Foldable 'phablet' a glimpse of the future

If I had been working in the office instead of from home, I think I would have spent more time answering colleagues' questions about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G than writing about it.

This is the successor to the Fold, Samsung's first foldable smartphone, which was launched last year.

Its overall design does not differ much from the original. When folded, the Fold2 looks like a normal smartphone, with a side power button doubling as a fingerprint sensor. When unfolded, it becomes a tablet.

The design addresses a perennial issue smartphone makers face: balancing single-hand usage with bigger screens.

The Fold2 has slight changes from the original. Its cover display has increased to 6.2 inches from the Fold's 4.6 inches, addressing a major complaint of the original. You need not squint when looking at this screen. It also looks more like a normal smartphone, albeit a long and thick one.

It unfolds into a 7.6-inch tablet (up from the original's 7.3-inch size) with a thin side profile and tiny bezels - achieved by getting rid of the original's camera notch and replacing it with a 10-megapixel (MP) hole-punch camera.

The main display's adaptive refresh rate goes up to 120Hz, allowing for smooth visuals whether you are browsing the Web or playing games.

At the rear of the smartphone is a triple-camera system: a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 12MP telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom.

The Fold2 comes in black and bronze (version tested).

Both models are gorgeous, though I love the glamorous bronze finish, which seems to change colour as the light hits it at different angles. The back of the bronze model has a matt finish that makes it less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

  • FOR

    •Sleek design

    •Refined folding mechanism

    •Large, vibrant main display with fast refresh rate

    •Bigger cover display

    •Three-app split-screen layout for productivity on the go



    •No expandable storage

    •Must be handled with care


    PRICE: $2,888

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ (single-core 3.1GHz, triple-core 2.4GHz and quad-core 1.8GHz)

    MAIN DISPLAY: 7.6 inch (19.3cm), Amoled, 2,208 x 1,768 pixels, 373 ppi pixel density

    COVER DISPLAY: 6.2-inch (15.7cm), Amoled, 2,260 x 816 pixels, 386 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 10.0

    MEMORY: 256GB, 12GB RAM

    REAR CAMERAS: 12MP ultra-wide-angle (f/2.2), 12MP wide-angle (f/1.8), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)

    FRONT CAMERA: 10MP (f/2.2)

    COVER CAMERA: 10MP (f/2.2)

    BATTERY: Non-removable 4,500mAh battery

    WEIGHT: 282g


    FEATURES: 4.5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5


    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The new smartphone feels more well-made than the original, based on what I can remember from my brief hands-on time with the Fold.

The hinge mechanism feels sturdier and has more resistance. You cannot unfold the Fold2 with one hand as you can with the original. You have to open it like a book.

The crease in the middle of the main display is still evident, especially when viewed from an angle. But this should not be an issue as you will be looking at the phone straight on most of the time. I do not notice the crease when reading news, browsing the Internet or playing games.

The main display looks sharp and vibrant. It is a shame that its refresh rate cannot be set at 120Hz all the time. You can set the display only to the adaptive mode - which automatically changes the refresh rate to as much as 120Hz, depending on the content displayed - or the standard 60Hz mode.

The Fold2 uses Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865+ processor, so it is no slouch in terms of performance. In the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, it scores 973 (single-core) and 2,858 (multi-core). In comparison, Samsung's flagship Galaxy Note20 Ultra scores 909 (single-core) and 2,526 (multi-core).

In terms of productivity on the go, the Fold2 may be unparalleled with its ability to transform into a tablet. You can open up to three apps at the same time in a split-screen layout in the main display. Text and images can be dragged from one app to another, which is great if you are working on presentation slides while commuting.

You can also save up to three favourite or frequently used apps to the Edge Panel, so you can open all three in your preferred split-screen arrangement with a simple tap.

Most apps, such as Chrome and Gmail, will move seamlessly from the cover display to the main display, while expanding to fill up the latter, when you unfold the phone.

But when I unfold it while gaming, most games have to be restarted before I can play them on the main display. Only some games, such as Asphalt 9 Legends and Pokemon Go, let me keep playing between displays.

A new feature is the Flex mode, in which the main display is folded to between 70 and 90 degrees. Some apps split into two screens, each with different features.

For instance, the camera splits into a viewfinder in the top screen and a preview of photos you have shot - along with various shooting options - in the bottom screen.

Battery life depends on duration of usage and which display you are using more. During my test, in which I use the Fold2 mostly in tablet mode, I find that it lasts a whole day, with around 40 per cent battery life left by the time I go to bed.

In the video playback test with the main display in adaptive mode, it clocks 14 hours and 5 minutes - an hour longer than its predecessor.

The Fold2 supports the 5G (Sub-6GHz bandwidth) network, so it is future-proof. But it is not dust-or water-proof, so handle it with care. You are reminded not to press the main display with a sharp object like a fingernail, to ensure no objects are placed between screens when you are folding the main display and to not remove the pre-installed screen protector film.

Anyway, you will probably take very good care of the Fold2 if you buy one, given its whopping price tag of $2,888. And you get only 256GB of internal memory and no expandable storage. For that price, one would expect at least 512GB.

Still, it is $200 cheaper than the original, though it still costs about as much as the latest 15-inch Razer Blade gaming laptop.

Of course, no one will bat an eyelid when you pull a gaming laptop out of your bag, but they will stare when you unfold the future before their eyes.

With the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, Samsung has shown how foldable smartphones can work in the real world.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2020, with the headline 'Foldable 'phablet' a glimpse of the future'. Print Edition | Subscribe