience. The Jelly scroll that the original fold suffered from is not completely removed but almost impossible to spot.



It’s hard to find a downside to this gorgeous display, games look great, reading is brilliant and videos immersive. When open the device feels balanced and perfectly poised in your hand for media consumption, and many users will see little reason to use anything else for all of their needs. The inner display is truly why you would buy the Galaxy fold, and this version truly delivers.

Of course there is one, the screen has a crease in the middle that is hard to avoid. Much like any other foldable, you can feel it in usage, you can see it in some instances but not every one. The great thing is that it does not take away anything when you are using the device, it doesn’t stick out and in fact soon fades into the background like a notched screen, or the camera hole punch.

Usability

So, you want to actually use the thing right? Well all of that reassuring weight we have spoken about, it’s also going to affect it in your pocket and in your hand. There is no getting away from this phone/tablet hybrid being heavy. I found myself struggling to hold it up when open, and resorted to using both hands most of the time — but that’s the point right.

In this heavy package you get two screens, and battery life that will get you loads of screen onetime if you use the larger screen most of the time — and considerably more if you use the outer screen more. Even in the first week of me using the Fold 2 and playing with it what felt like constantly, I would still be at more than 25% when going to bed. You should comfortably be able to get 6hours of screen on time and still have battery left over, which is amazing results considering battery life should also get better as the OS analyses my usage and improves things. If the next model slims things down, I would hope that battery life stays as good as it is because an increase in weight is worth it.

You can’t expect a Galaxy fold to be as light as a regular phone can you, this is simply the trade off with wanting and using one of these devices. While something like the Z flip balances the reassuring weight without feeling clumsy, the Z Fold feels a little unwieldy when out and about. Bending the phone slightly helps to fit it better in your hand, but obviously adds a little distortion to the screen.

Flex Mode

Expanding on the special mode introduced with the Z Flip, the Z Fold 2 allows apps to take advantage of a partially folded state. As an example Youtube in Flex mode shows a video on the top half of the screen, allowing you to interact with the comments on the bottom half. Google Duo also supports this as does the native camera app.

The limited nature of this and the lack of visual clues means you may spend a bit of time experimenting to find out what does and doesn’t support it — and often this is more no than yes. I am yet to find any reason to use it outside of novelty, especially given the lack of people actually using Google Duo. I wouldn’t go out of my way to encourage others to use it, just so I can flex my phone.

More often that not, a partial flexed form is used simply to enable me to set my phone down and still watch a video, or prop it up to keep an eye on the time. As app developers update apps we might see some more innovative use of flex mode, but given the lack of support so far I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Tablet Mode

Which leads me into another issue with app support, and the lack of tablet layout from apps. It could be the weird aspect ratio, it could be Android apps as a whole, but many apps make little use of the bigger screen.

Apps like Outlook are a delight to use, and offer different layouts and view options, but most just put more content on the screen with no options to increase text size or improve readability. Samsung does offers options in settings to choose between blowing the app up or trying to force more content. Combined with further options in Samsungs own Goodlock app, you can tune most things to work, but it takes a considerable amount of work.



Muti-Tasking Master

All these words can be ignored if you want the biggest screen possible on a smartphone to do your ‘stuff’. If you need a device to work on the go, consume loads of media, or just want to blow everything up as large as possible you’ll put up with all the downsides.

Samsung have put in a great deal of work to make the Fold 2 take advantage of the large inner screen and make it as useful as possible. It is a delight to use two apps side by side when multi taking. Having email and calendar up on the screen while talking on the phone, or simply watching YouTube while texting is quite frankly a transformative experience. Sure you can do that on a tablet, but you can’t then fold it up and put it in your pocket. If being productive on the go is your bag, then this needs to be your phone.

I am on the fence about how usable Flex mode is, but the amazing app pairing done by OneUI is something that you may struggle to live without. Other phones such as the Note20 Ultra do this as well, but nowhere near on the same level.

Software

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 runs on Android 10 and has Samsungs One UI 2.5 on top of this to add in additional features. It comes bundled with the expected Google services but also several Microsoft ones baked in, such as syncing your photos to OneDrive. There is very little to say about Android nowadays, as it functions exactly as expected and is intuitive to use. The tie with Microsoft is due to get stronger with improvements to note and reminders syncing with MS products as they take aim at productivity customers.

Unfortunately, for Samsung, they seem to never really get services 100% correct. Photo sync only works with a Microsoft account, not a Microsoft 365 account which is frankly bizarre. A Microsoft 365 calendar does not sync to the stock calendar unless you instal the Samsung email app, yet you are encouraged to use Outlook.

Samsung does provide, in my opinion, the best extension or ‘skin’ on Android around today. Samsung’s design and user experience are often a delight to use. They have really thought about a modern design that doesn’t deviate too far from stock Android design, but offers something uniquely Samsung. Of course that is a subject view point, but since OneUI was introduced the design and implementation of their software has improved dramatically.

I just wish Samsung didn’t feel the need to fill their apps full of adverts, or useless information at every turn. Even the default weather app has news articles and rubbish crammed in it for no good reason. I know it takes very little to change these apps to others, I just don’t expect to see these kinds of things in default apps on an £1800 phone. Some users have already reported adverts and the usual shady tactics by Samsung, something that needs to be fixed if they want to be taken seriously.

Changes to your life

When you adopt the Fold 2 it changes the way you use your phone. Both in a positive and a negative way. The large screen allows you to do things that you simply can’t any other phone, it provides something that only the Z Fold can provide. It is in essence a folding tablet, and there are adjustments you will have to make to the way you use it.

Taking out the Fold 2 and walking around gives you a level of anxiety that nothing else has given me. The slippery body and high price tag make me nervous every time my phone makes a noise. There are already reports of some dropages, and it seems to hold up pretty well, but the lack of cases and expected large repair bills leave me worried, and I am not the only one. Due to longevity worries on the UTG screen and no IP rating, users are worried even about cleaning the device correctly.

The inner screen still has a tendency to scratch easily, and you’ll need to take some extra care. You won’t be using this at the beach, or throwing it into the bottom of a bag, but if long-time users of other foldable phones are anything to go by it should hold up ok. It is just another thing you need to think about when choosing a device like this.

I have to treat this phone with an extra amount of care, and in some instances change the way I use it. Which is what a foldable device dictates, you are carrying around a huge screen in your pocket and as such you’ll be opening it as much as possible to really take advantage. The screen draws you in and makes many tasks much easier, such as typing out a long email on the split keyboard.

Camera

If there is anything I can point the finger at that is simply not good enough it is the camera. There is nothing inherently wrong with the shooter, but at this super flagship price point it is simply not good enough.

You can get some good shots from it, but be prepared to work for them and chuck 30-40% of them in the bin. In good light you are going to be happy with almost everything you take, despite not holding the most amount of detail they could, shots are bright and as with all Samsung images retain a vibrant saturation. In any other situation they are grainy, washed out and suffer from some kind of strange skin smoothing effort despite the option being switched off.

When trying to discus this with others that have the phone you are told to use Pro mode and do this and that, or simply blamed for the results. While it great that these options exist for you to have control over the image you take, I don’t feel you should have to do this is take a good shot. Undoubtedly the Galaxy Z Fold 2 gets the job done but when great cameras like the iPhone 11, Pixel 4 and OnePlus 8 take images with zero input, this camera falls well short of what I expect.

There are other things you get with this phones camera that no one else provides. The huge screen is the best view finder possible, even if it does feel like you’re one of those people that takes pictures with a tablet. As well as the software ‘flex mode’ allowing you to set the phone down half flexed to stabilise your image, or simply view images you have snapped in the bottom half. Bear in mind though you have to place the phone down on its screen to do this.

Conclusion

While I would stop short of recommending this phone to others because of cost and the ways in which you need to change the way you use your phone, for a certain type of user this is going to be invaluable. It provides something to no other device on the market can provide, not just in the way it works, but the way it makes you feel. You feel as though you are using a little slice of the future and getting something out of your phone that no-one else does.

I can somewhat forgive the camera because I am getting a folding device that immerses me into whatever I want to do. You can play games, multi-task and consume media on this like no other device can and that speaks volumes. I love the Galaxy Z Fold 2 because it has that little something about it, it’s not the best at everything but it provides something unique and does it brilliantly.

If you really want a folding tablet, then look no further than this model. It fixes all the issues from the first one and puts them in a premium package that feels worth very bit of the price you are paying. But let’s be clear, to buy the Galaxy Z Fold 2 you need to really want a folding tablet because you will pay for it. Both in the high price tag and also in the caveats of having such a large device.

It comes down to do the advantages of having such a large screen to use, out weigh the downsides of carrying it around on your pocket all the time. For me, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 feels like wearing your winter coat all year because it is cold half the time, but for others this is going to be a game changer.

Hands On With The Galaxy Fold

My first impressions were pretty impressed actually. I used the phone for around 4 hours and got to put it thorough all its paces, apart from battery life. That remains to be seen, but the small number of people that do have them in their packets are reporting pretty decent battery life.

When we first were handed the phones, the Samsung guy went into full-on PR mode. I get the impression that there have been a small number of people asking about the phone, and the company is concerned with the negative press. Which is spot on, they asked me through everything that was changed with the phone, and interestingly precisely what went wrong with the first version.

Having never touched the first version I can’t speak of the differences but the silver and black units I got to use were both very robustly built and are defiantly using quality materials. The weight is a little heavier than an iPhone 11 pro but considerably heavier than something like the Note 10+ I had in my pocket. The most surprising place you feel it is when it’s in your pocket, despite the slim form factor when closed you’re not going to miss this in your skinny jeans.

But what everyone wants to know is about that screen! I want to start on the front one; it won’t get much use. Almost everything that I tried to do was a hassle. This screen is going to be like the LCD screens on the front of flip phones. Only there to glance at and see what is worth opening your phone for.

You will be opening it – A lot. Because there’s no point having a folding phone and not showing it off right?

Samsung has added caps to the end of the hinge and made the ‘not a screen protector’ extended underneath the bezels. Combined with a few internal changes, most of the screen issues should be resolved. The hinge is tested for 200,000 actions, so should last quite a while. The problem is the tactile feedback from opening the hinge is so satisfying that I found myself playing with it quite a lot – although I’d need to do it about 280 times a day over two years to get near the limits.

The screen is bright crisp in all lights, you very quickly get used to its dominance, and it becomes especially useful when trying to take photos. The fold uses the same camera set up form the galaxy s10, with a wide-angle, telephone and ultra-wide lens – combined with the usually portrait effects and AR goodness you expect from Samsung.

Although the screen comes in handy for things like google maps and even reading webpages, its a little cumbersome for one-handed use give it has a strange 4:3 ratio. Youtube videos are particularly enjoyable, and even watchable when multitasking, but to feel the benefit you’ll need to go full screen, which features black bars on the top and bottom.

What you will enjoy is the Dolby Atmos audio, these sound great, particularly when enjoying videos that use great audio such as Peter McKinnon or some football highlights.

With all this said. This phone will spend most of its time unfolded. So you can enjoy the large screen you’ve paid so much money for. With a screen this big, it’s crying out for more use cases such as an S-Pen. Unfortunately, you can’t use one, or any other stylus for that matter. Samsung doesn’t want you to use anything on this display or even press too hard because it is plastic and not glass that most people are used to.

There is no getting around the crease in the middle of the screen; it is noticeable when viewing something light such as messages and lots of one UI. When the screen is off, it sticks out like a sore thumb. If you’re paying attention, you can feel it when swiping about, but I get the impression that it would become as forgettable as a natch in the screen do after a few days use.

There are a few quirks, such as the fingerprint sensor is separate to the power button, meaning it requires quite a bit of getting used to. And also the wireless PowerShare, which is a cool feature, is in a minimal area on the back of the handset.

With all said, I am very impressed with the unit overall. The £1,900 you will need to spend gets you a robust and well-built phone that feels premium. In the box, you” ll also get the Galaxy buds, and kevlar case and a year’s worth of Samsung Insurance. Which I get the feeling is an addition to combat worries on longevity.

I’m not sure how many people are going to buy this thing, but it’s a great phone to see on the market. If money is no object, jump on this and see the future, with a few caveats.

Give Samsung a couple of iterations to get things right, and I think this is going to be a stellar phone. In a few years, everything might be folding, and we will look at this space-age technology as the flip phones of old.

Bravo Samsung, thanks for inviting me down to take a look at the fold its defiantly a hit from me. I’m excited to see where it goes.