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?
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.
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” (2260x816 - 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 (2208x1768 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.