Samsung wasn't technically the first company to unveil a foldable phone, but the Galaxy Fold was the first device to demonstrate what foldables could be. And then we reviewers broke them. After that, Samsung seemed to buckle down. It acknowledged its faults, fortified key elements of the Fold’s design, and followed up with the impressive Galaxy Z Flip earlier this year. Now, amid plenty of turmoil, comes the $2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2 — and it's at least a little ridiculous.
This is, after all, an extravagantly expensive sequel to a troubled first attempt. Many people can't buy this phone, and many more almost certainly don't need to. If nothing else, though, the Fold 2 offers a more polished glimpse of what the future of our phones can be, and what people have to look forward to once these devices become more affordable and mainstream. That's because it's the finest foldable I've used yet, and Samsung deserves credit for ironing out many of the issues that plagued the original. The thing you need to keep in mind, though, is that while the hardware is miles better than it used to be, the ecosystem around it still has a long way to go.
- It’s a tablet AND a phone!
- Both displays are bigger and better
- Improved design and build quality
- Solid performance
- Extravagantly expensive
- Multitasking isn’t intuitive
- Many apps aren’t optimized for tablets/foldables
In the United States, the Z Fold 2 comes in just one configuration, with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. What the Fold 2 lacks in flexible storage options, though, it attempts to make up for with flair. The phone is available from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon in the standard black and bronze finishes, but if you order one straight from Samsung, you have the option of customizing the color of your phone's hinge. Red, blue, gold and silver are all up for grabs -- just know that if you plan to pre-order a Fold 2 soon, choosing a custom hinge color may delay the phone's arrival.
What you get, what you don’t
The first Galaxy Fold was marketed as innovation incarnate, a taste of tomorrow's tech -- if one only available to the well-heeled. This time, Samsung is leaning more heavily into the luxe angle, though not always in the ways you'd expect.
As part of the Fold 2's "VIP" experience, you'll get access to service reps trained specifically to deal with the foldable and its quirks. While certainly welcome, this is nothing new -- Samsung extended the same courtesy to owners of the original model. What is new is the bevy of flashy perks that come with Fold 2 ownership, including Michelin-starred takeout meals through a service called Tock, a complimentary round of golf, a $50 credit toward in-home hair service (which sounds like a terrible idea to me but whatever), and a year-long membership to FoundersCard, which offers travel and lifestyle benefits to entrepreneurs and now phone nerds.
The message here is clear: You're not just a Fold 2 owner. You're an Important Person. It's a clever way for Samsung to justify the phone's $2,000 price, but most people probably would have preferred getting more goodies in the box in the first place. While the first Fold came with a carbon fiber case and a pair of Samsung's AKG-tuned Galaxy Buds, this year's model comes with... a charger. Oh, and one of those SIM removal tools. The paucity of pack-ins here is a little surprising considering Samsung's earlier largesse. For what it's worth, you can request a pair of wired AKG earbuds, though it seems clear Samsung hopes you won't bother.
An improved design
Despite Samsung's best intentions, the first Galaxy Fold left us with plenty of questions about the viability of foldable phones. Even if you put aside the whole “don't-remove-that-screen-protector” thing, the Fold still had issues. The original hinges had gaps large enough to let schmutz inside. Its big, flexible screen didn’t well terribly well protected. And our second review unit developed a cluster of dead pixels. This year, things are different.
The first Galaxy Fold was chunky any way you looked at it, and this year's version is technically even chunkier. It's a little wider and a little heavier than the original, and it still feels like a fat remote control when it's closed, but the plus side is it should be a lot more durable. The gaps on either side of the hinge are razor-thin, which should keep bits of debris from getting inside. And there are tiny brushes on the inside of the phone's two halves, so when you open the Fold 2, they scrape along the outside of the hinge to push away out of the danger zone. You can even hear them at work sometimes as you start to unfold the phone.
The hinge itself is also much tighter this time around, to the point where you can prop the Fold 2 open like a pseudo-laptop on a table. Samsung calls this Flex Mode, and I know what some of you are wondering: Yes, you can type on it like a laptop, but it's not very enjoyable, and yes, you can still open the Fold 2 with one hand. It's just a lot harder this time, which if nothing else means I can't treat this thing like a fidget toy the way I could with the old one. I wouldn’t recommend trying unless you like the concerning feel of your thumbnail digging into the screen. Once open, you'll also notice the small gaps at the top and bottom of the display remain capped to prevent stuff from slipping under the thin display layer.
All of this should help keep the Fold 2 running reliably, but we’ve had our review unit for less than two weeks and can’t make any promises. In fact, you should still handle this thing with kid gloves. Like last time, the Fold 2 doesn't carry an IP rating for water or dust resistance, so you just can't be as cavalier with it as you would other phones. And while the internal display has been fortified with a layer of Samsung's Ultra Thin Glass, I still shudder to think about what it would look like after a faceplant on asphalt. Unfortunately, I can't offer any lasting reassurances about the Fold 2's durability, since we've had our review unit for less than two weeks. (Don’t worry: we’ll keep you updated as we continue to test this thing.)