5 Jun. 2020
Samuel Gibbs used the latest foldable phone from Samsung for four months, and today published a second review. Despite being short by today’s standards when it comes to reviews — around 800 words — I found that two things were especially worth mentioning.
First, the hardware seems to be excellent and quite durable. It should not come as a surprise that Samsung makes great pieces of hardware, especially great high-end phones.1 In the foldable devices area though, their reputation suffered quite a lot with the Galaxy Fold. It is therefore impressive to see that they managed to crack to code — and not the screen — on their second-only try.
Second, I think it is disappointing to not see Gibbs give more details on how it is to use the phone, you know that thing you do with yours? What does it mean to have a folding device in terms of checking your messages and emails? Putting it in a pocket a million times a day? How often do you really need to open and close it? I am convinced that the answers to these questions are what people need to know about a folding phone, and something we don’t really learn from this review.
The durability after only four months should not — in a perfect world — be a concern, not to the point of focusing reviews on it anyway. Especially considering that during these last four months, people were safely stuck at home half of the time. I get that we don’t live in a perfect world, and that people may only have questions about the durability of such innovative phones, especially at that price, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
A few months ago, this is what I wrote about foldable phones like the Galaxy Z Flip, or the Motorola Razr:
If you thought first generations of Face ID and under-the-screen fingerprint sensors were slow, think about having to physically unfold a device every time you want to take a quick photo, reply to a message, or maybe just glance at your list of groceries.
And below are the only three sentences — four lines — where Gibbs writes about this matter:
I can open the phone with one hand, but rarely do.
So most of the time two hands are needed to open it?
Snapping the phone shut to end calls is very satisfying.
Oh damn, I did not know about the main key selling point.
The notification panel on the outside is enough to show me there’s something important waiting or the time, but I wish it was slightly longer so scrolling text was easier to read.
Sounds to me like a terrible experience for a phone that cost twice as much as a regular Samsung Galaxy S20, but it shows the time so I guess everything is forgiven.
On an average day, we unlock our phones more than a hundred times. Maybe we do it less often while using these devices, but the folding/unfolding part of the story is barely something to be overlooked, yet it is barely mentioned in the review. Too bad it focused solely on durability and not user experience; not unlike when the first iPhone reviewers where complaining about the lack of a physical keyboard or the lack of Flash.