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Thoughts on the Galaxy Fold after a few days

March 8, 2020

I wanted to get some first hand experience with foldable devices in order to start building a sense of their potential, so I borrowed a Galaxy Fold from our device library at work and set it up as a personal device. I’ve been living with it for the past few days, and here are my initial observations:

  1. When folded, the Fold is not a good phone. The external display (for use while the device is folded) is too small to use for more than quick glances, and it’s not even particularly good for that since it presents a stock (but small) launcher. The display needs to be bigger (so that it can actually be used to get things done when held in a single hand). Another approach would be to redesign the experience for the smaller screen to emphasize glanceable interaction with apps (which would require deeper modifications to Android), but would still require unfolding the phone and using it two-handed for any sustained interaction.
  2. When unfolded, the Fold is not a good tablet. The aspect ratio is too square to really support structuring applications with a focus+context approach (and it doesn’t help that Android apps don’t tend to provide useful tablet designs). The end result is a form factor that doesn’t feel like a good tablet (not enough horizontal space to support full tablet layouts) or a good phone (enough horizontal space that scaling up an interfaced designed for a phone feels weird). Even if more apps provided tablet layouts I’m not convinced they’d work well with this size / aspect ratio.
  3. Keeping the screen clean is an issue. I keep my phone in my pocket, and it undergoes a certain amount of cleaning just from sliding against the fabric as it moves around. If the screen picks up more severe smudges, some harder swipes against a leg or my shirt tails is sufficient. With the Fold that’s a problem: it’s closed when in my pocket, and I don’t dare rub the screen hard enough to remove fingerprint oils. The interior screen has picked up smudges, and I have no idea how to clean it safely.

My current opinion is shaped by my circumstances: I have the luxury of being able to afford a smartphone, a laptop, and a tablet. Given those circumstances, so far I wouldn’t replace my current smartphone or my tablet with a foldable device. I’ll keep using the Fold to develop a better sense of it, but so far it looks like foldable devices still have lots of room for improvement.

From → Hardware, Mobile

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