Samsung Galaxy Fold review: The device that piqued our interest in a foldable phone future

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. 

Battery life is strangely shorter than it seems it should be, despite two cells (on on each side of the hinge) that forms the equivalent of a 4,500-mAh battery. It lasted an average of 12 hours, 15 minutes in CNET's looped video test in airplane mode, compared to over 21 hours for the Galaxy Note 10 Plus.

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Samsung's foldable phone is about more than just its specs.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In its defense, the Galaxy Fold was always greater than itself. It's a proof of concept meant to prime the pump for later devices. That said, Samsung clearly wanted people to buy the phone as a luxury device, a status symbol that early adopters with plenty of cash could casually unfold to wow their peers with an unusual, instantly recognizable design. 

Unfortunately, that's backfired now. I'll argue with naysayers that, as a concept, the foldable phone has potential. Just as long as the industry figures out how to make a stronger screen, be it from thin, bendable glass that doesn't commercially exist yet to some other hardened plastic material. 

But in the present tense, I don't recommend the Galaxy Fold specifically, even if you have cash to spare. More foldable phones are coming, from Samsung, Huawei and even Microsoft. Do yourself a favor and wait.

For more detail, here's a breakdown of the Galaxy Fold features we like most -- and least.

Galaxy Fold specs

Display size, resolution 4.6-inch Super AMOLED; 7.3-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED
Dimensions (Millimeters) Folded: 62.8 x 161 x 15.7mm ~ 17.1mm Unfolded: 117.9 x 161 x 6.9mm ~ 7.6mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 9.7 oz; 276g
Mobile software Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI
Camera 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera Two 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel 3D depth
Video capture 4K (HDR 10+)
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 512GB
RAM 12GB
Expandable storage No
Battery 4,380mAh
Fingerprint sensor Power button
Connector USB-C
Headphone jack No
Special features Foldable display, wireless charging, fast charging
Price off-contract (USD) $1,980
Price (GBP) £2,000
Price (AUD) AU$2,950

First published Oct. 3, 2019.

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