This story was originally published and last updated .
I started out as a folding phone critic. In fact, I bought the Z Flip we reviewed this spring with the full intention of pointing out how dumb the idea was, except I was dead wrong. I fell in love with my little flip phone, and the last week spent with the Galaxy Z Fold2 has further cemented my change of heart. Folding phones are undeniably the future, and for the right folks, the Z Fold2 is a must-buy game-changer — though probably not for you.
|Chipset||Snapdragon 865+ (all regions — no Exynos)|
|Primary display||Folding 7.6" 2208x1768 120Hz AMOLED (373ppi)|
|Secondary display||6.2" 2260 x 816 60Hz AMOLED (386ppi)|
|Storage||256GB UFS 3.1|
|Battery||4,500mAh, fast (QC2.0) and wireless charging, Wireless PowerShare|
|Software||One UI 2.5 (Android 10)|
|Rear cameras||Primary: 12MP f/1.8 (83˚ FOV) w/OIS
Wide-angle: 12MP f/2.2 (123˚ FOV)
Telephoto: 12MP F/2.4(45˚ FOV) w/OIS
|Front cameras||Cover camera: 10MP f/2.2 (80˚ FOV)
Interior camera: 10MP f/2.2 (80˚ FOV)
|Connectivity||5G (including sub-6 and mmWave), up to Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, Ultra Wide Band|
|Dimensions|| Folded: 68.0 x 159.2 x 16.8mm-13.8mm, 282g
Unfolded: 128.2 x 159.2 x 6.9mm-6mm
|Misc||Side-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers|
|Colors||Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze, with hinges available in silver, gold, red and blue|
|Build quality||Some of the nicest hardware I've ever touched.|
|Folding screen||Big, super-smooth, bright display.|
|Bigger cover display||It's large enough you can actually do stuff on it.|
|Multitasking||This has enough space and the right tools to do real work on a phone.|
|Battery life||Good for a folding phone.|
|Performance||Screams through anything you need to do.|
|Price||$2,000 is whole lot of money to spend on a phone.|
|Average cameras||Not living up to the price tag.|
|Folding screen||Unarguably less durable than a Gorilla Glass or Victus display.|
|No IP rating||Understandable given the design, but still a bummer.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box
If you aren't familiar with folding phones, there are two general types: The Galaxy Z Flip or Moto Razr-style with a tall vertically folding screen and the Fold-style that have a bigger horizontally folding display. This is the latter, so it packs a big screen on the inside, and a smaller "cover display" on the outside. Both are fully functional screens for interacting with Android as per usual, unlike the Z Flip.
Materials here are all as premium as they can be, which you'd expect for two grand. The sides and two-part frame are solid aluminum with a rough, brushed texture. The hinge cover feels substantial and rigid like metal, but I'm pretty sure it's actually just plastic. The front screen uses the snazzy super-durable Victus glass, while the rear is matte etched Gorilla Glass 6. Our review unit was Mystic Bronze (which is closer to rose gold in person), but the phone is also available in black with several custom hinge colors, available for either.
The hinge action is smooth and satisfying, with a precisely tuned "bump" or change in resistance at either end. Have you shut a "soft-close" cabinet or closed the door on a late-model high-end car? This has a similarly expensive and high-quality feeling to it. The hinge is stiff enough to keep the phone half-open like a laptop, and some apps can take advantage of that for additional Flex Mode functionality — more on that later.
For a more detailed discussion of the hardware quality, take a look at my earlier hands-on. But the best way I can describe the feeling of the Z Fold2's is that it's like driving a stupidly expensive luxury car — except in your hands. Everything feels very precisely designed with a tangible sensation of extreme physical quality that justifies its $2,000 price in my mind.
Perhaps the only part of the phone that doesn't feel as refined is the interior folding display — but there's nothing Samsung can do about that. While at least one layer of the screen's elaborate sandwich is legitimately glass, the outermost surface is a softer polymer, and if it's anything like the screen on the Z Flip, that means it can get scratched and dented more easily than glass. In my experience with the Z Fold2 and the previous Z Flip, that hasn't been an issue, but it's unarguably more delicate than a Gorilla Glass slab would be — though it's well protected by being folded up when not in use. And if you do somehow ding it up, Samsung offers a one-time replacement for $150 (within your first year of ownership).
The folding screen is also huge, at 7.6" from corner-to-corner, clocking in at 2208x1768 and just a pixel or two off from a 5:4 aspect ratio, with perfectly even and almost non-existent bezels all the way around. Top-middle on the right half of the display is a hole-punch front-facing camera — yes, it's not symmetrical, but the camera can't be placed in the hinge, and you don't notice it 99% of the time. The same goes for the crease/fold itself. You can see it on a bright background at an angle, and you can feel it if you run your finger over it, but it's not noticeable in normal use. Similarly, the raised edges of the display are no issue with edge gestures like Android 10's new navigation system.
The massive display is super smooth, supporting 120Hz at the native resolution. This higher refresh rate display fights the so-called "jelly scroll" effect the prior model had, which results from having the display refresh from side-to-side rather than top-to-bottom when held in portrait orientation. The effect is still there, but it's far less obtrusive now. The screen also gets bright enough for outdoor use (950nits in high-brightness mode, according to Samsung), though I wish it could get dimmer at night. On that note, it's incredibly uniform, so you won't see any strange behavior with dark gray backgrounds at night.
While the big folding display is the star of the show, Samsung also gave the exterior-facing "cover display" a serious upgrade. It's far bigger and higher-resolution than the one on the original Galaxy Fold, at 6.2" and 2260x816. It also has a very tall 25:9 aspect ratio, and while I'm told some folks ran into issues with certain apps, everything worked for me. Admittedly, it is a little hard to type on because it's so narrow. Like the interior folding display, it has a hole-punch camera cutout, too.
The Z Fold2 has stereo speakers, and they sound surprisingly great, getting offensively loud before distorting. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor was a bit buggy for me the first few days that I used it, but it's settled into a mostly-reliable experience — better for me than the company's ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensors, like the Note and S series have.
The camera hump on the back of the phone is bigger than you'd expect, which is especially surprising considering it doesn't have the "periscope" telephoto or huge primary camera sensor the Ultra-series phones do. We're told the sensors and setup are pretty similar to the baby Note20's, which sports a much shorter camera plateau.
The Z Fold2 is very heavy, clocking in at 282 grams. Most phones are under 200g, so this is nearly a phone-and-a-half. It's also 2/3 of an inch thick when closed, but the overall shape makes it fit better in a pocket than you might expect.
Though Samsung kept the price steady and delivered some substantial improvements with this new generation foldable, the included accessories aren't as generous. Unlike the original Galaxy Fold, you don't get a case or Galaxy Buds (beans or otherwise) to go with it — expect to pay a little more on top of that two grand asking price for any necessary accessories. It does come with a Type-C charger and charging cable, though.
Software, performance, battery life
I won't reiterate all the features in Samsung's One UI flavor of Android, but if you aren't familiar, it's one of the heavier skins out there. Samsung changes a lot of the stock Android experience, but unlike other OEM additions, Samsung's changes are generally okay-to-useful. I still personally prefer the stock or Pixel software experience, but Samsung's software is almost as pleasant to use, especially now that you can change the launcher without giving up Android 10's gesture navigation or resorting to ridiculous workarounds.
Stock launcher on the Cover Display (left), and big interior display (right).
I can't stress enough that software makes or breaks the folding phone experience. While Samsung has delivered some important changes and improvements, the finer details need work. Samsung made plenty of useful big-screen changes to One UI, and Google has been incorporating better support for folding devices into stock Android. However, I believe it will take a few years of back and forth between developers, manufacturers, Google, and end-users to figure out the best way to do things. In the meantime, the Z Fold2 still delivers a very good experience — especially when it comes to multitasking.
One thing I have come to particularly enjoy about Samsung's software is the edge panel, accessible via a swipe in from the edge. Several Android skins have similar tools, but something about Samsung's approach just feels better — most of the time. It's utterly indispensable when you're trying to launch multiple apps at the same time. Samsung's pop-up window management (accessible by tapping the "handle" above each window) is also amazing, letting you minimize, maximize, and move apps to and from split-window configurations. The learning curve is steep, though. It'll take some trial and error to figure out how to replace just the top app in a split-window pair or to get three apps in exactly the position you want them.
Learning the ins and outs of multitasking on the Z Fold2 takes a bit.
At the same time, some things about the multitasking interface genuinely frustrate me. For one, while the big-screen multitasking experience itself is pretty good, customizing it for your specific workflow is obnoxious. I don't know if it changed with the recent OneUI update, but the process of registering app pairs is not built into the edge panel menu, which would be more intuitive — that's where you launch those app pairs from. Instead, you have to tap the three-dot menu that you probably didn't know existed (in the border between apps) and tap an icon there to save the current configuration to the edge panel. A more intuitive solution built directly into the edge panel itself would make much more sense to me. There's plenty of underutilized space there, and splitting up multitasking controls between app handles, the three-dot menu, and the side panel offers a scattered experience with poor user discovery. Samsung clearly offers the best big-screen multitasking experience on Android, but it can do more here to make these powerful tools accessible.
I'm also not a fan of Samsung's home screen — both in general (I hate swiping left and right for apps), and also the way it flows between the two displays. Or, more accurately, the fact that it doesn't at all. The launcher essentially gives you two independent home screens between the two displays. I know the grid shape between the two is wildly different, so it would be awkward if it was just the same layout resized to fit between the two, but it's still annoying having to change things twice every time you make a tweak — and that includes wallpaper. I don't have a solution, but it's not the best experience right now. I should also note: Third-party launchers just use the same home screen layout on both displays — though some like Lawnchair 2 bug out and refuse to work at all.
Kindle app bugging out after flipping between screens.
Ostensibly, you can move from the cover display to the bigger folding screen easily by just opening up the phone. Apps should follow you between them, but that doesn't always work in practice. Most apps work fine, immediately scaling content to the new display once it's open. A few don't work with that transition correctly at all, restarting when you make the switch. Others bug out a bit in the change, and some are just inconsistent. The Kindle app, for example, will work fine sometimes, other times the layout on the expanded display gets broken. Custom launchers can also compound this issue for some reason. The fun two-column view the Kindle app used to offer on the original Galaxy Fold also doesn't seem to be an option anymore.
This is overkill, but it's a good example.
Samsung claims you can run up to three apps at a time. I think that number must be for simultaneous activity before it starts to suspend apps, because I was able to far exceed that number with pop-up views. You can pretty much go crazy, but much past three or four becomes hard to manage.
When I'm trying to do my job as an editor on the go, it often means switching between three or sometimes four apps to try to emulate the workflow I can accomplish from a PC. No matter what, trying to do the same thing with just one app in view at a time is going to slow me down, and having a bigger screen for more apps side-by-side makes a huge difference in my productivity. It's still not quite as good as using a big-boy desktop or laptop, but I can almost hit the same level of productivity that I can on my iPad — all from a phone that fits in my pocket. That's kind of a big deal. In fact, I'm pretty convinced I could do my entire job from the Z Fold2 if I absolutely had to — and I'm going to try it, check back soon.
Weekly Duo call with Indiana Jones — note the "Flex Mode" rearranged UI to take advantage of being half-folded.
Some apps can also take advantage of the form factor to offer a different (and potentially more useful) interface depending on how you have the phone set up. It's called "Flex Mode" and apps like Google Duo, YouTube, and the system camera and gallery apps can take advantage of it to rearrange things when half-folded for an improved experience.
Even when multitasking, performance on the Z Fold2 is fantastic, rivaling the Note20 series and any other Snapdragon 865/865+ Android phone out there. The software is every bit as smooth as the hinge's action, with buttery transitions and animations throughout. Even with the extra pixels and 120Hz display, you'll be hard-pressed to bog the phone down. Samsung may have cut down storage slightly from last year, to 256GB down from 512, but the difference will likely prove immaterial in a phone — though do note the lack of microSD-expandable storage.
Battery life is going to vary depending on how you use it, more so than with a "normal" phone, and I can't put a precise number on the performance you can expect. If you use the outer cover screen a lot, it will last longer. Open it up all the time, and it drains faster. Further, so-called "screen-on time" per charge is a little harder to keep track of on One UI.
Anecdotally I think battery life is acceptable: solidly one-day, and potentially two-day depending on how hard you are on it, with somewhere around 5-6 hours of screen-on-time between the two displays (if I had to guess).
No one should buy the Z Fold2 for its camera, and I'm not going to waste too much space diving into it in detail. That's not to say it's bad — in fact, it's perfectly fine — but you can get results every bit as good from phones at less than half the price, and the base Note20 offers a very similar experience. In short: The primary camera is good, the wide-angle can be a bit muddy and trips up in low-light, and the telephoto could be sharper, but it works well enough in good lighting.
Samsung's processing can impose some radioactive-looking colors, and sometimes details are processed into mud, but in general it's fine.
Left: Normal selfie. Right: Selfie with the rear camera.
That said, there are a couple snazzy features worth mentioning that you get from the form-factor, like the ability to take selfies with the much better rear primary camera and see yourself on the cover display, and angle the phone so you can set it on a surface as an impromptu tripod.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you can afford it.
Last year's Galaxy Fold was (perhaps rightly) dragged through the mud after the snafu of its initial launch. It felt like a concept rather than a real product: fantastical and futuristic, but too delicate and compromised. But it laid the foundation, and design improvements in the later Z Flip demonstrated substantial progress. The Z Fold2 isn't the culmination of the folding phone paradigm, and we won't get there for several years, but we've reached the point where it isn't just for early adopters. There are drawbacks, but the Z Fold2 isn't a concept device, and I think it's worth the extravagant $2,000 price tag — for some.
The Galaxy Z Fold2 definitely isn't for everyone, and it doesn't need to be. Much as not everyone needs a multi-monitor ultra-powerful computer, or a massive car, or a big home office, what you need in a phone comes down to what you do with it. I firmly believe the Z Fold2 can let you do real work on a phone in a way you've never been able to before. If you're always on-call, remotely managing and multitasking on the go, this is the phone you didn't know you needed. It's the CEO phone, the product manager phone, the always-working-all-the-time phone. But for folks that just need something to chat with friends, scroll Instagram, and watch TikTok, the Galaxy Z Fold2 is utterly superfluous and very much not for you.
If you're always on-call, remotely managing and multitasking on the go, this is the phone you didn't know you needed.
When it comes to hardware, the only corners Samsung cut are the ones it couldn't avoid due to the limits of materials science and space. You're not getting the very best camera you can buy, there's no IP rating, and the folding display isn't a super-durable Gorilla Glass slab. Furthermore, the $2,000 price is no joke, that's a lot of money to spend on anything, let alone a phone. But for some, Galaxy Z Fold2 will be as big a revelation as the Blackberry was.
Buy it if:
- You need a big screen on the go.
- Mobile productivity is a priority.
- You can afford it.
Don't buy it if:
- You need an IP rating or a more durable phone.
- $2,000 is too much for you.
- You want the very best smartphone camera you can get.
Where to buy:
The Galaxy Z Fold2 is available for pre-order at the following retailers:
One month later
I've been using the Galaxy Z Fold2 since Ryne published his review, and I think it might be the most important phone of 2020. And note, I am not saying it's a good phone or that you should buy one. Hooboy, am I definitely not saying the latter. This is a $2,000 phone that's worse at some things than phones that cost less than half as much. However, this device has convinced me that foldables are the next step in mobile, and that makes it pretty darn important.
I agree with Ryne here—the Z Fold2 changes the way I use my smartphone, and that's refreshing after years of increasingly bulky glass slabs. It's essentially a tablet that fits in your pocket, and unlike other Android tablets, this is one I actually want to use. It's the right size to make phone-optimized apps usable while still offering enough space to leverage multi-window and pop-up apps. Some of the features in Samsung's multi-window system are a bit opaque and hard to learn, but it all works surprisingly well once you're acclimated.
I can replicate workflows on the Fold2 that I could previously only do on a computer. For example, yesterday my dad pinged me to ask about phone things because he's due for an upgrade. I split-screened my messaging app with Chrome so I could do research while we chatted back and forth. It only took a second to set this up, and it worked swimmingly. I've also configured a few saved app trios for work like Chrome/Slack/Gmail. They all run simultaneously on the Fold's main 7.6-inch display, and that makes it easier to keep on top of everything. I can (and do) get real work done on the Z Fold2.
I can play the full tablet version of Civilization VI on a phone that fits in my pocket.
The phone is bulky, but the build quality is incredible—when this phone is open, it feels like a tablet and not a phone that folds in half. The hinge is a legitimate marvel of engineering, and Samsung made substantial improvements over the last-gen Fold. However, this phone has numerous compromises, as Ryne mentioned above. What bothers me most after a few weeks with the phone is how that screen looks after a few hours of use. The top plastic layer doesn't seem to have an oleophobic coating, so it gets pretty gross and is hard to clean. I'm also constantly worried I'll damage the fragile foldable OLED.
Again, this is a $2,000 phone, and no one should spend that much on a whim when it's time for an upgrade. You should only buy the Z Fold2 if you're truly committed to living on the cutting edge and don't mind making some sacrifices to do it. So, people like me, I guess. Regardless, foldable are a game-changer. I believe Samsung will continue improving its folding screen tech, prices will come down, and maybe a future version of this phone will be in your pocket. Until then, save your money. As for me, I have to set this phone aside soon to work on other reviews, and that's going to bum me out. I plan to go back to the Fold whenever my schedule permits.