Samsung’s largest leap forward in phone tech delivers an intoxicating movie-watching experience, courtesy of an absolutely massive, overwhelmingly color-rich 7.3-inch screen. It’s the kind of display that absolutely begs to be used for Netflix and Hulu viewing, completely immersive in a way that no phone-video experience out there can match.
And somehow, this just may have you wasting less time on your phone than you ever have.
Yes, this whole idea seems to defy convention, but hey, that’s what the new Samsung Fold is meant to do in the first place. The smartphone industry has fallen into a predictable rhythm these days, with every device delivering a standard big screen and badass camera—but the Fold takes things to new and inventive heights.
It’s the first phone equipped with a foldable (yes, you read that right) display. That means I have access to its rich cinematic viewing experience whenever I want—but I have to actually “open” the phone to access that. It’s a simple enough act, but it’s just enough work that I don’t want to do it all the time. And that’s a good thing.
Opening Your Fold is Magical, But It’s a Decision
Make no mistake about it, the Fold, despite a few design flaws, is a stunningly built device, well-thought-out, and filled with unique ideas. Chief among them is that screen and it’s 7.3 inches of viewing goodness. This makes for a tablet-like experience anytime I open it, perfect for web browsing or hanging out on Facebook, and, as you’d expect, a dream for watching movies.
It’s satisfying to open up the Fold, too. There’s a soft click, revealing a seamless screen experience. It’s all easy to do, but there’s a sturdiness to it, too; I never once felt like the Fold would break simply because it couldn’t take the pressure.
Yet I don’t need to unfurl the Fold all the time, because I have access to all the basics without ever opening it up. When folded, the phone resembles one of those old, classic candy bar phones, except instead of buttons, it has another smaller 4.6-inch display on its front. And this is where the mental magic happens.
Here’s the thing with that smaller display: It’s just big enough for me to do the basics, not quite big enough to be lust-worthy. The smaller screen is fully functional, letting me access everything from the underrated camera (more on that later) to texts and emails to Instagram. I can even watch videos there.
But, especially when compared to the video experience I get on the bigger, unfoldable screen, it’s just not that enticing. It’s more functional than appealing, so I find myself working through only quick actions there: responding quickly to texts, scanning emails, and making phone calls.
Over several weeks of using the Fold, my mind has created some phone hierarchy. I need to be invested in my screen to work on my fantasy football team, to browse Instagram, and to read articles on ESPN.com. Texts and Twitter scans? Not so much. It got me off work email more frequently, too; the screen is just big enough for me to read an email, not quite a comfortable typing experience for a lengthy email.
So I have to be invested in an email to instantly reply to it. And if I’m texting on the Fold, it’s more likely to be a quick response. If it’s Instagram time, I need to open the phone; that’s partly why I’m spending less time heading down the Instagram rabbit hole.
The lesson of the Fold is this: Not everything needs a brilliant cinematic presentation. And now it’s harder for the things that don’t matter as much to bleed into the things that do, meaning less time staring at a phone screen, and more time living life.
What I Do On That Main Display
When I am on the Fold’s 7.3-inch screen, I’m typically enjoying myself, because boy, is that screen luxurious. When opened, the Fold is only slightly smaller than an iPad Mini, and it dwarfs Samsung’s own excellent Note 10.
It’s a form factor that’s equally friendly for work productivity and entertainment. I can type notes on there easily, or handle emails, or watch movies. The screen is big enough to do both things, actually, too. And if I need to shut it quickly to run somewhere, I can pick up any app right on the smaller screen via something called “app continuity.” I don’t use this often, but it’s a good convenience to have.
The two shining stars here are the web browsing experience and the video experience. Web browsing through Chrome is super-comfortable; text is easy to read, and pictures are big and bold on the display. The screen has the power to be incredibly bright, too, although adaptive brightness does an excellent job of saving battery life. It’s also a joy for viewing Kindle content; I’m a huge graphic novels fan, but most phones make those a cramped read. Not so on the Fold.
Movies and TV shows are the greatest highlight on the Fold, although it depends on the app you use. Not all apps use the Fold’s screen real estate the same. DC Universe, which comes preloaded on the Fold, manages to use nearly all the space, making animated shows like “Young Justice” look absolutely terrific. Sling TV and PS Vue also take advantage of the larger form factor and deliver screen-filling video. Netflix does too.
Amazon Prime Video comes up short, though; somehow, Avengers: Endgame via Prime managed to use about the same amount of screen on Fold as it did on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The apps that play nice with Fold are terrific, but, at the moment, not every app understands its form factor.
And Oh, That Camera!
Samsung follow suit with the other big phone players and delivers a camera with three lenses. No surprise here and all function well. What is impressive however, is the general shooting experience on the Fold.
You’d think it would be horribly unwieldy shooting with the Fold open—and it is. It’s like those early days of tablets, when everyone wanted to shoot photos on their tablets, but the experience was never truly comfortable.
Something brilliant happens, though, when you leave the Fold shut and take pictures using the smaller screen. Suddenly, the phone feels just like a point-and-shoot camera. Your typical smartphone is absolutely terrific for video, and they’re perfect for setting up in gimbles and on stands. But as pure point-and-shoot cameras in tourist situations? I’ve always felt like most are too light and too thin, never quite feeling as substantial as I want.
The Fold, when folded, just may be the ideal point-and-shoot phone camera. It’s chunky enough that you can really grip it, with ideally placed buttons, and that 4.6-inch front display is just big enough to let you take shots. This has become my favorite still-shot road camera.
But The Fold Isn’t Quite Perfect
Samsung gets a ton right with the Fold, an impressive feat since this is first-generation tech. But this is still first-generation tech, and there are plenty of points Samsung could improve upon.
Chief among them just might be the overall form factor: While I love the substantial feel as a camera and enjoy how the smaller screen has helped me get rid of some phone junkie tendencies, the Fold, winds up being an odd fit for most lifestyles. We’ve grown very accustomed these days to putting phones in our pockets, either back or front. In my front jeans pocket, the Fold simply doesn’t fit comfortably. In my back pocket, though, it’s almost too small to have that tight, safe fit; I worry about it falling out.
Other issues are smaller and even less noticeable. I wish the fingerprint button was built right into the power button, for example, and The top righthand corner of the phone, when held in portrait mode, wastes a bit of real estate with a tiny black bar for the camera. The Fold’s speakers also aren’t great; they’re tinny at times, wrecking the movie experience.
Thankfully, Samsung realizes this and bundles its excellent Samsung Buds earbuds in with the package. In fact, Samsung seems to realize that its Fold is a unique phone investment and a vote for emerging technologies in the space, so it gives you lots of goodies, too. Unlike other phones, you won’t need to buy a case for your Fold; it’s bundled right into the package. And if you run into any issues? You get 24-7 tech support for your Fold, via phone chat, video chat, or in-person visits. It’s as if Samsung understands that stuff might happen with this new tech, and it’s working hard to appreciate those willing to dive in now.
The Fold won’t be for everyone, by sheer virtue of its price tag, but this winds up being the most premium Android phone experience out there. And for first-gen technology, it’s also pretty bug-free. I’ve had just a handful of app crashes and issues, and mostly, the Fold has been magically snappy, thanks to its 12GB of RAM.
If you can afford it and you love watching movies on your phone, then this is a device to watch. And at the very least, it’s a harbinger of things to come. Foldable screens should hit from other brands in 2020, and you can be all but certain Samsung will have a followup to the Fold as well.
For now, though, it’s given us that rare piece of first-gen technology that’s more than a forerunner. The Samsung Fold is magical phone experience. It’s up to you when you want to dive deep into that, and when you just want to enjoy its smaller screen.
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