Samsung Galaxy Fold Unfolds the Future

I have seen the future. I have touched the future. I’ve experienced the future. And I love it.

How you ask? I’m one of the lucky few who has gotten to play for a few hours with the world’s first commercially available foldable phone, the Samsung Galaxy Fold (set for official release on April 26), and it’s amazing. The experience of looking at the normal-sized 4.6” front display on the device, and then unfolding it to unveil the same app in much larger form on the beautiful 7.3” screen is something I don’t think I will get tired of for some time.

But, it’s not perfect. First, at a price of nearly $2,000, it’s clearly not for everyone. This is the Porsche of smartphones, and not everyone can or will want to pay that much for a phone. Second, yes, at certain angles or in certain light, you can notice a crease in the middle of the large display when the phone is unfolded. In real-world use, however, I found that it completely disappears—it didn’t bother me in the least. Finally, yes, it is a bit chunky, especially compared to the sleek, single-screen devices to which many of us have become accustomed. However, it’s not uncomfortable to hold, and most importantly, it will still easily fit into a pants pocket (or nearly anywhere else you store your existing smartphone).

More importantly, the Galaxy Fold completely transforms how we can, and should, think about smartphones. Open up the phone and you’ll immediately recognize that this is an always-connected computer that you can carry in your pocket. Practically speaking, it lets you do all the digital activities we’ve grown attached to in an easier, faster, and profoundly more satisfying way.

Want to watch TV shows or movies on the go? You can’t get a better or more compelling mobile experience right now than what you’ll see on the Galaxy Fold. Looking for directions? Start your map search on the front screen of the device, then unfold it to display the entire area around your destination. It’s a revelation. Want to web surf, and chat, and check out social media at the same time? The Fold’s ability to simultaneously show three different applications in reasonably-sized windows—a feature Samsung calls Multi-Active Windows—matches the kind of experience that has required a large tablet or PC in the past.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The Galaxy Fold radically changes how we’re going to think about and use mobile devices, and frankly, makes most of our existing phones look a bit—no, a lot—old-fashioned. I realize it may sound somewhat hyperbolic, but I honestly haven’t been this excited about and fascinated with a tech device in a very long time…as in, since my original experience with a Sony Walkman (yes, that long ago). It’s the kind of device that makes you look at other existing products in a profoundly different way. Having said that, with a device this different, and this expensive, you’re going to want to try it out yourself to really see if it works for you.

While the Galaxy Fold is radically different from all other smartphones in some critical ways, it’s also important to remember, however, that it is, fundamentally, still an Android phone, with all that entails. For existing Android phone owners, this means that—other than a few, simple new ways Samsung has created to work with multiple apps on the large display—it works like your existing phone. App compatibility is supposed to be very good on the Fold—though there are some apps, like Netflix, that don’t currently support multitasking windows—but it’s still too early to tell for sure.

For iPhone owners who may be tempted to switch over to the dark side (and I’m guessing there could be a reasonable number of those with this new product), it does mean getting used to Android, finding a few new apps, and—if you can handle it—giving up the blue bubbles of iOS-only threads in your messaging apps. In exchange, however, you’ll get access to an experience that Apple isn’t likely to offer for several years. Plus, given the level of multi-platform application and services support that now exists, it’s nowhere near as big a concern as it used to be.

For everyone, you’ll get six cameras—including the same three-camera package of wide angle, telephoto, and ultrawide on the S10 series—two built-in batteries, and the ability to share your battery power with others. Inside the box, you also get a set of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds wireless earbuds that can also be charged with the power sharing feature.

There’s been an enormous amount of speculation and build-up around not just the Galaxy Fold, but the foldable smartphone category in general, with many naysayers suggesting they’re little more than a gimmicky fad. While on the on one hand, I can appreciate the skepticism—we’ve certainly seen more than our fair share of products that ended being a lot less useful than they initial sounded—I really don’t think that will be the case with Galaxy Fold.

In fact, looking back historically, I wouldn’t be surprised if the release of foldables is seen as being just about as important as the release of the iPhone. It’s that big of a deal. Of course, as with the iPhone, we will undoubtedly see several iterations over time that will make the current Galaxy Fold look old-fashioned itself. But for those of us living in the present and looking to the future, the revolutionary new Galaxy Fold offers a very compelling path forward.

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Bob O'Donnell

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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