When Samsung showed off its Galaxy Fold on February 20, the company took great care to only highlight the device from certain angles. When it brought the hardware to MWC, it highlighted it from a glass case. Journalists and reviewers haven’t yet had a chance to go hands-on with the device, despite myriad questions about how the fold will work in day-to-day operation. It’s starting to look like Samsung had good reason to play its cards this way if a new leak about the state of the Galaxy Fold is accurate.
A report from SamMobile , purportedly from a leaker who actually has the device, lays out the news. First, the Galaxy Fold doesn’t actually fold flat. Its folding mechanism is described as being “more like a binder,” with a gap between the two sides of the display even when fully closed. There’s also apparently a several-second gap for the software to catch up to the hardware when the device is opened or shut. Chrome apparently doesn’t always catch the switch, and won’t change over from rendering to full screen when switching. This sort of issue should be something Samsung can fix before the device actually comes to market.
The crease can be easily felt underneath a finger, but reportedly is less visible when using the screen above 70 percent brightness. The display will not remain active when the panel is closed to a right angle, implying that it won’t be possible to treat the Galaxy Fold like a book. Whether anyone would actually want to use the device in this fashion is neither a settled question nor a crazy idea — new form factors can create new usage models.
Performance is said to be equivalent to a Galaxy S10+, though the use of UFS 3.0 has improved storage performance. SamMobile claims a boost from 950MB/s sequential read and 306MB/s sequential write to 1512MB/s and 418MB/s, respectively, for gains of 1.59x and 1.37x. Users are unlikely to notice the pickups given the overall speed of the device, but anyone using the phone for heavy video recording will likely appreciate the increased speed when copying large files.
In a separate leak, a video uploaded to YouTube last week shows the crease and phone in more detail.
This video suggests that the crease’s visibility is indeed brightness-dependent. It’s quite visible on the black background but fades out in the latter half of the video when there’s white content on the screen.
There are multiple questions wrapped around folding phone technology. While there’s undoubtedly a version of the tech that consumers would want, handset pricing is through the roof, hinge designs are complex and expensive, and production of said hinges is limited. DigiTimes reported yesterday that hinges must be at least 10x stronger for folding devices than they’d typically be for a standard laptop. Volume production of hinge parts may not happen until 2020 limiting manufacturer shipments.
The high price of the Galaxy Fold may be necessary to pay for its development costs, but high prices bring high expectations. Waiting several seconds for apps to adapt to the external display might be a non-issue or it could become a problem depending on how frequently it occurs and whether it resolves automatically for all applications. The visible crease could stoke concerns about wear-and-tear or be off-putting or be completely overblown. Samsung is clearly very sensitive to how the device will be perceived.
I’m fundamentally dubious that the foldable smartphone or its predecessor, the dual-screen smartphone , represent any kind of meaningful technological advance for the field. It mostly seems like a questionable solution in search of an incredibly expensive problem. But I’m also willing to acknowledge that these devices hit price points and features we haven’t seen before, and it’s difficult to know what the overall level of consumer expectation will be for the final product. The Galaxy Fold could redefine consumer smartphone expectations in the long-term when it launches on April 26, or go down in history as just another example of “Next Big Thing” technology that never proved as popular or enduring in the market as its designers had hoped.