Mobiles & Tablets

Foldable first: Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is full of innovation but comes at a gasp-inducing cost

Mala Bhargava SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON | Updated on February 21, 2019 Published on February 21, 2019

Samsung’s much awaited foldable phone, straightforwardly named the Galaxy Fold, all but overshadowed the Galaxy S10 lineup at Samsung’s Unpacked event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium yesterday in San Francisco. Within seconds of the start of presentations, images of the new foldable device flowed over the screen and Justin Denison, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing for the company headed straight on introduce the new phone-tablet.

The Galaxy Fold comes at a fitting time, when one considers it has been exactly ten years since Samsung debuted the Galaxy line of phones, going on to sell a whole galaxy of them and become very much responsible for popularising Android, gradually, weaning users away from Nokia phones. 

Samsung has actually had foldable ambitions for several years, showing concept devices every so often, but now they have a device that is actually being brought to market. It is entirely fitting too that the Korean electronics giant should remind the world of its track record with innovation, having been the ones who dared bring out a phone that was not only really large, at the time, but also had a stylus that works brilliantly. Samsung also came up with iris recognition, a voice assistant of their own and the Dex feature that interfaces with a computer. Now, the new Galaxy Fold comes with quite a lot that is new. Samsung credits itself with having kick-started a new category, but that may be debatable as one company has already shown off a foldable phone, and several other companies are bringing their own foldable concepts to the fray. It is probably true however that the success of foldable phones as a new type of device will depend on how well Samsung’s fare with users.

Fold and hold

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Fold turns out to have a 4.6 inch display on the cover or upper flap. This is the part that is more like the regular phones we know today. Unfold the device and you’ll find a 7.3-inch screen on the inside — that’s the size of a small tablet. A new hinging mechanism had to be worked on to make sure it would support many thousands of instances of folds and unfold and so the Fold can open smoothly and naturally, like a book, and close up flat and compact with a click. To achieve this, Samsung has engineered a hinge with multiple interlocking gears. This system is housed in a hidden enclosure so it doesn’t take away from an elegant look. The fingerprint scanner is found on the side where the thumb naturally rests. The device has a dual battery, which had to be placed so as not to upset the balance when it’s held in the hands. The internal screen needs to not merely bend but actually folds in one quick intuitive motion, which Samsung says has been a difficult innovation to deliver, requiring a new polymer layer with a display around 50 percent thinner than the typical smartphone display.

Read also: Unfolding the Foldable: Everyone’s interested in bending screens

Incredibly, the Galaxy Fold has six cameras so that one can take a photo no matter how one holds the device. That too is a feat and a first.

Three-app multitasking

Foldable phones would be dead on arrival if Android didn’t support the new form factor, with interfaces and apps fitting and aligning properly to new sizes. To make sure it doesn’t go about lagging, the device has 12GB of RAM. It also has 512GB of internal storage — and it will need it as one of the things a user can now do with the Fold is three-app multitasking. On the main display, three separate apps can be opened up at the same time. For instance, one can chat with someone, browse the web for something, and make notes. That’s if the user’s brain can take all that. 

Samsung has worked with Google and developers to support this type of multitasking and on ‘App Continuity’ which will allow apps to take up where you leave off. because if not, it will take a long time to start up each app and go back to the place one was working on. If one needs more functionality, the Fold will support DeX which allows the user to access the apps on a phone or tablet on the screen of a PC or a separate monitor. Because things can get a shade complicated, Samsung has also put in its virtual assistant Bixby, so one can execute a routine or sequence of actions, reducing the time needed to launch what one normally likes to use in different situations. 

Innovative as it is, the Galaxy Fold does have many hurdles to overcome, not the least of which is its $1,980 asking price which may be too much for many to stomach. Still, there’s no underestimating disposable incomes, even in India, and early adopters or those who flaunt a Fold may willingly pick up the device after it becomes available in April. There are other tricky factors that may be at play such as how warm the device gets, how the screens reflect light, how convenient it actually becomes to use, specially when on the go and in phone mode. Ultimately, the Fold is for those who want to try it out. “We created Galaxy Fold for those that want to experience what a premium foldable device can do, beyond the limitations of a traditional smartphone,” said DJ Koh, President and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division, Samsung, at the event.



Published on February 21, 2019
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