Samsung Galaxy Fold long-term review

GSMArena team, 08 Nov 2019.

Revolutionary new form factor

This might be kind of an obvious point to make, given the collective year-long hype surrounding flexible panels and their potential. Still, even with all the overstatement, you can't really appreciate how much of a paradigm-shifting thing the new form factor is until you incorporate it in your daily life. Tonestly, the last time I experienced a digital habit-altering experience at quite this scale as with the Galaxy Fold was when I got my first laptop as a kid.

Without a doubt, being young and impressionable played a big role in the latter. Yet, even my skeptical and often bitter adult self found the Galaxy Fold refreshing, even meaningful without even trying really hard.

Samsung Galaxy Fold long-term review

Even with its plethora of small issues and growing pains, the Fold feels more like a piece of history unfoldin in front of our very eyes. A milestone device, rather than a gimmick. It's bold, and it's different. So much so, that it forced me to re-think quite a few smartphone habits, long-standing routines and even battle with muscle memory.

Starting with the elephant in the room - handling, especially with one hand. It's definitely possible, if you are willing to confine yourself to the tall and skinny 4.6-inch external display. Odd scaling issues aside, it is a pretty okay screen. If you don't plan on typing or any other very precise touch-screen manipulation, that is. Those get annoying really fast. Everything is quite crammed, especially horizontally.

The small viewport is still quite okay for navigating the UI for things like notifications and for making calls. That's where the secondary display comes into its own and works perfectly with one hand.

Samsung Galaxy Fold long-term review

Once I get both hands on the outside panel, mostly due to force of habit, things get really crammed really fast. Plus, the asymmetry on both ends of the device due to the hinge design, is surprisingly annoying. This might be a personal pet peeve, but it turns out that the varying surface thickness really messes with my ability to thumb-type. Honestly, on more than a few occasions I caught myself subconsciously wanting to "squish" the hinge down and make the Fold "perfectly balanced, as all things should be".

Samsung Galaxy Fold long-term review

Avengers references and OCD aside, that hinge can easily be the subject of a lengthy pro and con debate in itself. It is an amazingly intricate and impressive piece of engineering. One meticulously crafted in just the right way to accommodate curvature requirements for cutting-edge, futuristic display technology. Samsung is definitely in uncharted waters here and all things considered, their solution is nothing short of impressive.

That's why I really can't fault anybody when it comes to some of my hinge concerns. Things like the massive air-gap it leaves out of necessity for all my pocket lint and various other bits to sip right onto the soft surface of the internal display. Or the fact that, as with every friction-based, moving mechanism, even one with cogs and supports as sophisticated as those inside the Galaxy Fold, there will always be a gradual process of degradation. During my time with the Fold, the hinge objectively got progressively looser in its motion. To Samsung's credit, it never came near to worrying levels of free motion or "flappiness."

Another issue, in part related to the hinge, I found quite annoying is the odd place the side-mounted fingerprint reader ends up in. While the phone is open, it works pretty well. But in its closed state, it ends up kind of tucked in-between the two folding halves which makes it really hard to reach. With Samsung's protective case on, I really had to jam my thumb in there to get a positive read. Perhaps Samsung can find a better place for it on future folding phones or at least figure out a way to offset it more conveniently. Again, this is a brand new form factor and it brings along a whole new set of ergonomic challenges that will take time to get properly addressed.

Samsung Galaxy Fold long-term review

Speaking of the case, it pretty much does its best to cover as much as it can, given all the moving parts. Once again, I can't really fault Samsung for not covering the outside metal surface of the hinge. Plus, to be fair, that never felt that vulnerable in the first place. The surface feels nice and strong, even if a bit prone to smudging. But that goes beyond nitpicking, considering the circumstances. And credit where credit is due, despite being covered in glass, none of the outside surfaces of the Fold feel particularly brittle either. On the contrary, protective glass compounds have really come a long way, and in keeping with its reputation Samsung appears to have opted for a really premium option for the Galaxy Fold.

Samsung Galaxy Fold long-term review

The only real complaint I have here is that the bundled case, which most owners ale likely to use, does not cover the full height of the camera module on the back of the phone. I think it should be addressed with a simple reesign - like having a simple small extra lip around the opening. That could even help with some of the dust and grime accumulation around and under the Fold's case. Which, unsurprisingly with such an open design, is a problem.

Honestly, our advice would be to not use the provided adhesive strips, meant to hold the two case pieces in place since that makes taking off the case a lot harder. It stays on perfectly fine with minimal disalignment without any adhesion and this way you can and should periodically take it off to clean some dust away.

Build quality

Honestly, all things considered, from the outside the Galaxy Fold is a really sturdy device. It's that gorgeous foldable panel that really raises most of the longevity concerns we have. At least it is tucked away on the inside, which is more than competitors like the Huawei Mate X can say. I would personally still pick up something like the old-school phone "socks" for the extra peace of mind. But that's more of a comment on my overprotective attitude towards tech rather than the durability of the device itself.

Reader comments

A quick answer to most questions and silly answers. People who talk about thick or foldable phones, plastic screens, size of front screen 4in, etc. have to be realistic: 1. Ever tried to use a Nokia Communicatior from 13 years back. E90 - com...

  • Fold user
  • 16 Apr 2020
  • uKH

Great concept feels sturdy however screen is ridiculously sensitive Even putting it in your pocket is a hazard for dust for it to get damaged. When I first got it in November last year had it a week screen managed to get a small indent Ended ...

That's cool.