When Samsung announced the debut of the Galaxy Fold in 2019, there was quite a lot of buzz surrounding the smartphone with its foldable screen. And with good reason. But things went a bit pair-shaped when reports surfaced about major design flaws. Given that it was the brand’s first foray into the world of foldable screens.
Irrespective of the issues, it was a welcome change from the near-complete dominance of the rounded-edge rectangle design we’ve been stuck in for some time. There were many who had feared that the Fold would be a one-off experiment given the price and issues. Although I may not have been surprised when the release of its successor was announced, I was happy when the team confirmed the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2.
With the lessons learned from the first iteration, Samsung promised an improved, more rounded foldable smartphone. And this is the question posed by the techies around the world, whether there has been enough of an improvement to forge ahead for an annual release cycle? There are many other questions to boot, so let’s tackle each as we run through the review.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 Design
In terms of the design of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2, there’s been a massive shake-up compared to the original. Apart from keeping the same outward fold, the whole smartphone has been overhauled.
Samsung has focused quite significantly on the balance of the device. Keeping the shape, size and weight on both sides of the folds is key to it working well.
This is workable thanks to the newly designed Hideaway Hinge. The hinge makes it much easier to open, close and fold to various angles. It’s a lot sturdier and doesn’t feel that it would fail at all. There are magnets fitted to the edges, making the screen hold together when folded. And the sound of the connecting is very pleasing for good measure.
The design features a mix of matte and glossy finishes. Most of the glossy finishes are left for the edges, while the large areas are matte. This includes the rear, which assists to protect the device from being prone to fingerprints and smudges.
There are other touches to make the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 appear more premium. This includes the large Samsung logo centred on the hinge, the camera housing and more. It comes together very nicely and looks the part of a device carrying its price.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 is available in two main colourways. This includes Mystic Bronze and Mystic Black. The variant we received was the former, the better-looking of the two. The colour is very similar to the Rose Gold on other smartphones, but has a deeper bronze with a dash of purple.
There is a third colour, the Thom Browne Edition. This variant was created in partnership with fashion designer, Thom Browne. The collaboration also extends to other devices and accessories as part of the collab.
Using the device in tablet mode, it has a thickness of 6.9mm. This is great and feels quite a lot better than an average tablet. However, when folded, this more than doubles due to the slight gap between the two screens. Now measuring 16.8mm, it’s not the best feel in hand using the device in folded mode.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 Build
The original Fold was manufactured mostly using plastic materials. With the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2, there’s a complete overhaul of these plastic elements. It seems almost as if the first iteration of the folding smartphones was merely a prototype of the actual device. In some aspects, this is actually true.
These changes made to Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 make all the difference. The device actually feels like something to take seriously now. Something that is worthy of the high price tag. The mix of metals and glass always shouts premium, and it’s no different here.
Irrespective of the premium build, there was a consistent fear that I would accidentally crack the screen. It’s typical for me to have this fear when reviewing a new flagship. This usually subsides over a few days when I become more familiar. That wasn’t the case with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2. I wasn’t able to gauge whether any type of drop would be the end of the smartphone’s screen. Opening in tablet mode means using the device in two hands, but the larger size makes it easier to be bumped out of my hands.
Thankfully, nothing I was concerned about occurred. I was a lot more careful with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 than any other previous review unit. A mix of cost and not knowing the durability of the screen meant that I wasn’t able to shake the concern that something would go wrong at some point. It didn’t.
Two is Better than One
As with the other foldable smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 has two screens. This includes the outer screen and the inner screen.
The outer screen, also known as the cover screen, is measured at 6.23”. It features a Super AMOLED panel. The display has a resolution of 816x2260px with 25:9 aspect ratio. It also sports the new Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
The main screen is significantly larger at 7.6”, it’s basically double the size. The panel is a foldable, Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10+. It has an 88.6% screen-to-body ratio, better than the original, but not as great as single-screen units.
The display has a resolution of 1768x2208px with a 373ppi pixel density. Again, this is higher than the original, but not nearly close to the pixel density on flagships. It is worth noting that the panel is much larger, so the decreased pixel density is expected.
The cover screen looks sharper than the main screen. Again, understandable. The pixel density makes it look crisper. However, the screen is fairly tall and narrow. It doesn’t mimic that of standard smartphones. This was one of the biggest frustrations for me. It caused some challenges, especially with the keyboard being resized, making typing a struggle.
The main screen is brighter than the predecessor. This means you can now use the device in direct sunlight without issue. With the screen off, the fold is very visible. Turning it on makes it nearly invisible. Sometimes you’ll only notice it when swiping your hand across.
My only gripe here is the strange aspect ratio. Watching movies using 16:9 ratio, there’s quite a significant amount of empty screen remaining on the top and bottom. Zooming in to fill the area means large amounts of the video is cut off.
Overall, a wider cover screen would mean a wider main screen. This would alleviate the issues I had on both. Seems simple enough on paper, but I imagine it’s not quite the case. Still, something to look forward to on future iterations, having a normal smartphone folded and a great tablet screen unfolded.
Performance The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 has the same specifications as that of the US variant of the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. That includes a Qualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865+ chipset, which has an Octa-core CPU – x1 3.09GHz Kryo 585, x3 2.42GHz Kryo 585 and x41.8 GHz Kryo 585. It also has the same Adreno 650 GPU. There are two storage variants, one with 256GB and the other with 512GB. The Fold2 goes bigger in terms of memory over the Note20 Ultra, upping it to 12GB RAM.
There’s no doubt that Samsung has geared the device for productivity over anything else. In fact, it invites more usage than your standard smartphone. Working throughout the day, I switch between my laptop and smartphone for different types of browsing, investigations and the likes. With the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2, however, I found myself using it more often as a result of the larger screen size.
When it comes to load testing, the additional RAM makes this a breeze. Opening the standard 10-15 tabs while browsing wasn’t an issue. I kept increasing the number of tabs opened, but it just didn’t matter.
Versatility is the key objective. Samsung doesn’t lead you in a specific manner in which to use the smartphone. You get to decide. Whichever way you choose, Samsung has made sure that you have what’s needed under the hood to prime you for productivity.
The battery life is very dependent on how you use it. Using just cover screen, battery life will easily last a full day and some more. Switching to predominantly using the main screen and the battery life takes a significant knock.
As a result, you’ll be looking at around 12-14 hours of battery life under normal conditions. The benchmarks tests utilising the screen, Wi-Fi, streaming and having multiple browser tabs open, meant that battery was depleted between 5 and 6 hours.
The idea is a mix of the two worlds. For reading messages and quick functions, the outer screen is more than sufficient to meet your requirements.
When you wish to switch to a ‘working’ mode, then you switch to the main screen for optimised use. You’ll then be able to comfortably make it through a standard workday without worrying about running out of juice before being able to reach the charger again.
Software and Features
Most of the usefulness of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 lies with the software. Yes, the foldable screen is a nice to have and looks great but doesn’t really mean much if you’re not able to make the most of it.
Samsung has clearly spent a lot of time in designing a better ecosystem. The Samsung-branded apps have been optimised to work in both the two types of screens.
The one aspect I found most useful was switching between screens when folding and unfolding. The switch is very seamless for all native and supporting apps. And this makes all the difference as you can continue your work on whichever screen you find most comfortable at the time.
For those screens that aren’t optimised, there is a request to restart the app in the new screen mode. It is a tad frustrating but is understandable given the multitude of devices the apps have to account for in terms of usability.
In some instances, some of the apps don’t work well using the tablet mode. The alignment can sometimes be off, text too large or too small, and many other design issues. Most of the apps that caused such issues are those that only offer portrait mode usability, such as Instagram and the likes.
The Samsung-branded apps can work in all modes, from the two screen sizes to the orientation. Another of these is the half-folded viewing. This allows users to use the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 similar to that of a laptop, allowing you to go hands-free. For example, using the Video app, you can use one half of the tablet screen for the video playback. The other half is then left for the video controls and other options such as sharing and the likes.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 Camera
One of the peculiarities about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 is the camera. In terms of specifications, it is still considered flagship-grade. However, it doesn’t match any of the devices at the top of the stack. It’s even down on the Note20 range, which is a surprise given an almost doubled priced.
But, it’s not all about the specs when it comes to the five cameras fitted to the smartphone. The options on how to shoot are insane. There’s a front-facing (selfie) camera on the outer screen and another on the main screen. And then there’s the triple-lens camera on the rear.
The two selfie cameras are identical. They both feature a 10MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1.22µm lens. On the original Fold, there was a dual-lens camera on the main screen, which has been streamlined here.
The triple-lens, rear-facing camera includes three variations of the 12MP lens. This includes a 12MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, a 12MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, with 2x optical zoom, as well as a 12MP, f/2.2, 123˚, 12mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm lens.
You can use the rear camera in both fold and unfolded modes. While using it unfolded, it’s similar to that of a tablet. I don’t need to say much more about that. Using it in folded mode is a much safer option, too. There is one benefit to shooting using the camera in tablet mode. That is to turn it around and use as a selfie camera, with the cover screen being used as a mirror.
Then there’s the laptop mode. Here you can set up the camera to record while placing the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 down on a surface and go hands-free. This is known as Flex Mode. There are a number of features in this mode. The dual-screen allows you to have a live feed on the top half while using the bottom to scroll through your gallery, change settings, etc. Without needing to switch.
The end result of the camera is very good. It can’t be compared to many other flagships, but gets the job done well. Colours are bold and crisp. That said, other options such as the 10x zoom, low-light photography, etc. aren’t as good.
I had a mixed opinion about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 during my short time with the device. There were times when I absolutely loved it. And there were those times when it just didn’t feel as comfortable to use. Most of the challenges were derived as a result of apps not having been adapted for the different sized screens.
After the two-week period with the device, using it became native. This with all the ups and downs, the shortcuts and everything in between. In the end, what it does well it so better than almost any other smartphone on the market. And where it fell short, I had already either gotten used to it or worked through alternative options.
Even with the negatives, I had grown to love the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2. This was most notable the day I swapped back to my daily driver and missed almost everything about it.
While my thoughts on the unit had changed over the course of the two weeks, there was still one niggling thought that I could not escape. The price. And some price it is. At a whopping RRP of R49,999, it’s an extremely hard sell. If it were priced slightly above that of other flagships, it would be a no-brainer. But it isn’t, and so the best recommendation would still be to look elsewhere. For me, that’s the Galaxy Note20 Ultra.
A loan unit was provided to Fortress of Solitude for the purposes of this review.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2
Samsung has improved almost all aspects over the original Fold smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 is a more premium, more optimised smartphone and a joy to use. If not for the heavy price tag, it would be a very attractive buy.