Samsung Galaxy Fold: The Australian Non-Review

samsung galaxy fold review gizmodo australiaImage: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Last week the $2,999 Samsung Galaxy Fold was announced for Australia. It went on sale today, which is also when the local review embargo lifted. Some Australian reviewers who received the Fold only had a couple of days with the product to accompany the short embargo period. This has been due to a lack of supply.

With such a short lived experience with a new form factor and thus an inability to adequately test it, I can't in good conscience call this a review. But I do have some thoughts.

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The Galaxy Fold is unique in its ability to capture one's attention.

It isn't subtle. Opening and shutting it catches the eye in a way that I've never seen in a phone.

It's akin to modern day magic. Onlookers reach out to touch it gingerly, in awe of what it can do. And the sheen hasn't quite worn off on me yet, even after having seen the phone at IFA, at a Samsung pre-briefing and now after a few days' experience.

I haven't found a phone so satisfying to close since the clam shell RAZR phone, which offered an air of drama to the heated conversations of teenagers such as myself.

But wonderment doesn't necessitate practicality. And I found myself pondering whether there was much substance beyond the gimmick.

So I tested this thought experiment during my morning commute.

On ordinary days I open three separate apps to juggle the back end of our website, Slack and Gmail. Not to mention whatever else I'm doing at the time - talking to my mum on WhatsApp, checking Twitter or shit posting in a group chat.

But on this day I was able to take advantage of the Fold's 7.3-inch screen for easy reading, as well as its ability to display multiple apps at once - though I did sometimes find that I needed to press down rather firmly to move the apps around the screen.

Still, I was able to see what was going on in Slack, monitor the site and check emails from a single screen. If I needed to type a response, I could do so from any mini window.

Alternatively, you can utilise this functionality to combine work and pleasure. For example, clearing emails on one side while watch YouTube on the other.

I tested this back at IFA and it made for a sublime user experience.

And while I did notice the prominent crease from both a visual and tactile perspective initially, this faded swiftly during use.

That being said, as a potential work horse, the Fold isn't without its limitations.

While I love the split keyboard design, the device itself has still proven to be slightly too large, heavy and awkwardly shaped for my small hands. I couldn't find a comfortable and sustainable angle.

It slowed my pace significantly, and I had to fight the urge to swap back to another device "just for this one message" to save time. It also made me yearn for a stylus.

Split keyboard vibes

And while there is the option to switch to the 4.6-inch front screen for a more normalised typing experience, a new problem arose. The front screen is great for light tasks such as scrolling emails or peeking at Twitter, but it was inconvenient for active use. The font is small. The keyboard is even smaller. It was difficult to type on without hitting the wrong letter consistently, so speed I could theoretically recover was wasted by fixing typos.

Baby front screen

That aside, the front screen was useful, despite covering a weirdly small portion of the physical space. App continuity worked flawlessly, so long as I remembered to toggle it on for every new app I downloaded.

And it wasn't only stationary apps such as Chrome or Messenger that transitioned without a hitch. Netflix didn't skip a beat between opening and shutting the device and subsequently swapping between the two screens. I also had the same results with the mobile game Patchwork.

And this makes sense. This is the first Samsung phone to come to Australia with a non-Exynos processor. Instead, we have been blessed with the Snapdragon 855, which combined with the 12GB RAM makes for a powerful machine.

Even in my short time with it, I witnessed this processing power at work. And the addition of 512GB of storage makes for quite the unit.

But I digress.

While I wholeheartedly dig the second screen in theory, I really want to see it grow a little so I can type more conveniently and see a view it a little clearer.

While I didn't get much time to try the camera, that's okay because it's almost the same as what you'll find in the Galaxy S10 range, with the addition of a 10MP selfie camera on the cover screen.

Besides that, you'll find the familiar triple rear (16MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide and 12MP telephoto lenses) and double front (10MP and 8MP RGB lenses) array.

It's not as good as the Huawei P30 Pro or perhaps even the iPhone 11 Pro Max, but it's a reliable setup that takes lovely shots from the front and back.

A quick selfie

This isn't surprising or new, but including decent cameras in an arguably gimmicky phone is appreciated.

Playing with the camera at IFA

What has been surprising is the battery life.

I don't find Samsung phone batteries to be particularly hearty, especially compared to Huawei, Oppo and in the past, the Pixel. While the Fold can afford a larger 4,380mAH battery due to its sheer size, I expected the dual screens to greedily slurp down its battery juice. And yet I have found myself just shy of 30 per cent before midnight on day one. This evening it's only at 51 per cent at 7pm.

While I'm cautious about declaring the battery as amazing after only two days of use, I am admittedly impressed.

Image: My butt

Two days with the Fold has afforded me a little more insight into the device, but I still find myself at a loss as to whether I would want one full time.

There is a lot I adore. Using the Fold is like holding the future in one's hand. You get a glimpse at where consumer technology is going and that's incredibly special and humbling.

But there's more to it than mere marvel.

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

There's also substance and functionality. I can see how the Fold could fit into my life if it weren't for a few things that make it that little bit inconvenient. Well, that and the price.

I loved the multi tasking possibilities... but the typing difficulties detracted from its usefulness.

I enjoyed the option of using the front screen instead... but it was too small.

I admired the commitment to making it work despite earlier issues... but it's still a smudge and scratch magnet that doesn't have an IP rating.

I like how thin it is... but it's still too heavy and bulky for my hands.

The only way I can describe my brief experience is falling in almost-love.

There's so much to applaud, but there are perhaps a too many compromises for me to make the switch.

And yet, I know that someday that will change and I'll be all in.

That may not be today, but I take pleasure in the knowledge that the future is coming, and that I've now had part of it under my fingertips.

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