Home >Technology >Gadgets >Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 review: A more thoughtful approach to foldables

NEW DELHI: Phones don’t need to be tablets - is what many said last year after Samsung made the Galaxy Fold. This year, Samsung has changed that to - hey, maybe this can work.

While last year's Samsung Galaxy Fold felt rushed and unfinished, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 feels more thoughtful and I daresay, complete. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still enough work to be done before this phone is truly convincing, but this — arguably Samsung’s third attempt at this form factor — is actually a good first step in what could be a new class of phablets.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is still a thick and heavy (282 grams) device, but whether tablets that fold into phones can be slimmer and thinner is a question we're yet to answer. Instead, the Z Fold 2 has a larger (6.2-inch) screen outside and a better screen inside, as compared to its predecessor.

The screen outside is slightly more useful now, though it’s still extremely narrow, with 25:9 aspect ratio. Don’t be surprised if you default to the bigger unfolded screen for most work, but the one outside is just enough to quickly respond to a text message or read through a short document. If Samsung were to choose a more Surface Duo-like form factor, it might make both screens equally useful.

On the other hand, the screen inside now has a 120Hz refresh rate, a feature that has become a regular on smartphones nowadays. Between this and the Snapdragon 865+ chipset inside, the Galaxy Fold 2 feels impressively fast. Its interface transitions are smooth, and the screen can adaptively change the refresh rate in order to conserve battery.

Samsung has some neat software tricks to take advantage of this, centered around its "Edge panels". This is a dock you pull out from the right of the phone, which can be customised and lists the most-used apps. You can pull out apps from here to use more than one at a time. You can even save app pairs, for things you use, side-by-side—like say Chrome and WhatsApp—and the phone will open those apps together on either side of the hinge.

Your instinctive reaction to using multiple apps at the same time maybe that you don't need it, and you would be right too. But is it that difficult to imagine having a document open on one half of a screen, while you shoot texts or emails to your team based on that document on the other half?

The drawback though is that this is Samsung’s software, because Android doesn't natively support folding screens yet. Which means it's going to be a while before developers take advantage of it. After all, how many developers build specifically for the S-Pen right now, a thing Samsung made years ago for the Note devices.

Speaking of the Note, I can totally see a future where the Fold is the Note and the S-Pen is included in-box. The Note is a phone meant for a specific kind of user, and though the stylus is important, it's first and foremost a great phone. This is what last year's Fold failed to accomplish.

The large 7.6-inch screen is certainly a battery hog, but the phone still lasts a full work day unless you’re gaming a lot on it. I got it to last from 10am to 9pm with mostly regular usage and about 30 minutes of gaming. On the Z Fold 2, even if you don’t take advantage of the big, folding screen you have a mighty good phone to use.

There are hurdles though, and it's very clear that Samsung is still grappling to balance costs. Which is probably why the Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn't bring the same camera quality as the Notes or the S20 series.

That doesn't mean they're bad. The cameras are respectable — three on the back, one selfie camera on the inside and one on the outside — but they aren't as feature-rich as Samsung's own flagships. Instead, there are a few Fold-specific features here.

For instance, you can split the phone in half and prop it up on the screen and the camera interface will adapt to that. You can also use the front screen as a viewfinder to take selfies with the rear cameras. The half-folded mode also works well for video calls.

You can see that Samsung is committed to this, so the software features will likely keep increasing with time too. And it's just a matter of time before Google adds native support on Android too.

In sum, where the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Fold were devices that fold for the sake of folding, you can feel the company taking a new direction with the Z Fold 2. That is what matters here. The Fold is just a first step towards smartphones that can be like this. Imagine this coming down to Samsung's A-series or even cheaper devices.

There aren’t enough features in the world to justify a 1.5 lakh price tag, doesn’t matter whether it’s a Galaxy or an iPhone. Yet, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a welcome addition to the smartphone market. Samsung’s step forward is a win for the industry at large.

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