BERLIN — Nothing, and I mean nothing, can ruin a highly anticipated smartphone’s run for glory like a bunch of them breaking in the hands of reviewers. That was the story five months ago for the Samsung Galaxy Fold when reports were coming in that the Fold's screen was flickering and debris was getting caught in the design.
It wasn’t a good look for a nearly $2,000 smartphone. Granted, we didn't experience any of those problems with our review unit, but several other outlets did. Multiple reports of the phone's mishaps initiated a delayed launch that culminated with cancelled pre-orders.
But here I am at IFA 2019 this week, holding this prodigal son of a smartphone and it feels... OK. It's obvious that in the time since the recall, Samsung went back to the lab and tweaked the design. They're not major changes by themselves, but the sum total make me think the Fold is finally ready for its closeup.
One of the Fold's fatal flaws was the display, or rather the protective film on the panel. Some reviewers thought the film, which was weirdly glossy yet matte was a screen protector and proceeded to pull it off. In actuality, the film was the only thing between you and inevitable display doom wrought by an accidental scratch or worse.
The thin piece of plastic is back but this time it's protected by the metal rim lining the sides and edges of the Galaxy Fold. It's neatly tucked away from prying hands so you're not going to be as tempted to peel it away.
With the original Fold, I was a bit worried about the hinge. There was a slight creak when opening and closing the device. I wondered aloud how long it would take before it broke. Apparently, over at The Verge, it only took two days. Dieter Bohn reported a slight bulge pushing upward from the hinge against the display. He surmised that a piece of debris had somehow worked itself under the pesky crease and got stuck.
To address these issues, Samsung inserted small metal plates under the display for added stability. And to prevent random crumbs and flotsam from infiltrating the phone, Samsung added small covers along the edges of the Galaxy Fold's hinge.
These otherwise small changes make me feel a lot better about the phone. I didn't hear any creaking when I opened and closed the phone and I felt better about touching the display. And the caps mean I can treat this $1,980 device like a somewhat normal smartphone and put it in my purse or pocket.
The crease running down the center of the Fold's screen remains, but it doesn't seem as pronounced. When I saw the phone back in April, the crease was front and center when you opened the phone, even though it was flat. It was like Enrique Iglesias' old mole — something you tried to ignore for the greater good.
But on the Fold 2.0, what was once a cavern is barely a wrinkle. Honestly, I only noticed it because I was looking for it.
5G: Not for the U.S.
This is a no-brainer. With 5G rolling out across the world, it only makes sense that Samsung launches the Fold with the capability to tap into the nascent network. After all, the company has a 5G model of the Note 10 Plus on the way. Why wouldn't the most expensive phone on its roster not have every bell and whistle in Samsung's arsenal?
Well, we have bad news. The Galaxy Fold 5G debuted in Korea today (Sept. 6), and it's coming to the U.K. and Germany on Sept. 18. But CNET reports that when the Fold ships in the U.S. later this month, the phone won't support 5G.
I'm still not shelling out $2,000 for a phone, even one that's gotten some much-needed tweaks. That's just too rich for my blood. But the foldable phone faithful who were waiting for Samsung to get its act together can feel confident when they pony up for this device. And maybe the long-delayed foldable phone revolution can finally get underway.
Check out all of our IFA 2019 coverage by heading to our IFA hub page.