Dec 31st, 2020

How does one start the review for the most interesting and most expensive device of 2020? There’s no need to really talk about how many phones come across the desk on a monthly basis, or why the Z Fold 2 is a device that nobody should really buy. No, I don’t think that’s the basis for starting a review for something like the Z Fold 2 at all.

When you have played around with, reviewed, or owned so many phones over the past few years, it’s easy to look at the sea of devices and see the same thing. There are very few smartphones that stand out from the crowd, regardless of whether you’re looking at the $1,300 Note 20 Ultra, or the $150 Poco M3. These are just all slabs of glass with varying features, but at the end of the day, the design is just kind of boring across the board.

And THAT is what drew me to the Galaxy Z Fold 2. This was not provided by Samsung or another company for review, but instead is a device that I’ve paid for with my own hard-earned dollar bills. And truth be told, I couldn’t have been happier except for maybe when I finally built my first PC all the way back in January.

A minor gripe

Back when we posted our first impressions of the Z Fold 2, I was still in the “honeymoon” phase of my ownership. There was nothing that could possibly be wrong with this gorgeous device that FOLDS IN HALF. And to be honest, that’s pretty much where I still am with it.

Are there things that we wish Samsung would have improved upon, considering the price? Absolutely. The Z Fold 2 should feature the same (or extremely close to) camera system from the Note 20 Ultra. Pictures come out just fine, but if you’re spending this much cash, it has to have the best of the best. But that’s a compromise I was willing to make going into this adventure.

The rant

Before getting into the fun stuff, the biggest gripe that I have with the Z Fold 2 has nothing to do with the device itself. Nope. It’s Samsung. The company charges $2,000 for a foldable smartphone that is supposed to initiate a wave of future handsets, and could even replace the Galaxy Note lineup for good. But instead of just taking my or your hard-earned cash and leaving us alone, we continue to deal with intrusions of ads in the software.

There’s a reason why, until the Galaxy S20 earlier this year, I refused to even want to try using a Samsung device for an extended period of time. Yes, we are a far cry from the TouchWiz days, but the software experience has always been an enormous frustration. And while OneUI has fixed all of the TW problems, under no circumstances should I be seeing ads appear out of thin air.

The worst part about this is the fact that most of the ads that have appeared on my personal Z Fold 2 have been in regards to purchasing THIS PHONE. Not the Note 20 or S20, but the Z Fold 2 that I’m already using. Keep your damn ads to yourself and off my phone. And if I use an app with ads, that’s fine, because I installed it and (for the most part) know what I’m getting into.

It ******* FOLDS

Now that I’ve gotten my rant out of the way, let’s get back to the fun stuff. This phone folds in half. Not since the days of my trust Moto RAZR have I used a phone that folds in half. Deciding against using the first-generation Galaxy Fold or Z Flip, it was finally time to see what all of the hype was about.

And man, I have not been disappointed in the slightest. When I first received the Z Fold 2, the hinge was pretty stiff, but that was to be expected. It had been sitting in a box since it was manufactured, and it just needed to be finessed a bit. A few months later, and it opens and closes smoother than butter on a hot biscuit. I’m really hoping that this doesn’t change and we end up with a Galaxy Fold issue, but only time will tell and I’m happy for the time being.

Having a usable (albeit tall and narrow) outer display, and simply unfolding my phone like a book is the dream. And the best part is that the app that I was using on said cover display stays open and appears on the much-larger screen. This makes it easy to start browsing Twitter or Reddit on the Cover Screen when I just want to use one hand, and then open an interesting video or read an article on the big screen when my other hand is free.

Now, this is a problem that I’ve seen with other reviews, and it’s happened to me as well. But there are some apps that just don’t scale properly when going from the tall and narrow to wide-screen display. But I’m going to hang that on the hat of Android on the whole versus blaming Samsung and its software. Even though these phones are available to the masses, foldable phones are still in their infancy, but without devices like this one, the company’s wouldn’t know where the problems are that need to be addressed.

Disaster averted (I think)

When you look at the original Galaxy Fold and the Z Fold 2, these are practically two completely different devices. Other than the fact that they came from the same OEM, it would be difficult to think these came from the same “family” of devices.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

The reason this is important to make note of is because of that foldable display. There are several layers of glass and plastic to make the fold possible, but the first iteration saw many try to take the protective layer off, thinking it was just a screen protector. That was not actually the case, as the layer was part of the display, ending with more than a few broken phones.

This go ’round, Samsung still included an extra layer of protection, but it’s not detrimental to the function of the display.

Bringing it full circle, you can understand the horror I felt when I unfolded the Z Fold 2 to snap some pictures, and noticed the screen was bubbling at the bottom. This wasn’t near the selfie camera or the corners. It was right where the display meets the frame in the middle of the bendy part of the phone.

To say I was shocked would be quite an understatement, but I was actually scared of what happened. Unlike others that I’ve seen, I’ve actually taken the Z Fold 2 out in the world with me. Without a case, and just a glass screen protector on the Cover Display and dbrand skin on the back. But I’m also not rough with my phones other than accidental drops, of which, I had none with the Z Fold 2.

After conferring with a few different colleagues, it was suggested that it was just the plastic screen protector, and not actually a broken display. Then, I proceeded to do something that I had been toying around with for months, and actually took the screen protector off. The process was much easier than expected, and it has been quite the difference.

Needless to say, I definitely avoided disaster, and am glad to report that I have not had any other issues. Nor have I had to worry about dealing with Samsung’s “concierge” service that has been less-than-stellar according to other Z Fold 2 owners. But it’s also important to note that I also purchased Samsung Care as soon as I received the phone, so that I would be completely covered.

Looking to the future

Using the Galaxy Z Fold 2 off and on for a few months has made me realize a few things about what the successor should bring. First, I’m hoping and expecting that the Z Fold 3 has an even better display that may or may not have a screen protector installed already on it. I’m fine with the location of the hole punch, much more so than the one found on other phones with much-smaller displays.

Secondly, and this is more important to me. Bring support for the S Pen. This is a smartphone that folds out to be a mini-tablet. There are times where the S Pen would come in handy, and all signs are already pointing to that being the case for the next generation.

It also seems that the Z Fold line could ultimately replace the Note lineup. Especially since Samsung already confirmed that it is bringing S Pen support to more Galaxy devices, likely starting with the S21 Ultra.

Do I have regrets about purchasing this mammoth and amazing phone? Only one. I wish I had waited for the next generation with S Pen support. That’s really the only thing missing from the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Should you buy one? Absolutely not. Unless you are like us (tech enthusiasts) and have the expendable income, the Z Fold 2 is simply a luxury and not a necessity. If you’ve got money to burn, go pick up the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, some headphones, and maybe try and grab the PS5 or Xbox Series X before reaching for the Z Fold 2.

Bravo Samsung. My favorite phone since the iPhone 4S is the Z Fold 2 and I couldn’t be happier.

 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_75 (4.75 / 5)

The Good

  • Almost the perfect device
  • Cover display is useful
  • Software optimizations are good enough
  • The best phone of 2020

The Bad

  • $2,000 is a lot of dough
  • Cameras are good but not the best
  • The plastic screen protector is awful

The Bottom Line

If you want the best phone of the year, then look no further than the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Minus an S Pen and just an “okay” camera system, this monster can handle anything and everything. Plus, the foldable display is a dream and you’ll be left feeling like you’re in the future.

 

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