Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds.
Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
ExpertiseContent strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
I can't stop looking at the Galaxy Z Fold 2. I keep catching myself glancing admiringly at its cool metal frame, 6.2-inch outer screen and thin bezels. The Z Fold 2 is such a complete, well-considered foldable phone, it's now hard to think of the original Galaxy Fold as anything other than a working mockup with a ridiculous $1,980 price tag.
For $2,000 (£1,799 in the UK, which is about AU$3,270), that's still big bucks, especially in our current world of coronavirus pandemic and global recession. But the more time I spend with the Z Fold 2, the more I'm convinced that this full-size foldable phone isn't just a tech toy for wealthy early adopters. Even if most people would never dream of buying it, it's exciting to follow along.
That in no way means this is a device for the regular person. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a niche, aspirational foldable phone that opens into a 7.6-inch tablet. it isn't water-resistant. It comes with a long list of care instructions, and when I gripped its ultrathin screen to take a selfie using a special feature (more below), I worried my nails were clawing into the fragile glass. (It seems fine.)
Watch this: Galaxy Z Fold 2: Hinge, cameras and durability revealed
But for a unique device that's firmly on the cutting edge of technology, it has addressed every major flaw from the original Fold and refined it in the process, turning out a phone that -- while I'm still getting to know -- I could actually see using. It isn't perfect, and there are still weak points I would like revised.
Galaxy Z Fold 2 preorders are open now and the phone goes on sale Sept. 18. Read on for everything I love so far and all the specs, hands-on photos and more. Since this is a developing review, keep in mind that opinions are subject to change as the review period progresses.
Best and worst Galaxy Z Fold 2 features so far
An external screen you can actually use. A larger, 6.2-inch display that takes up the entire outer screen looks great in closed position and makes the phone easier to use when you want to type quick replies one-handed or snap and immediately share a photo. I've already used it a lot this way in one day. Since the dimensions are tall and narrow, typing on the keyboard is still a pain, but it works.
Switching screens is fast and seamless. Maybe it's the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset or some tighter software controls, but switching from apps on the outer screen to the inner screen happens in a snap. I've tried it fast and opened the phone slowly to see at which angle whatever I'm viewing leaps off the outer screen and appears on the inner screen. When watching Netflix video, audio and visuals didn't skip a beat. It's great that Samsung lets you choose which apps you want to carry over on the outer screen when you snap the phone closed (e.g. to move to another room), but you have to dig into the settings to select them. Works like a charm.
Galaxy Z Fold 2: Samsung's most luxe foldable phone yet
Flexible hinge could be the killer feature, but... Using carryover technology from the much smaller
Galaxy Z Flip
, the Z Fold 2 is stiff enough for the two sides to stay open at a variety of angles (Samsung calls this Flex Mode), which means it can prop itself while you take a video call, watch the screen hands-free or shoot photos. This was the most stellar part of the Z Flip and could very well be the Z Fold 2's most valuable and identifying feature. I'm using it as its own stand, but because of the screen configuration, I'm wondering if it'll wind up being less useful than the Galaxy Z Flip's square-shape screen when folded. We'll see.
Internal glass screen has no notch, but feels fragile. Samsung's most important change is to the internal screen. I'm thrilled Samsung stripped out the original Fold's thumb-shaped notch, which gives the Z Fold 2's internal screen much more usable real estate. At 7.6 inches unfolded, the Z Fold 2 features an ultrathin glass cover material that should be stronger than the Fold's plastic display -- and, crucially, less prone to phone-destroying damage.
There's still a factory-installed screen protector on top, but Samsung's redesign seems to shore up the gaps that could cause an object to get stuck in the hinge or under the display. For example, when I bend the Z Fold 2, what looks like a fall-through gap is actually plugged in with plastic, with no space for my fingernail to poke through. Progress, but you still have to baby the display and I worried about it working with just-washed hands and while cooking.
Multitasking makes sense now, but still lacks total flexibility. Splitting the Z Fold 2's large 7.6-inch display into multiple panes makes perfect sense for a device of this type, but on the original Fold, it didn't work as well as it should have. Now you get more flexibility in how you arrange and resize up to three apps on the screen (this is called Multi-Active Window), and you can set up a pair of apps (currently from a limited list) to open side by side. YouTube, Gmail, Spotify and
apps will automatically get a tablet-like split-screen view with a sidebar and main app pane.
The fingerprint reader is built into the power/lock button. As with the original Fold, it works great when you're unlocking the phone when it's open and is awkward and hard to hit when the phone is closed. A minor inconvenience to rerun fingerprint capture when it's closed as well as open, but I'm using my backup code more often than I should be to unlock the phone.
The Z Fold 2 actually feels like a premium phone. Perhaps my main complaint with the original Fold was that it strove so hard to be refined, but was so limited by the available technology, it felt like plastic trying to convince you it was steel. That's not the case with the Z Fold 2, whose Gorilla Glass Victus outer screen, burnished metal frame and sturdy hinge help keep the materials feeling polished and sleek.
Read on for even more Z Fold 2 details, including which apps work with the phone when the Z Fold 2 is in Flex Mode, all the perks Samsung will give you for being a VIP foldable phone owner and every important feature and spec.
Galaxy Z Fold 2 cameras don't match the Note 20 Ultra
The Z Fold 2 uses an Infinity-O layout, which gives it a single 10-megapixel camera (on the right panel) as you unfold the phone. You get the same camera on the cover display when the device is closed, and a three-camera system on the back with 12-megapixel wide-angle, ultrawide-angle and telephoto sensors.
It's disappointing you only get 2x optical zoom here, unlike the 3x and 5x optical zoom on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, respectively. There's no 8K video. This is not a camera phone at the top of its class (although low-light photos should be better than on the original Fold), and that's likely a decision Samsung made to help keep costs in check.
However, there are two camera features I'm excited to use. I already tried Dual Preview, which lets people on either side of the screen see what they look like before snapping the shot. I tried it out with a selfie and found that, while I liked it, it was awkward to use -- at least while I was trying to also photograph the image so you could see what it looks like.
There's also adaptive auto-framing that will register if two or more people are detected in the frame. If it detects more than three people, the algorithm will automatically switch from the main camera to the ultrawide sensor.
Flex Mode: More about the flexible hinge and which apps work
With the Galaxy Z Flip, Samsung started making my foldable phone dream a reality with a self-supporting screen that doesn't snap shut or flop open until you really want it to. It can prop itself open from a range of 75 to 115 degrees, according to Samsung, though it might be even more flexible than that.
Samsung also said it's tightened the gaps and shortened the hinge height to keep out more dust and debris using the same "sweeper" technology found in the Galaxy Z Flip clamshell.
You can use any app in Flex Mode, but only some of them will respond to the bend in the screen and adjust. These include YouTube and
along with native Samsung apps such as the camera, video call, clock, gallery, video player and calendar.
I've already used it to prop the phone up and read a page, or bend it slightly in half to make the keyboard narrower and easier to type on. This one's going to take some time to settle into with this screen size, so stay tuned.
Battery life is a serious question mark
One thing I know I'll keep an eye on is battery life, especially with a 120Hz screen refresh rate. The Z Fold 2 has a dual-battery system that brings you a combined capacity of 4,500 mAh in two separate battery cells: 2,155 mAh and 2,345 mAh, respectively.
This is the same battery capacity as the Note 20 Ultra (which has a 6.9-inch screen), whose battery life seems good -- but not great -- in daily life. Separate battery cells are inherently less efficient than one larger battery, so it will be interesting to see how the supercharged refresh rate works on such a large screen. For context, the smaller Note 20 Ultra certainly made it through the day, but it didn't impress me with its longevity.
Now we're taking the Note 20 Ultra's battery capacity and applying it to a phone with a full-size 6.2-inch screen in addition to a 7.6-inch display, so it could potentially be less efficient. As with the Note 20 Ultra, the Z Fold 2 will use an adaptive 120Hz screen, which means it'll kick into high gear for smooth scrolling and drop down to 60Hz when you're staring at a static image. While 120Hz is known to drain battery faster than 60Hz, this adaptive setting should help keep battery drain under control. The question is, how much?
I don't have any observations on this yet, since the phone was at about 40% when I unboxed it and I used it throughout the day. The true test will start at a 100% morning while I monitor it throughout the day. Rest assured, I have my eye on it.
Drag and drop, new layouts
The Z Fold 2 allows drag and drop between certain apps (including Gmail, Chrome, Microsoft Outlook and Samsung native apps). It also makes it possible to move back and forth with apps: You can start on one screen and continue to watch on the other.
You'll also be able to select different screen layouts for the outer and inner screens. As with the original Fold, you'll be able to open any app from the outer screen to use on the inner display.
All about the Galaxy Z Fold 2 screen crease
All in all, the Z Fold 2 has the same essential design as the Galaxy Fold -- it unfolds like a book into a tablet, with a vertical screen crease running from north to south along the display. Although the screen material is topped with ultrathin glass, a crease is still evident, just as it is on the Z Flip. I accept this as part of a foldable design, and I'll keep an eye on it as I use the device to see when and how it might get in the way.
You can customize the Fold's hinge color -- again
You can buy the Z Fold 2 in mystic bronze and mystic black, and customize the hinge in metallic red, silver, gold or blue. Note that it could take up to five weeks for a custom phone to arrive.
This isn't the first time Samsung has offered Fold hinge customization. The original Fold was sold in martian green and astro blue before the Fold screen disaster that saw production minimized and those flashy colors pulled. I originally customized my martian green purchase with a gold hinge. Hopefully this time around we'll see those custom colors shine.
Galaxy Z Fold 2: What you don't get
A foldable phone is a device of trade-offs. There's no waterproofing, no 512GB storage option, no microSD storage card or in-screen fingerprint reader (it's integrated into the power button).
Unlike last year's Galaxy Fold, you won't get wireless or wired earbuds in the box (you can specifically request wired USB-C AKG headphones from Samsung) and there's no free case.
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