Galaxy Fold is here -- with six cameras and two batteries for $1,980

Samsung's first truly flexible device converts from a phone to a tablet and will be available April 26.

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Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
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5 min read

Samsung shows off its new Galaxy Fold, a phone that turns into a tablet.


Update, Sept. 5: We've gone hands-on with Samsung's revamped Galaxy Fold ahead of its revised release later this month. Original story, last updated in February, follows.

The foldable future is finally here, and it's called the Galaxy Fold. Samsung on Wednesday showed off the new foldable phone during its Unpacked event in San Francisco. The device has a 4.6-inch display when folded, and a 7.3-inch display when unfolded into a tablet. The phone will be available April 26 at a starting price of $1,980 (about £1,500 or AU$2,800). It'll come in four colors: cosmos black, space silver, Martian green and astro blue. Apps shown off for the Galaxy Fold include YouTube, Netflix and Facebook.

The Galaxy Fold comes with 12 gigabytes of RAM and batteries on each side of the foldable phone, said Justin Denison, Samsung's senior vice president of mobile marketing. 

Watch this: Samsung flaunts Galaxy Fold at Unpacked

The gadget has six cameras, with three on the back, one on the front and two inside, Denison said. The phone will come in two versions, with a 4G and a 5G edition.

The three rear cameras are a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel telephoto camera and a 16-megapixel ultra wide camera. The two cameras inside are a 10-megapixel selfie camera and an 8-megapixel depth camera. The camera on the front is also a 10-megapixel selfie camera.

The Galaxy Fold does not have a microSD slot, and it comes with 512GB of memory. Its fingerprint scanner is on the phone's side, like the Galaxy S10E, instead of using an ultrasonic, in-screen fingerprint reader like the rest of the Galaxy S10 line-up. 

That's "so users can access it if it's open or closed," Drew Blackard, Samsung senior director of product marketing, said in an interview after Unpacked.

The Fold will be available initially only for AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, Samsung said. It's unclear about availability in other markets.

Blackard added that all regular Android apps will work on the Galaxy Fold. If developers enable them to scale, like when a phone shifts from portrait mode to landscape mode, they'll adjust for the tablet mode as well. Developers will have to tweak the apps to take advantage of the multi-window feature and app continuity, he said.

Most major apps will be altered to work with the foldable format, Blackard said.

"Integration is simple for developers," he said.

Samsung has been talking about a foldable phone for years and finally revealed a prototype in November. It uses a new screen technology called Infinity Flex Display that, Samsung says, lets you repeatedly open and close the device without screen degradation.

Close up with the Galaxy Fold's original screen, notch and hinge

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The Galaxy Fold is a compact smartphone when closed and a more expansive tablet when fully opened. Apps seamlessly transition between the display sizes, letting you pick up on the tablet where you left off on the smartphone. When the device is unfolded, you can use three active apps through something Samsung calls Multi Active Window.

The launch of the foldable phone was accompanied by a host of announcements, including the introduction of Samsung's new flagship Galaxy S10 smartphones.

Nearly the entire phone industry is experimenting with foldable devices. They're seen as the next major leap in design and a way to get us interested in phones again. People are holding onto their smartphones longer than before, and it's getting harder to justify a pricey upgrade given the relatively minor tweaks made every year. The hope is that foldables can change that and introduce a new way of interacting with electronics.

Most major makers of Android phones, and even unknown startups, are working on foldable devicesGoogle has said it's committed to providing Android support for foldable designs. Startup Royole already sells its foldable device, the FlexPai, for $1,318 for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB variant. The FlexPai closes like a book, with its screen on the outside. Even Apple has filed patents for foldable phone designs.

The future is foldable?

Though foldables are unlikely to sell in huge numbers right away, they could point to the future of smartphones.

Samsung tends to be ahead of the pack when it comes to new technologies, partly because it makes many of the components that go into electronics. Its devices were some of the first to use OLED displays -- which it manufactures -- and it also released slightly curved phones early on. It's also among the first companies working on 5G phones, the new wave of wireless connectivity. 

Samsung has been chasing the holy grail of a foldable phone since it teased one at CES 2013 by showing off a flexible OLED display.

When it comes to foldable phones, Samsung's hoping a major design revamp will get all of us excited about mobile devices again. The company, like most of the industry, has been facing a slowdown in smartphone demand. 

Last month, Samsung reported a steep drop in revenue and profits as the sluggish smartphone market took its toll. Most of its businesses, from chips to displays, felt the effects of weaker demand and stiffer competition in the handset sector. Smartphone sales declined, memory chips destined for handsets didn't sell as well and mobile displays suffered.

Overall, Samsung shipped 291.3 million smartphones last year, Strategy Analytics estimated, down 8.3 percent from 2017.

Foldable features

One of the biggest hurdles for Samsung with foldables is getting apps to support the new technology. Google is enabling the designs through its Android software, but Samsung hasn't had much success getting developers on board with its various specialized products. Its Tizen software, for instance, never took off in phones, partly because of the lack of apps.

Samsung talked up the Galaxy Fold at its developer conference in November, in hopes app makers would create software to run on the phone when it launched. The Galaxy Fold can run up to three apps at the same time, something Samsung calls Multi Active Window. 

Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, S10E: Every camera lens and curve

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At the developer conference, Flipboard, a longtime Samsung partner, showed off an app designed for the foldable phone. When the phone is closed, you see a single pane of information in the Flipboard app, much like what you normally see with the smartphone version. When you unfold the phone, you get a bigger panel, which displays what you were looking at on the smaller screen, and multi-window support. 

Also at the developer conference, Samsung disclosed some specifics about the device's design. The Cover Display, what you see when the device is closed, more like a regular phone, is 4.58 inches and has a 21:9 aspect ratio. Samsung said it has a resolution of 1,960x840 pixels, with a screen density of 420 dpi. 

"Compared to the Main Display, the experience is more ... optimized for focused and handy and quick access and interaction, to leverage the small screen," Jisun Park, engineering director and head of the system software group for Samsung's mobile business, said in November. When the device is unfolded, the Cover Display will turn off and go black, he added. 

The Main Display, the bigger screen you see when unfolding the phone, is 7.3 inches and has a 4.2:3 aspect ratio. Samsung said the resolution is 2,152x1,536 pixels, with a screen density of 420 dpi. 

First published Feb. 20, 11:06 a.m. PT.
Updates, 12:06 p.m.: Adds the Galaxy Fold's technical specs; 1:11 p.m.: Includes details on the Galaxy Fold and app integration.