MANILA - Folding phones with flexible screens are niche products right now, but they may move into the mainstream of mobile devices very soon. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G is showing just how useful this new technology can be.
Initially, I was skeptical of the whole concept. Flexible screens seemed gimmicky, and while I conceded that they look cool, I couldn’t find any reason for choosing a flexible screen over the hard rigid glass of today’s smartphones.
But after using this phone for several weeks, going back to my old phone seemed like a downgrade, seriously. Pardon the pun, but the larger screen does grow on you. This is the phablet reinvented.
The Fold 2, as the name implies is the second generation of Samsung’s flexible-screen folding phone lineup. While the first generation Fold was almost universally panned by reviewers, the Fold 2 got very good reviews from some of the more reputable tech pundits. It’s hard not to like this phone/tablet, despite a few shortcomings.
But first, the specs. In a nutshell, this thing is a monster.
It runs the very fast 8-core Snapdragon 865 processor that can hit 3.09 Ghz, boasts of 12 GB of RAM, and has a laptop-worthy 256 GB of storage.
When folded this phone is a respectable 6.23 inches. Unlike most phones, it doesn’t look that big up front.
One of the things I like about this gadget is that it’s narrow, making it a lot easier to operate with one hand. It’s almost just as wide as my 2016 old iPhone SE.
The front screen is also not bad to look at. Samsung fans who have grown accustomed to the excellent quality of the screens on its flagship offerings will not get disappointed with its 816 x 2260 pixel super AMOLED display. You can definitely use this phone folded up, though you may find it a bit thick and heavy.
But the magic really happens when you unfold it. The phone transforms into a 7.6-inch tablet, with a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED display.
Despite owning an iPad, which I use to browse websites and watch YouTube and Netflix, I found myself using the Fold 2 more and more for these activities. The sharp, vibrant screen more than made up for the few inches of screen real estate that it lacked versus the iPad.
If you like watching a lot of videos on your phone, you will definitely like the Fold 2. This thing is a mobile media consumption machine. Watching Netflix and YouTube on this device is just amazing.
Playing games on the bigger 120Hz screen is also amazing.
Yes, there is a crease in the middle, where the device folds, but it’s hardly noticeable when you’re browsing magazine sites, watching videos, or playing games.
Besides the beautiful screen, the included speakers also do a pretty good job of pumping out loud but still clear sounds.
While I generally prefer watching Netflix on my laptop when I can’t use the TV, I found myself bingeing a whole season of Attack on Titan on the Fold 2.
But besides being a media consumption device, this gadget can also aid in productivity. Reading email is easier. Checking your calendar is much more pleasant. Even going through spreadsheets is possible.
Typing on Fold 2 is a lot easier than typing on a smartphone, but still a bit awkward like on most tablets. But pair this with a bluetooth keyboard, and you got yourself an Android-powered laptop. You just need to find something that will stand the Fold 2 at a proper angle.
It would have been nice to have this device also recognize the S Pen for note-taking. But I also understand why this feature wasn’t included-- the crease in the middle makes it awkward to write anything that would cover the whole page. It would be even more awkward to use this for drawing because of that crease.
Flexible screens apparently are also scratch-prone. This is also the reason why the device folds inwards instead of outwards like the Huawei Mate X. This way, the hard glass outer shells protect the more delicate flexible screen.
The soft screen also collects a lot of finger smudges so be prepared to wipe it down frequently.
Other than the absence of a Note-style pen, the Fold 2 is a very capable productivity device, especially if you do most of your work on Google Docs, Sheets or Calendar.
It makes me think, maybe Samsung should have paired this device with a folding keyboard. The company definitely should as this would extend the gadget's functionality.
But in case you want to use this as a mini-laptop, there are plenty of foldable bluetooth keyboards on Lazada and Shopee.
This is also a 5G device. If your area is one of the lucky ones in the Philippines that already has 5G services, the Fold 2 will let you take advantage of those higher speeds.
But few areas in the Philippines, and even Metro Manila, have 5G as of the moment. The telcos are rolling it out, but don't expect to get 5G in your neighborhood until late next year. So don’t buy this phone, or any other phone just because it's 5G.
Don’t buy this phone for the cameras either.
Let me clarify that, the Fold 2 doesn’t suck in the photography department. It's just that there are phones out there with more capable cameras like Samsung's own S20 and Note 20 Ultras.
The Fold 2 has 5 cameras, two of which are selfie shooters. When folded, there’s a 10MP f/2.2 camera up front. Unfold it and there’s yet another camera with the same specs.
While they are practically the same selfie cameras, I actually liked the unfolded one better because it uses the huge screen for preview. There's nothing like seeing your face along with all its imperfections on a huge screen.
Meanwhile, the Fold 2’s main camera system on the back uses three shooters: a 12MP f1.6 wide angle main camera, a 12MP f2.4 2X telephoto, and another 12MP f2.2 ultra wide-angle camera.
As you can see from the sample shots, the cameras are very good. But like I said, at this price range, you can get phones with better cameras if photography is the most important thing to you. Samsung’s other flagships--the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 Ultra phones take better photos and they also have those 100x and 50x ultrazoom capabilities.
Speaking of price range, the Fold 2 costs P109,990. Yes, that’s the SRP of a bleeding-edge device that transforms from a phone to a tablet.
To put that into perspective, for that price, you can actually buy a Note 20 Ultra, which is excellent for photography and note-taking, and a Galaxy Tab 7, which is a full-fledged 11-inch tablet that includes a keyboard and a stylus.
The price is definitely the biggest reason why you won't likely be seeing this phone/tablet being flicked around by cash-starved millennials. For now, devices like the Fold 2 are best left to financial wizards like Sandbox director Han Ji Pyeong, who was seen using it on that Netflix show.
The Fold 2 blends the best of both worlds -- a phone that can be operated with one hand, and a tablet that offers generous screen real estate for media consumption and productivity. Maybe in the near future its tech will trickle down to mid-range prices and most of us can enjoy having both a phone and tablet tucked into one sleek device.