- Refined look and feel
- Sits open at multiple angles
- Fixes nearly every flaw from the original
- Inner screen still fragile
- Fingerprint unlock errors too numerous
- Typing can feel cumbersome
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is not just a foldable phone. It's a movement waiting to happen. Samsung's winning do-over of its first foldable design improves on the original Galaxy Fold in nearly every way. It starts at the new 6.2-inch outer screen and moves on to the 7.6-inch inner display, and every hinge part, notch and crevice in between, delivering a high-end device that for the first time draws a full-size foldable phone from the realm of fantasy to the edge of reality.
Samsung's original Galaxy Fold was a bold concept with terrible execution. Besieged by problems and pitfalls at nearly every turn, Samsung had to redesign the device after review models broke in multiple ways, causing the brand to lose distribution partners, drop color options and deliver the foldable device four months late.
The Z Fold 2 may keep the same shape as the original, but it exudes confidence and competence that the first design lacked -- with one exception. CNET Section Editor Juan Garzon's review unit has a bubbled interior screen, which would clearly fall under Samsung's warranty if a purchased product arrived damaged. The review unit I've been using hasn't experienced any issues. CNET has reached out to Samsung to report the problem.
When I look at the Galaxy Z Fold 2's large outer display (6.2 inches), sturdy hinge and upleveled multitasking skills, I see a foldable phone striving to define the intersection of smartphone luxury and technical innovation, but with a utility that banishes the suggestion of gimmick. For example, the Z Fold 2 replaced my laptop for 28 hours and did nearly everything I needed, though writing and editing admittedly took longer tapping out on a screen than typing on keyboard squares.
The Z Fold 2 isn't a phone for everyone -- its $2,000 (£1,799, AU$2,999) price puts it out of range for many -- but it's a device that deserves and demands your attention.
Read on for the best and worst Z Fold 2 features, and everything you need to know about camera, battery life and Samsung's VIP treatment. You'll find the full specs comparison with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Fold and at the end.
8 best improvements to the Galaxy Z Fold 2
- Premium look and feel
- Hinge mechanism is sturdy and smooth as you open and close the device
- No gaps between the screen and body (I tried with my fingernail. All sealed.)
- 6.2-inch external screen takes up most of the exterior footprint
- Ultrathin glass on the inner screen instead of plastic adhesive alone
- Support for 120Hz refresh rate (inner screen)
- No notch on 7.2-inch interior display
- Apps seamlessly switch between inner and outer displays
How the Z Fold 2 could be even better
- Inner screen isn't waterproof, requires special care instructions
- Reflection on the screen crease is noticeable when hinge stays open
- Heavy, with sharp edges. Grows wearisome to hold during long-term use
- Better cameras, including a 5x optical zoom
- A more accurate fingerprint reader (more below)
- Apps can raise the bar on conforming to the screen (more below)
- Support for Work Profile apps in the multitasking view (more below)
Z Fold 2 cameras are good, but Note 20 Ultra's are better
Photography on the Z Fold 2 leaves little to complain about, unless you've just used the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as your primary phone, like I have.
That device, which costs $1,300 retail, has 5x optical zoom that the Z Fold 2's 2x optical zoom wishes it could be, and a few other fancy features that I could usually take or leave. Zooming into architectural features on a day trip to San Francisco, or seeing animals in nature, was a lot less satisfying on the Z Fold 2 compared to the Ultra.
Photos are still good -- very good, even -- but this isn't the most superior camera phone that Samsung makes. There are pro photo and pro video modes, which bring it up to date, and I do like being able to unfold the device to take a higher-quality selfie with the rear cameras.
The Z Fold 2's outer screen serves as a viewfinder if you tap the right onscreen control, but it's awkward to hold the phone this way while taking a photo, and everything looks slightly off-kilter if you're looking at yourself onscreen and not the camera sensor. I also noticed that a lot of my standard photos seemed ever so slightly askew. Reviewing pictures on the 7.6-inch screen, though, is a dream.
Flex Mode: Highs and lows of the self-supporting hinge
I genuinely thought Flex Mode would be the Z Fold 2's killer feature, but it didn't quite work out as expected. Flex Mode is Samsung's way to describe the state of the Z Fold 2 when you bend the two screens in between totally closed and fully open, and the two "sides" stay where they are.
The benefits are plenty real. The phone can prop itself open from a range of at least 75 to 115 degrees, which means it can become its own stand vertically or horizontally, and some apps can shift to take advantage of the new dimensions. That essentially splits the interface so that, for example, you can see a video on "top" and other navigation options on the "bottom."
But there aren't enough apps yet that recognize the long, narrow dimensions and know how to use them well. And the natural screen ratios when you bend the phone in half work more cohesively on the smaller Galaxy Z Flip than they do on the Z Fold 2.
For example, when the Z Flip bends in half, it forms two squares. The bottom creates a stand and the top has a centered video camera that's intuitive to use for video calls, reading, watching videos and framing photos from front and rear cameras.
Meanwhile, the angles on the Z Fold 2 never felt quite right for most of those. Samsung says there are more apps coming to take advantage of the split-screen design -- I certainly hope that's the case.
Battery life better than I feared
I worried about the Z Fold 2's ability to deliver all-day battery life with its 4,500-mAh battery capacity. Note that these are two separate battery cells that together create the same total capacity as the Note 20 Ultra, a phone I thought had middling battery performance because of its resource-hungry 120Hz screen.
Now, add into the equation two battery cells that are generally thought of as less efficient than one big battery (because of battery chemistry) and a really big 7.6-inch screen that refreshes at twice the rate of a typical screen (using more battery) and you can understand the skepticism.
However, the day I exchanged my laptop for a Z Fold 2, I used resource-hungry live maps navigation for 2 hours in a 28-hour period, browsed and messaged nonstop, watched hours of Netflix, took dozens of photos and so on. Even on this heavy day, I still managed to get from morning to evening on a single charge.
Part of that is because the 7.6-inch internal screen only uses 120Hz screen refresh rate on an "adaptive" cycle, which means it automatically flicks on when you're doing something intensive enough to warrant the ultrasmooth scrolling, gaming and more. The rest of the time it reverts to 60Hz (like the outer screen, which I used at least 60% of the time), and which held reserves in check.
Battery life isn't amazing, but it's more than doable, and for a device like this, I consider that a positive. You can also manually switch the inner screen's refresh rate to 60Hz and if you enter battery-saving mode, 120Hz will fall away.
Multitasking, typing, app continuity: A mixed bag
Multitasking: I love Samsung's new multi-window app feature -- mostly -- because it makes it so much easier to split the 7.6-inch screen into two or three zones to use apps at the same time. Dividing the screen this way felt natural and helpful for periods of time.
In this iteration, when you have one app open, you're able to swipe out from the side menu, select an app and drag it into one of three locations: to the right or left pane, horizontally, bottom (a vertical position below the main window), or a pop up in the middle of what you're looking at. This is great flexibility here.
Unfortunately, not every app you have installed works with this layout, including apps sandboxed in the "Work Profile" section of Samsung's Knox security that works with corporate apps. It's a shame, since the productivity apps are among the ones I want to multitask with the most.
App hand-off: I loved the liquidity with which apps from the inner and outer screen slid over to the other when I opened or closed the Z Fold 2. Any app you open the 6.2-inch outer screen, any app you have loaded will jump to the inner screen as you unfold the device -- seamlessly. It's a bit of work to dig into the settings to select which apps you want to go the other way when closing the larger inner screen, like a video (it will automatically work for calls). I will say, it's completely worth the effort to set this up.
Typing: Once again, I have to commend Samsung for making a split screen keyboard for the interior Fold screen. The goal is to make typing more comfortable on a wider-than-usual device that's most beneficial when it's fully unfolded into tablet form.
However… my hands are on the smaller side, which means that even on the split-screen keyboard my paws feel stretched. There really aren't third party apps to replace the default keyboard, which means I wind up collapsing the unfolded phone -- bending it slightly toward the center -- to get the two sides together and gain some typing relief. If your hands are larger, you may not mind as much, but it's not a design for everyone.
Apps that work for the screen: Samsung is slowly but surely working on apps to take advantage of the Z Fold 2's bendable design in any formation. For example, there's drag and drop between Gmail, Chrome, Microsoft Outlook and Samsung native apps. Other apps, like YouTube video, will play nice with the configuration. But until this catches on for all, expect some bootstrapping to get it all how you like.
Fingerprint reader not a deal breaker, but needs a fix
In the closed position, both new and original Galaxy Fold devices look like two phones stacked on top of the other in a delicious mobile sandwich. The downside -- and weirdness -- is that the fingerprint reader on the Z Fold 2's power/lock button (on the right spine) is both completely sensible and also irrational.
Here's what happens. You enroll up to four fingerprints when the phone is completely flat, unfurled (not folded in half), but if you try to unlock the device when it's closed, your thumb has to find the precise angle and divot in the bottom portion of the stacked screen sandwich to unlock it without error or delay.
Despite this very convenient placement and setup, I had to punch in my backup credentials more times than not.
Should you get the Galaxy Z Fold 2?
A $2,000 phone isn't a paltry affair, especially when 50% of the screens are fragile and finicky at best. But I have a completely different viewpoint than I did of the first Galaxy Fold -- to the benefit of the successor. The Galaxy Fold was a mesmerizing beta phone, a blueprint, meant for the most dedicated of tech advocates living on the edge while Samsung and the rest of the industry worked out the details.
I still don't think this $2,000 Z Fold 2 with its fragile screen is worth it for most, but it's a lot closer to the kind of device everyday people might have and want than last year's inchoate edition. As an ultrafancy phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 offers prestige and superior marksmanship for a do-everything phone of this type. As a tech-lover's dream, it presents a grounded possibility that didn't exist before.
Samsung's VIP foldable Z Premiere treatment
Samsung has expanded its VIP club for foldable phones. Anyone who buys a Z Fold 2, Fold or Z Flip (including the new Z Flip 5G) gets access to the program.
- Galaxy Z Concierge program for on-demand customer service and consultation
- First-time screen replacement of $149
- Six months of LinkedIn Premium
- FoundersCard benefits: 12-month membership when you preorder. After launch, you get six months free
- A prepared meal from a Michelin starred restaurant through Tock
- Fairway Pass Elite through ClubCorp, which gives you access to golf clubs
- Six months of Obe Fitness online workouts
- $50 off in-home hair service
Galaxy Z Fold 2 vs. Microsoft Surface Duo vs. Galaxy Fold vs. Galaxy Z Flip
||Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2||Microsoft Surface Duo||Samsung Galaxy Fold||Samsung Galaxy Z Flip|
|Display size, resolution||External 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED; Internal: 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED. External: 2,260x816 pixels. Internal: 2,208x1,768 pixels||Dual 5.6-inch AMOLED; 1,800x1,350 pixels. Combined: 8.1-inch AMOLED; 2,700x1,800 pixels||Internal: 7.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 2,152x1,536 pixels (plastic). External: 4.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 1,680x720 pixels (Gorilla Glass 6)||Internal: 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED; 2,636x1,080 pixels. External: 1.1-inch Super AMOLED; 300x112 pixels|
|Pixel density||386 + 373 ppi||401 ppi||362 ppi (internal screen)||425 ppi (internal), 303 ppi (external)|
|Dimensions (Inches)||Folded: 2.67 x 6.26 x 0.6 in (hinge) ~ 0.54 in (sagging). Unfolded: 5.04 x 6.26 x 0.27 in (frame) ~ 0.23 in (screen)||Folded: 5.72 x 3.67 x 0.399 in. Unfolded: 5.72 x 7.36 x 0.19 in||Folded: 6.3 x 2.5 x 0.6 in. Unfolded: 6.3 x 4.6 x 0.3 in||Folded: 2.99 x 3.44 x 0.62 ~ 0.68 in. Unfolded: 2.99 x 6.59 x 0.27 ~0.28 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||Folded: 68 x 159.2 x 16.8mm (hinge) ~ 13.8mm (sagging). Unfolded: 128.2 x 159.2 x 6.9mm (frame) ~ 6mm (screen)||Folded: 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9 mm. Unfolded: 1,145.2 x 186.9 x 4.8 mm||Folded: 62.8 x 161 x 15.7mm ~ 17.1mm. Unfolded: 117.9 x 161 x 6.9mm ~ 7.6mm||Folded: 73.6 x 87.4 x 15.4 ~17.3 mm. Unfolded: 73.6 x 167.3 x 6.9 ~ 7.2 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||9.95 oz; 282 grams||8.8 oz; 250g||9.7 oz; 276g||6.46 oz; 183g|
|Mobile software||Android 10||Android 10||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI||Android 10|
|Camera||12-megapixel (main) + 12-megapixel (wide angle) + 12 megapixel (telephoto)||11-megapixel||12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultrawide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide-angle)|
|Front-facing camera||10-megapixel, 10-megapixel||Uses main camera||Two 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel 3D depth||10-megapixel|
|Video capture||4K||4K||4K (HDR 10+)||4K (HDR 10+)|
|Processor||Snapdragon 865 Plus||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ (64-bit octa-core)|
|Battery||4,500 mAh||3,577 mAh||4,380 mAh||3,300 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Side||Right side||Power button||Power button|
|Special features||Foldable display, 120Hz refresh rate, wireless charging support,||Dual-screen display; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)||Foldable display, wireless charging, fast charging||Foldable display; wireless PowerShare; wireless charging; fast charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$2,000||$1,400||$1,980||$1,380|
|Price (GBP)||£1,799||Converts to £1,080||£2,000||£1,300|
|Price (AUD)||AU$2,999||Converts to AU$1,915||AU$2,950||AU$2,999|
First published Sept. 16