Foldable phones

Like all mobile phone developers and manufacturers, Samsung is constantly trying to push the envelope when it comes to innovation. This South Korean corporate titan can rightly take pride in getting the first foldable smartphone to consumers as a prestige product.

Competition is fierce. Huawei is due to launch a folding phone later in 2019 (the Huawei Mate X) and Apple, LG, Motorola and Xiaomi are all currently working along the same lines.

So, can folding smartphones offer a genuinely superior experience compared with ‘normal’ smartphones?

As the smartphone market stutters, manufacturers hope foldable phones will reinvigorate it, and Samsung has been working furiously to be the first to launch.

 

When buying any new piece of technology, like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, it’s important to have all the facts.

Smartphones, in particular, can be a considerable investment, which makes sense considering they are such an integral part of our daily lives.

It’s therefore important to make an informed decision when buying any new handheld device. In this post, we’re here to tell you all there is about this highly anticipated, new smartphone.

We’ll cover everything from how the Samsung Galaxy Fold works, its specs, the positives but also the recent problems it’s been facing.

 

Also important to keep in mind are the risks associated with buying any new, innovative device.

This makes insurance a must-have for all devices, gadgets, smartphones and tablets.

We’ll cover what these risks might be as well as what to consider when looking for mobile phone insurance coverage.

 

How much is the Samsung Galaxy Fold?

 

The price tag on the Samsung Galaxy Fold comes in at an eye-watering £1,800, making it the most expensive smartphone on the market, and matching the cost of the foldable Huawei Mate X (due to be released before the end of summer 2019).

Samsung has mitigated the impact of that price by offering a higher-value than usual in-box package, which includes a pair of Galaxy buds earphones and a robust, lightweight case.

 

How does it work?

 

This is a device that Samsung has been working on (in great secrecy) for more than 10 years.

Apparently, there have been well over 1,000 iterations of the prototypes during that development phase.

Samsung’s special machines are used to fold and unfold the phone 200,000 times (which takes a week to complete, believe it or not!) and which simulates five years of use (assuming the phone is folded and unfolded 100 times a day).

 

So, it’s certainly been tested to within an inch of its life, and the specs and features it comes with are what you’d expect from Samsung – pretty impressive.

 

The phone’s edges are split in two, with each screen getting its own half.

When the Fold is open, the two halves sit next to each other with a small gap between the two.

When the phone is folded, these halves pull apart and close at a 90-degree angle from the hinge.

The lock can’t be over-extended as locks prevent the user from over-extending the display past 180 degrees.

 

The 20-part interlocking hinges make folding and unfolding easy for the product’s lifespan.

Fold it, the phone snaps shut with a click, so it won’t accidentally ‘unfold’ itself in your bag, either.

 

Is it a good device?

 

It weighs 269g, making it one of the heaviest smartphones on the market.

However, the caveat is that the Galaxy Fold is not intended to be a mass market cash cow for Samsung, but the industry is hoping it can carve out a path for significant advances given that smartphone sales have been flagging in recent years.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the specs:

 

Screen: A very large 7.3-inch display (unfolded –  4.6-inches when folded) with Samsung’s state-of-the-art display quality with superb resolution.

Resolution: 1,680 x 720 pixels (folded), 2,152 x 1,536 pixels (unfolded)

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon.

RAM: A very large 12GB.

Storage: 512GB of storage but no extra micro SD storage.

Battery/ies:  Dual-headed monster power; 4,380mAh – in fact, 2 batteries, one in each half, working in tandem.

Wireless charging: the Fold can charge another device too, with the new Wireless PowerShare.

No headphone jack: the jury is still out regarding the positive or negative aspects of only being able to use wireless buds.

Cameras: SIX cameras with very similar specs to the Galaxy S10, so very high-quality.

Physical fingerprint scanner: interestingly, most reviewers seem to prefer a physical scanner to the supposed technological breakthrough of in-screen scanners.

 

There are also a number of functional pluses: 

 

  • You can split a single screen into sections on a regular smartphone, but having a separate screen for each task gives more flexibility.
  • Video playback benefits, along with graphic design elements for gaming.
  • The capacity to switch from a small screen to a much bigger screen instantly is a boon if you’re multitasking. For example, writing an SMS on the front screen and then instantly unfolding it to read a newspaper.
  • ‘Foldability’ means you’re carrying a pocket-sized tablet in your pocket, so working on the go is much easier.
  • It’s a powerful piece of kit, so performance is outstanding on optimised apps.
  • The big battery means enough juice to extend heavy use.

 

So, the short answer to the question above is; “Yes, it’s a very good device” (given the whacking retail price, we’d expect no less). If you want a deeper dive on the details, check this review.

 

And the stylus?

 

There are those in the ether, on blogs, YouTube and tech sites who feel they would happily pay £1,800 for the added functionality that a Samsung S Pen would add.

Given that the phone has a double-sized screen, they have a point.

But there’s no stylus, presumably because Samsung feels that the S Pen belongs to the Galaxy Note range and it doesn’t want to cannibalise that.

 

What about recent problems with the Galaxy Fold?

 

It was due to be launched in the USA in the last week of April, while the UK release date was May 3rd, but the best-laid plans often go awry.

Test units were sent out to reviewers and they rapidly reported emerging problems with the device.

For some, the screens flickered, froze and finally died within the first two days.

A couple of reviewers mistakenly peeled off an outer plastic layer that was supposed to be permanent – they later reported scratches on the screen.

The consensus after a few days of testing was that there were three main issues:

 

The protective layer on the screen

 

In most phones, a wafer-thin, rigid sheet of glass is used to protect the display.

However, for the Fold’s plastic display, Samsung used its own Samsung Display Thin Film Encapsulation technology for OLED displays.

The touch sensor module is placed directly onto this thin film, so the film is part of the display technology, not an optional protective element.

 

Why has Samsung done this? Principally, to enhance the strength of the thin plastic layer on the phone’s screen, which is a perfectly legitimate move.

Unfortunately, a lot of early users/reviewers have found themselves in difficulties because they removed this “protective layer”, assuming that it was merely a standard screen protector to be peeled off when unboxing.

It’s a little strange that it’s even possible to remove such an important item from the screen.

 

The lack of protection and fragility of the main display mean that the screen is likely to have a shorter life-cycle than usual.

As those of us who’ve ever dropped an unprotected smartphone know, a screen replacement isn’t cheap (this is where mobile phone insurance can come in really handy)!

As Daniel Gleeson, analyst at Ovum, a tech data, research and consulting company said: “The display seems to have broken in several different ways so even if the film problem is fixed, it still looks like there are underlying issues in the display.”

 

The Hinge design

 

These early models are vulnerable to damage around the hinge because the Fold doesn’t fold flat.

“Foldable” displays, even after 2,000 prototypes have been made, still behave like paper. There is a clear gap between the two parts of the phone where it hinges.

It may only be a few millimetres, but it’s enough to be a risk.

The official Samsung line on the inner side of the hinge is: “Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge.”

 

Material getting inside the phone

 

Unfortunately, The Galaxy Fold isn’t IPX rated when it comes to water or dust resistance.

This quality standard feature is now a given on the vast majority of flagship phones launching in 2019 (although a lot of buyers probably won’t even notice that it’s missing from the Fold specs list).

 

iFixit (an online community of environmentalist DIY phone repairers) did a ‘teardown’ of the Fold – in other words, dismantling a gadget until you can lay out every single component part.

iFixit examined the device’s fold from the front and identified a gap in the device’s bezel – the ‘frame’ around the edge – near the bend where the phone actually folds.

Bezels would obviously stop the bend folding, so this area needs to stay uncovered. However, that means, dirt or small particles can get in.

 

Incidentally, don’t try teardowns at home.

For one thing, it would void any insurance you might have taken out. As long as you avoid doing this, however, mobile phone insurance should cover for any particles that enter your device and cause malfunction.

 

Roel Vertegaal, CEO of Human Media Lab, Inc, a Canadian company which has worked with flexible and folding displays for 15 years said: “If you look at the design, the phone doesn’t actually close.

Future models, he predicts, should be water and dust resistant – “it’s just a matter of engineering the enclosures correctly.”

 

How does the Galaxy Fold compare with the Huawei Mate X?

 

At first glance, Huawei’s offering looks like it’s gained a competitive advantage over the Galaxy Fold in terms of hardware.

There’s a larger screen in both phone and tablet mode, a second display on the back when it’s folded up, a larger battery and no gap between the screens when closed.

 

Reviewers who have compared the two have highlighted the difference in screen ‘real estate’ between the two phones.

Huawei’s Mate X is clearly bigger, and with customer preferences leaning more and more to big screens, the Chinese brand seems to be more market-savvy in this instance.

 

Last-minute update

 

Samsung has taken the wisest course and nipped this situation in the bud by cancelling pre-orders and delaying launch plans until the issues with the product have been examined, reviewed and rectified.

Samsung are cautious about a new release date, saying that the phone will be ready for release “before long”.

 

Without doubt, the Fold is an innovative product. Like any first mover in any industry, Samsung always ran the risk of releasing something with inherent glitches and perhaps Samsung (or others) will develop a deeper hinge in order to accommodate the bend without creasing it.

Until then, sceptics say it’s a smartphone which is as expensive as a high-end laptop (or the equivalent price to buying a high-end phone and tablet together).

 

The Galaxy Fold was originally scheduled to go on sale in the USA at the end of April 2019, and in Europe on 3rd May.

The need to iron out the problems have forced them to delay the launch and cancel pre-orders.

They now say that all the issues with the fold have been resolved.

 

Protecting your device with mobile phone insurance

 

Insurance is a must for all devices, gadgets, smartphones and tablets.

In the case of the Galaxy Fold, it seems like a no-brainer.

The risks associated with any new, innovative and, certainly in this case, game-changing product are that early adopters will detect any weaknesses or failures pretty soon and the publicity that generates can spiral out of control, impacting on sales of the company’s products in general.

Additionally, new users have paid for the phone – they aren’t getting it for free to review!

 

The potential for damage through inadvertent misuse or simple wear and tear is higher than average for the Fold because:

  • There is the danger of the screen cracking or breaking.
  • Users not reading instructions clearly before using could inadvertently damage it.
  • It’s almost twice as heavy as the average handset, so dropping it could more easily break the screen.

 

Be safe, just as you would if you were buying a high-end tablet or laptop – visit us and get a quote on mobile phone insurance for your new Samsung Galaxy Fold today.

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