Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is sexy and new: review

A year ago, it was an eye-catching phone idea. This year, it’s the most intriguing Android phone on the market, and a device that’s legitimately worth all your tech-lust.

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Meet the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, the first-ever, must-have foldable phone. It’s a phone that starts out sleek and amazingly sexy, all shiny, rose-golden edges and soft polished feel, then literally unfolds to reveal a 7.6-inch AMOLED screen that’s essentially a mini-tablet. It’s a blend of electric and eye-catching and brilliantly functional too, all in a polished package that seems intentionally designed to have you standing out from any and every crowd.

But to understand how true brilliance of the Z Fold (and really, of Samsung’s approach in general), you have to first understand its back story. Last year, Samsung kickstarted the entire foldable phone market (a market that’s now seeing entrants from LG, Microsoft, and Huawei, among others), with the original Galaxy Fold.

That phone delivered an intriguing first-time idea, a screen made of material you could fold, a unique technological triumph. From iPhone to Galaxy Note to Google Pixel, if you crack open any phone, you’ll realize just how much thickness is devoted to the screen. Somehow, Samsung made that paper-thin and wildly bendable.

In many ways, this fit Samsung’s DNA. This is the company that made the extra-large phone-and-stylus combo cool thanks to its Note line, and it stuck by that Note line, growing and iterating it over much of the last decade. If any company could unlock and drive the potential of folding phones, it was going to be Samsung. And if any company was going to stick by an innovation like this one, it was going to be Samsung.

But the original Fold had flaws. The screen was wildly delicate, and the folding mechanism had issues. There were annoyances of shape and usability, and while the original Fold was great for watching movies, it just wasn’t user-friendly enough for you to rely on it in all situations. The outside screen was tiny, and both giant inside and smaller outside screen were marred by nonsensical placements that kept them from being truly full-bleed and elegant.

The first Fold was an idea. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is that idea magnificently realized. Samsung addresses every major flaw in last year’s device, delivering the first truly premium foldable phone. Last year’s device was a triumph of technology, even if it wasn’t perfect. This year’s Z Fold 2 is a foldable phone experience you’ll never want to leave.



a man standing next to a suitcase: A woman walks past an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Z Flip smartphones at a Samsung Electronics store in Seoul on October 8, 2020 as the electronics giant flagged a leap of nearly 60 percent in third-quarter operating profits.


© JUNG YEON-JE
A woman walks past an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Z Flip smartphones at a Samsung Electronics store in Seoul on October 8, 2020 as the electronics giant flagged a leap of nearly 60 percent in third-quarter operating profits.

A woman walks past an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Z Flip smartphones at a Samsung Electronics store in Seoul on October 8, 2020 as the electronics giant flagged a leap of nearly 60 percent in third-quarter operating profits. (JUNG YEON-JE/)

It’s best to talk about it as an experience, too, because it intends to (and successfully does, at many times) suck you in. The exterior of the phone this time around is stunning, especially in the rose gold colorway. There’s an air of refinement to the Z Fold 2, with smooth, matte finish on the back, and a true full-bleed screen on the front, even while the phone is closed.

The 6.2-inch outer screen is lustrous in its own right, and it’s as tall as a iPhone Pro Max screen, although it gives up a hair of width. It still retains just enough size to be useful; you can do work and surf the web and check emails on it, and it’s now large enough that you can watch a movie on it with satisfaction, too.

It’s an exterior with just one fault: It doesn’t come with a case. Last year, Samsung included a case with its Fold, instantly offering protection for the exterior and essentially making this feel like a more premium offering. There’s no case in the box this time around, and while the Z Fold 2 is eye-catching, you can’t help but want to protect it. This year, that protection will cost you (on top of the premium price of the phone, $2,000).

Samsung also redesigns its hinge, the linchpin of last year’s phone. A year ago, it felt cheap and had only two settings, but this year’s Z Fold 2 can open to a variety of positions, and is functional even when partially open. Dubbed Flex Mode, this functionality opens a new world of possibilities, letting you essentially treat the phone like a mini-laptop or new-age Sidekick (remember those by T-Mobile?) when texting. It’s a unique level of versatility, and while you won’t want to live in this halfway mode very often (it’s a bit cramped to look at) it’s a nice feature to have.

WHEN YOU OPEN THE PHONE

Open the phone all the way, though, and that’s when things get fun. Now you’re into the 7.6-inch inner screen, and this is a technological triumph. Again, last year’s phone was solid, but that screen had flaws. That foldable screen felt ever-so-slightly disconnected from the chassis, and a fold line was visible where the screen folded. When you watched films, the lustrous colors distracted from that fold line and never bothered you, but, yes, it was there.

Now, the fold line is vastly more imperceptible, and all gaps between screen and phone body are gone. Additionally, the garish inner camera section is gone, giving you 7.6 inches of mini-tablet bliss. This is the phone you want for watching movies, and it works terrifically well with Sling TV and Netflix alike. It’s also built for reading graphic novels; it’s wide enough to be natural for everything I’ve read on the DC Universe app, showcasing both art and words with ease.

It is still delicate, though, but much less so, thanks to ultra-thin glass coating the inner screen. This feels like a screen this year. But this still isn’t your waterproof, dustproof, everything-proof phone, so yes, you’ll want to keep it covered when you go out in the rain. That said, this phone also doesn’t invite dust, either, thanks to a slightly smaller space between the two foldable halves.

Samsung uses its real estate well, both in Flex Mode and when fully open. There’s something extra-fun about taking a picture with the phone in closed, relying on the powerful camera lenses on the back of the device, then opening the screen to view the image in extra detail. No, this camera isn’t Samsung’s most powerful (that’s the S20 Ultra, still the best camera I’ve used this year), but the Z Fold 2′s camera is still excellent, delivering quality images.

Flex Mode has other abilities, too, easily separating into two bits to let you type and view content, or navigate video and view video on the screen’s two new halves. It’s excellently executed, but, at the moment, too few apps take advantage of it. As with most unique phone tech, it’ll likely take Samsung leading the way for apps to recognize the potential here. But there’s gaming upside here, as well as productivity and video upside if companies take advantage of what Samsung has to offer.

Apps do understand the overall potential of the Z Fold 2, though, and you’ll see that whether you’re surfing the web or watching Disney Plus. Transitioning from small screen to big screen is seamless on the Z Fold 2, so you’ll quickly get comfortable working on the other screen for quick tasks, then unfolding the phone to enjoy a more immersive experience.

Let’s understand how immersive that experience is too, because it’s truly special. The screen is bright and its range of colors shine, whether you’re watching Harley Quinn, an animated show, or The Black Panther from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The lone shortcoming is that not all apps take advantage of the screen real estate. Most of the MCU films land in 16:9, leaving a great amount of unused screen real estate. DC Universe and CBS All Access, meanwhile, consistently utilize more of the screen.

The uptick: The Z Fold 2 has so much multi-tasking potential that you don’t need to be chained only to a movie anyway. Just put a movie on part of the screen, and surf the web on the rest of it. The Z Fold 2 is optimized for this experience, and while apps are taking awhile to take advantage, the potential here is endless.

Really, the potential for this entire phone line is endless. A year ago, the foldable phone was an intriguing idea that Samsung was driving and pushing. This year, Samsung pushes out an absolutely masterful device that sets the standard for all other foldable phones (and there are several).

A year ago, I liked the potential of the original Fold. It was gutsy and forward-thinking, but I was worried: It was a device with potential but needed obvious work. Give credit to Samsung for putting in that work and, in one year, delivering a second iteration.

And if this phone is any indication, it’s the start of something special.

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