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The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is packed with the wow-factor but very expensive. Is it the right foldable device for you?
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 takes the line from proof of concept to seriously tempting tech, delivering in almost all areas.
The original Galaxy Fold took the folding screen smartphones category from science fiction to proof of concept, loaded up with a few too many niggles to get a recommendation, but supremely cool nevertheless. Just over a year on, and its successor, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, takes the line from proof of concept to seriously tempting tech, delivering in almost all areas.
There have been a few phones available that could bend without any snap since the original Fold launched. These include the Motorola RAZR reprise, which smacked of Paris Hilton nostalgia factor, and Huawei’s Mate Xs. Folding phones were generally very expensive, though. They also tended to under-deliver in three key areas – camera, performance, and battery.
What the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 appears to do is special. For starters, when closed, it’s a tall but usable smartphone. Yes, it’s very thick, but there’s something reassuring to its heft. And thanks to Samsung’s design mastery, it feels rich and luxurious in hand.
Unfold the folding phone, and it transforms from a tall phone to a small tablet. Perfect when showing friends a YouTube video while social distancing, or looking at a website in desktop view, the marriage of wow-factor and function is this phone’s star quality.
The Z Fold 2 also feels relatively life-proof compared to some competition, such as the Huawei Mate Xs. Folding screens are more fragile than fixed screens. In order to bend, they are protected by a flexible plastic layer instead of hard glass. Durability has been an issue in the past for folding screen technology, but thanks to its inward-folding design, the Z Fold 2 feels a bit more protected, and the hinge mechanism has a satisfying rigidity.
This combination of form and function, matched with flagship power and a respectable camera system, makes Samsung’s fanciest phone to date exciting. It really could mark an industry turning point: The Dawn of the Foldable Age. At £1,599 off-contract, or £95 a month with a £299 upfront cost on contract (Vodafone), it’s still anything but a phone for the masses – but does it live up to the hype (and justify its price) in the real world?
Read our first-look Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review to see how the new smartphone compares ahead of its release.
Straight out of a sci-fi movie and setting the bar for foldables.
Price: £1,599 SIM-free
There are two types of folding phone. The first is a clamshell-style, Motorola RAZR-esque throwback to the 90s, a foldable take on the quintessential flip phone. Closed, it fits in the palm, and when open, it’s about the same size as a traditional smartphone.
Next, there’s the foldable for power users – a two-in-one smartphone and tablet. When closed, it’s a smartphone, and when open, it transforms to become a mini-tablet. This is the category the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 falls in, alongside the Huawei Mate Xs and Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold.
Folding screen technology has inherent issues – it’s more fragile than rigid screen tech, with its moving parts making the folding and unfolding possible. The folding screen itself is also more prone to damage, with its flexible plastic top-layer being less able to fend off scratches than glass (which is used on traditional phones).
What the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 delivers, with all that in mind, is a hybrid experience that combines cutting edge smartphone and tablet computing in one stylish device that should be treated with love and respect – there’s no waterproofing on this phone. However, it still packs plenty of party tricks.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 costs £1,599, making it one of the most expensive smartphones you can buy. When you compare it to other folding phones, however, its price seems less outlandish. The Motorola RAZR 5G, with its inferior specs, costs £1,199, while the last-generation Huawei Mate Xs cost £1,599.
If you want to buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 on a contract, it will set you back around £95 a month with a £299 upfront cost on contract (Vodafone) and is available from all major UK networks.
For anyone looking for a smartphone to be a smartphone – nothing too fancy – the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is not good value for money. It costs more than a smartphone like the OnePlus 9 and Samsung’s flagship tablet, the Tab S7 Plus, bought separately. For anyone who’s happy with a separate phone and tab, The Z Fold 2 won’t give you the same bang for buck two standalone gadgets. After all, it has an awkwardly tall smartphone screen and a relatively small tablet screen. In turn, traditionalists would be best giving Samsung’s finest foldable a miss.
For anyone who wants their smartphone and tablet in one pocketable, premium device, the Z Fold 2 could be excellent value. By not requiring two separate bits of kit, all your messages, photos, files and Netflix downloads are in one place. There’s even an argument that the Z Fold 2 can replace a laptop for basic needs, given the phone’s DeX interface. Connect it to a computer monitor or a TV (via the USB-C charging port), and it projects a Windows-style desktop experience to the big screen. Hook up a keyboard and mouse, and you can comfortably type and edit long documents on it. There are limitations – it won’t run advanced apps like Photoshop, for example. However, it's more than up to the task for basic web surfing or document and presentation edits.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is something of a hybrid – two devices in one. When closed, it’s a 6.2-inch screened smartphone – very tall, occasionally awkward in its height, but nevertheless, high-quality. Turn the phone sideways, and it goes from very tall to very wide. This makes the front-screen well-suited to widescreen films, including some of the best movies on Netflix, like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.
Turning the phone sideways is one thing, but you have to unfold the Z Fold 2 for the real transformation. As the front display fades out of sight, the square-ish inner 7.6-inch tablet takes centre stage. The Z Fold 2’s tablet guise is significantly more squat than the front screen, so while it’s isn’t so great for super-widescreen modern movies, it does a decent job of displaying Full HD TV shows without too much in the way of a black border.
Samsung does something no other foldable maker does with the Z Fold 2 – Flex mode. A funky name that simply means the phone can fold part-way and still function when resting on a surface; it's very useful. Half-fold the phone and fire up the camera, for example, and it can act as its own tripod of sorts, steadying it for crisper photos and stable video. Alternatively, when using the front screen, place the phone on a surface (face up), and you can angle the front display to face you, turning the Z Fold 2 into its own kickstand – perfect for watching movies on.
The phone also has a suite of top-tier specs that help it justify its high price. These include 5G mobile data speeds for fast browsing, downloading and streaming on the go, Dual-SIM card support, so you can use two phone numbers with one Z Fold 2, and an ample 256GB storage inside. While that may be plenty of space for your files, photos and movie downloads, it’s worth noting, the Z Fold 2 is one of the first Samsung phones to not support additional storage with a memory card, so when you’re out of space, you can’t bolster its capacity with extra.
We had no issues getting through a full day of photo taking, music listening, web surfing and WhatsApp messaging with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. Its battery isn’t huge, but it’s big enough if you, like us, use the front screen 70 per cent of the time and save the inner screen for special occasions.
If the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 was just a smartphone, its battery size would be fantastic. 4500mAh is around the same capacity as some of the best performing smartphone batteries out now. That said, the Z Fold 2 is both a smartphone and a mini-tablet. In turn, if you’re using the larger of its two screens all the time, that’s when you may run into some battery trouble, so for long-haul flights (remember those?) or weekends away, you’ll definitely want a power bank or a charger.
To save power with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, there’s a customisable power-saving mode in the settings. Here, you can turn off features like 5G or limit the phone’s processing power resulting in battery-saving benefits. If you do run low on power, the phone features relatively fast wired and wireless charging speeds, so can charge up in a couple of hours when plugged in.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 isn’t a total flagship package in all respects, falling behind the very best Samsung phones like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra in the camera department. While the aforementioned Ultras sport super-high-resolution main cameras – each a staggering 108MP, the main camera on the Z Fold 2 is a humble 12MP in resolution. Samsung’s Ultras also feature what’s known as a periscope zoom. These give the zoom cameras on smartphones fantastic reach – as much as 10 times the range when compared to the main camera. Meanwhile, the foldable Z Fold 2’s zoom camera has a humble two times equivalent zoom.
When it comes to quality, you get a competent camera system on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 that covers the basics and even features a respectable night mode. Photos taken in bright environments are detailed enough to be cropped into a bit. Their colours are generally vibrant and zingy, and close-up objects look crisp, while background elements are pleasingly blurry. The Fold 2’s photos aren’t quite as high-impact or high-resolution as those taken on phones like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, but will nevertheless be good enough for most. It even includes more advanced manual-shooting modes, too, so it offers flexibility for anyone looking to tinker with their photo-taking settings.
The Z Fold 2 captures video at up to 4K resolution, so your home movies will look nice and sharp, though, in low light, the phone isn't quite as good a video camera as it is a photography camera.
Selfie-taking can be done whether you’re using the Z Fold 2 open or closed, thanks to the two selfie cameras. Both the inner and outer cameras are 10MP and shoot up to 4K video, with adequate, though unexceptional performance, especially in dimly lit scenes.
As a phone (when closed), the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is very tall and very thick. It’s little wonder that it’s a chonk – folding phones are effectively two screens sandwiched atop one another until they’re opened up.
When closed, the right side of the Z Fold 2 sports a power button and fingerprint scanner combo, which quickly and securely gets you into the phone. Along the left side is a high-polish hinge, and around the rear is a matte glass back with a mirrored camera bump. As a package, it feels very fancy and does fit in a standard pocket, but if you’re a lover of compact phones and skinny jean-friendly, this isn’t your next smartphone.
The main issue with the Z Fold 2’s design is that the front screen is narrow, so it isn’t ideal for big hands and clumsy thumbs. Typing on the squished keyboard takes some getting used to as a result. Open up the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 to reveal the 7.6-inch tablet screen, and things get much more spacious. The keyboard is split across either side and works much better for big hands. There’s a slight crease vertically running down the centre of the display, but it isn’t too noticeable when looking at the phone head-on.
If you’ve already got a Samsung smartphone, then you can look forward to a headache-free setup process when you move your mobile life over to the Galaxy Z Fold 2, thanks to Smart Switch. This Samsung service migrates everything, from photos and videos and even your old phone’s apps and home screen layout. Samsung’s alternative to an iCloud backup, the feature makes sure anxiety around upgrading your phone fast becomes a thing of the past.
Running Google’s Android 11, the foldable also supports Google’s own auto-login feature, so apps like Netflix and Spotify will likely log you in automatically. There will be a few third-party apps that might require a username or password. However, these were in the minority in our experience with setting up the phone.
It’s hard to not be bowled over by the tech inside the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. It’s the most sci-fi smartphone you can buy, with its folding screen technology turning it from a fancy phone to a super-slim tablet. When you get past the novelty factor, the Z Fold 2 is also a great phone day-in-day-out. There’s plenty of power inside, so it’s snappy, whether gaming, typing, or swiping through web pages, and the versatility of having two display sizes on one phone is a treat. If the Z Fold 2 had the camera quality of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and a wider front display, it could have been a five-star phone. As it stands, though, it’s still the best foldable phone money can buy.
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Still not sure which handset to pick up? Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review, Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Plus vs Ultra comparison, or see how flagships score head to head in our iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 guide.