The world of smartphones has been in dire need of a shake up in the last few years.
Displays have become bigger, processors more powerful and radio equipment has become better as we push for newer, faster methods of mobile telephony.
In terms of the actual device however, not much has changed. Whether Apple, Nokia, Sony, LG, Samsung or Huawei, smartphones have long adopted the rectangular brick of glass ensconced in some sort of durable material (or glass) as a form factor.
Not for a moment am I suggesting this is a bad thing. The form factor works and has for a long time. If I’m being honest however, it has become a bit boring seeing the same thing day in and day out.
Last night Samsung made me giggle like a school boy when it showed off something completely different in its Galaxy Fold.
As the name suggests, this is the handset with a folding display that the firm showed off at its developer conference late last year and not only is it a reality, you’ll be able to own one later this year.
Last night at the local Samsung Galaxy Unpacked livestream event held in Johannesburg, attendees were given an exclusive chance to play with the Galaxy Fold.
As much as I wish I could share photos with you, media were barred from snapping pictures as we were getting hands on with a pre-production model that didn’t represent the final product.
Before I dive into my thoughts I feel I need to address the $1 980 price tag the Fold has. Yes, it is impractically expensive for most, if not all, people. Would I buy one? No, I don’t earn enough to even consider it but I still think the Fold is something special. Let me explain.
Looking at the outside of the Fold you might be confused as to why I say that.
The bezels surrounding the display are chunky and the display itself is actually rather small compared to the displays of other smartphones.
Make no mistake, you can use it and I doubt anybody will complain about using that display for general tasks such as messaging or taking calls.
There are three camera lenses at the back of the handset and they stick out quite a bit. The marketing material shows a much slimmer profile for these cameras and having seen what I assume to be the final product (it was in the hands of a Samsung exec) I expect the marketing material to hold true.
But all concerns about form factor and that front display disappear when you push the phone’s two sides apart to reveal the 7.3inch display.
The hinge is sturdy as Samsung alluded to in its presentation but I still need to get used to seeing a working display unfolding before my eyes. It’s unnerving seeing something that your mind has only ever known as being solid flexing before your eyes.
Samsung has not skimped on the quality of the display and you’ll have to look incredibly hard to find an out of place pixel and I doubt you’d find one.
There is a noticeable spine when looking at the display from certain angles but, when using apps you don’t notice it at all.
When opened, Galaxy Fold looks and feels like a small tablet.
There is a “notch” at the top right of the display that houses two of the six camera lenses scattered throughout the handset and while I’m not a fan of it, it’s a solution that works for now and considering the new water Samsung is treading, it’s not a bad solution.
There’s not really much else to say about the handset considering the brief time we had with it but the Fold is something incredibly special. More than that however I firmly expect other manufacturers to follow Samsung’s play not so much with folding displays, but trying something new.
And by new we don’t mean dropping headphone jacks or using notches for camera tech. Hell, as cool as in-display fingerprint scanners are they’re not especially new or that exciting from a consumer’s stand point.
What we hope to see is smartphone manufacturers scrambling to innovate and shake up what we know about smartphones. Seeing how other manufacturers will respond to Samsung has me excited and yes, I firmly believe other manufacturers will respond especially Samsung’s biggest (arguably) competition, Apple.
The handset is expensive, it’s not especially practical but what it represents has me excited for the future of smartphones.
Will it break records with sales? Unlikely. Is it a gimmick? Sure. What the Samsung Galaxy Fold represents to me however is something new, something fresh, something that innovates on a product which has reached the heights of which it can go.
And if you ask me, that’s a good enough reason for it to exist.