The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G is, without a doubt, technologically mind-blowing and visually stunning. However, some small features could irk the casual user, and keep this from being a truly perfect phone.
When I first reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip back in March, I was impressed by the technology that allowed us to have a folding screen, much like the retro clamshell phones of old. It was a beautiful phone, with a mirror-effect, glossy purple back and a neat compact form when folded.
At the time, having just spent 24 hours with the phone, I really couldn’t test it for performance or functionality. While I liked what little I saw, I questioned the target audience for this phone. At an eye-watering price tag of $1,998 when released, it was an expensive gadget. Yet aside from the “cool” factor and starkly different form factor, the Z Flip was much like every other flagship, high-end Android phone in the market, at least on the inside.
With the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, the follow-up to the 2019 Samsung Galaxy Fold, I have the same question: Who is this $2,888 phone for?
Before we come to that, let’s start with the positives. Without a doubt, the Z Fold2 5G is a gorgeous machine. When unfolded, it is in its “tablet” form: It’s a sleek 6.9mm thick, with a crystal-clear, stunning screen and a near-invisible seam down the middle. It’s a slightly awkward square shape, but this actually made it easier to hold and watch a video in bed, compared to a normal tablet.
I like that the speakers are on both ends of the phone, too. As far as I am concerned, playing mobile games and bingeing Netflix works on this phone perfectly. Multitasking is nice, too, when in tablet form. When folded back into a “phone”, it is 16.8mm thick, and the screen is fully functional, meaning you can use it as a normal phone, albeit one with a narrower, skinnier screen. Most apps resize neatly to fit the folded screen, meaning there will be seamless switching of apps (fully customisable in the settings) between “phone” and “tablet” modes.
The camera on the Z Fold2 is admirable. While it will not have the same punch as the Samsung S20 Ultra with its 108MP resolution, for example, you do get three 12MP lenses: one with a f/1.8 aperture, another ultra-wide lens and a 2x zoom-equivalent telephoto lens. It takes sharp, good pictures even under tricky lighting conditions; I took it with me to Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) Restaurant A380 review and it managed not only some nice Instagram stories but also decent photos under very dim, purple-hued lighting. It also has two selfie cameras; both shoot 4K resolution video at 60fps.
Battery life is also impressive. Over the course of the five-hour SIA event, heavy use of social media, videos and texting made just a dent to the overall battery life, draining only perhaps 30% overall. I easily got a full day’s use out of a full charge, even with playing Netflix, having Bluetooth earphones connected, and my usual day-to-day activities (yes, even including the SingPass check-ins and the TraceTogether app).
Now, we come to the negatives, and here is where I veer towards being divisive, because all the negatives are really minor, objectively speaking. But, for the casual user such as myself, these can add up to be incredibly annoying.
First of all, typing was a chore. It was a real pain; a massive comedy of errors of fat, clumsy fingers and autocorrect disasters. When in “tablet” form, the keyboard splits, which takes a while to get used to. If you don’t want a split keyboard, you can have a full keyboard on screen, but unless you have giant hands, typing on the full keyboard will be painful for most people.
When folded into “phone” mode, the keyboard is impossibly tiny and narrow, which means unless you have very tiny delicate fingers, every word you type will be an error. This bugged me to no end, because 99% of my job is writing, and if I can’t do it at my usual breakneck speeds, what is the point of this phone?
Next, not all apps have been adapted to work well with this new form factor. Instagram is particularly annoying because it is forced into portrait orientation (when in tablet form), which means huge swathes of wasted screen space on either side.
There is also no love shown to potentially using the phone in a sort of mini-laptop mode, which is a waste of this incredible technology. And, perhaps the most petty of complaints is that it is impossible to pocket this phone; not even in its folded form. It’s too long when folded, and too wide when unfolded. It will probably slip into a man’s pocket (let’s all agree women’s pockets are non-existent or ridiculous things) but it’s also 16.8mm thick, which means it will bulge out.
There are also no great options for a protective case, so it means it will feel like it’s likely to fly out of your hands anytime. And, it’s a fingerprint magnet.
Ultimately, this phone is not for the casual user. It is too expensive and too impractical for day-to-day use. It is a class of its own, certainly, and I am still in awe of the technological brilliance behind this gadget. For that money, one could get an iPhone and an iPad and both would be more practical. Yet if it doesn’t suit the everyday practicalities of life, would it suit the everyday user? That, perhaps, is the $2,888 question.
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