Convincing anyone to lay down $2,999 on a single phone in 2020 is a big ask. Is Samsung’s second-generation foldable up to the task?
Ahead of the formal reveal of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 – not that there was much to reveal, with Samsung showing off its second generation foldable phone at the Galaxy Note 20 launch, and a plethora of leaks being pretty much 100% on the money – Samsung briefed a number of journalists, including myself on the specifics of its new foldable and where it sees the market for such a device.
Just like the original Galaxy Fold, it’s pretty hard to look past that asking price. In Australia, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 will sell for a wallet-busting $2,999 when it goes on sale on 25 September in either Mystic Bronze or Mystic Black colours. In 2020, it’s very hard to ask three grand for any phone, so this is very much a phone for the 1%, those looking for an actual luxury option.
Of course, that’s what the original Galaxy Fold was meant to offer up as well. So where do I think it works… and where does it need work?
The Good Stuff
- They fixed that external screen: Look, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t particularly like the teensy screen on the outside of the original Galaxy Fold, and the switch to a full 6.2 inch display on the front solves pretty much every problem I had with the original phone. It goes from being a notification space that’s partially useful as a phone to a space that’s entirely workable as a phone in its own right
- They also fixed the internal screen: Larger is always better in a foldable, especially at this price, and the inclusion of a 7.6 inch display with essentially no bezels goes a long way to making the Galaxy Z Fold 2 a more desirable phone. 120Hz is also great to have for such a large display, although disappointingly you can only select it in “dynamic” mode – not force it as a choice if you’re happy to put up with the power hit involved.
- It’s starting to fulfil that productivity promise: Look, for a lot of folks the allure of the foldable phone was always about that showing off factor – not just that you had the raw cash to afford one, but the ability to fold your phone in or out in front of a crowd. However… it’s 2020. We shouldn’t be meeting in crowds, and in any case that was always a pretty shallow ambition, because once you’ve shown off it folding and unfolding, then what?
That’s where I’m really keen on foldable devices playing more in the productivity space, and Samsung seems to have done some solid work there in terms of the way that multi-screen views will work, as well as some specific Microsoft integrations for Word and Excel usage. Would I preferentially use the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as a straight notebook replacement? Not quite yet… but it feels like an important step in the right direction.
- There’s some pretty cool engineering: You’re not really going to actually look at the mechanisms behind the new sweeper hinge on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the work that’s gone into them.
- Hideaway Hinges: They’re not available in all markets, but Samsung’s global release suggests that the coloured hinge options will be available for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 in Australia. Sure, it’s a small thing, but when you’re paying $2,999 for a phone, I reckon a little personalisation goes a long way
The Not-So-Good Stuff
- It’s a pretty stupid name: Sorry Samsung, but did you really need an extra letter in there? No, you did not.
- Samsung can make better cameras: Yes, it’s neat that you no longer have that interior bezel bulge to accommodate the cameras as you did on the Galaxy Fold. Also, the idea of using the phone half folded so that it is in effect its own tripod opens up some interesting possibilities. However, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is Samsung’s most expensive handset, and a year ago when the Galaxy Fold was first announced, it exceeded the capabilities of that year’s Galaxy S phones in camera terms. This simply isn’t the story with the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which has lower camera specifications than Samsung’s existing – and very nice – Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It has worse cameras and costs more because…?
(Yes, I know, because it folds up, but still, I think this is a dent in its premium price argument)
- Look at what you don’t get: The foldable form factor still involves compromises a-plenty. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is dual SIM – but that’s a single real nano SIM and one eSIM, and as has been noted elsewhere, it’s a bit of a hassle to use, to put it politely. There’s either 256GB or 512GB of storage – Samsung Australia is yet to clarify this with me but I’m putting my marker down on the lower spec down under – but no storage expansion. There’s no in-display fingerprint sensor, just one on the side. Samsung talks about its ability to repel “droplets” of water… but that’s masking the fact that there’s no IP-rated water resistance. Now, many of these things are significant technical challenges to overcome, while others are choices on Samsung’s part when building up a full feature set. But you really do have to place them against traditional premium smartphones, where a lot (if not all) of those features are utterly standard.
- It costs HOW much? Yeah, I’m back on that again. Still, that $2,999 price point is one that most of the market simply will never meet.
The Early Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 isn’t for everyone. Heck, at that asking price it’s not even for 5% of the smartphone market, because that price point alone marks this out as an absolutely aspirational level premium luxury phone.
However, I do think for the most part, Samsung’s made the right moves with the second generation Fold phone, fixing up that terrible external display to make it a more functionally useful device in its own right, expanding the screen to make it a more compelling tablet and giving it more of a focus on productivity with features like drag and drop between windows and work with external app makers to bring more continuity to usage of the phone itself.
Now, that’s based off a little bit of visual observation and the details in Samsung’s early briefings; I will naturally enough have to hold my full verdict until I’ve had time to review an actual Galaxy Z Fold 2 handset. Stay tuned…
|Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 Specifications|
|Display||7.6”120HZ QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED (Primary) 6.2″ HD+ Super AMOLED (Cover screen)|
|Size||68.0 x 159.2 x 16.8mm (folded)/128.2 x 159.2 x 6.9mm (unfolded)|
|Rear Cameras||12MP UltraWide/12MP Wide/12MP Telephoto|
|Front Camera||10MP Selfie Camera (Cover/Front)|
|Processor||7 nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor (3.09 GHz + 2.40 GHz + 1.80 GHz)|
|SIM||Dual SIM (Nano+eSIM)|