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Samsung Galaxy Fold review: A promising -- and problematic -- blueprint for foldable phones

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The Good The Galaxy Fold's extra-large display is excellent for watching videos, photos and reading, and it makes for an excellent second screen. It proves that a foldable phone can be truly useful and not just a gimmick.

The Bad Design problems abound. Its 7.3-inch screen is too fragile and the 4.6-inch display is too small to be effective. Battery life is short. Multitasking could become more intuitive. At $1,980, the Fold is overpriced. It lacks water- and dust-resistance. The huge screen notch and thick bezel make it feel cheap, despite the cost.

The Bottom Line The Galaxy Fold makes a convincing case for foldable phones, but wait for Samsung and others to fix inherent problems that keep it costly and plague the screen.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Camera 9
  • Battery 8

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It's unusual for a phone as new as the Galaxy Fold to be so battle-worn. In the course of its short life, the foldable phone went from the pinnacle of hype for our collective mobile future to cautionary tale about companies that rush to sell radical, under-tested technology. (Here's a brief history of what went wrong with Samsung's delicate plastic display.)

Now, after testing and using two versions of the Galaxy Fold -- the original model and this redesigned version that fixes Samsung's biggest design flaws -- everything wonderful and terrible with the $1,980 (£2,000, AU$2,950) Galaxy Fold is crystal clear. 

As a blueprint for how foldable phones could be truly useful, it undeniably succeeds. There's something physically satisfying about using the Fold, and its 7.3-inch screen is a dream for watching movies, looking at photos and reading anything. Wanting to multitask felt natural, and more than once I used the Fold as a second screen that was easy to fold up and zip into my jacket pocket the moment I was done.

But as big a favor as the Fold does for all foldable-phone kind in proving that yes, we do want to see where foldable phones go, the Fold itself is still lacking when it comes to creature comforts. 

samsung-galaxy-fold-8
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The Galaxy Fold has its charms, and also some rough spots.

Angela Lang/CNET

Microsoft has thrown a twist in the middle of this foldable awakening, introducing a surprising double-screen phone of its own. Although we won't see the Surface Duo for a year, Microsoft's dual-screen phone throws down the gauntlet against the Galaxy Fold and foldable design in general: Why use such a problematic folding screen when you can just have two displays?

Samsung fixed the most hazardous errors to the Fold's display, the ones that caused the phone to stop working. But it didn't fix some more baked-in problems. The phone remains too expensive and too fragile, with some puzzling choices that give the inner screen an enormous notch and a plasticky bezel, and the outer screen a cramped keyboard that's just no fun to use. 

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