Samsung’s first look at the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 2 during its Unpacked event seemed to spend more time focusing on how the new model fixes the flaws of the original rather than emphasizing whatever will make the foldable flagship great. In putting so much effort into convincing customers that this time it got things right, Samsung revealed just how badly it needs foldable phones to work.
At the end of the event, Samsung Electronics global executive SVP Federico Casalegno said that “going forward, 5G and foldables will be the major pillars of Samsung’s future.” For that to happen, they can’t be fragile.
In a world where first-generation products are often plagued by issues — be it poor battery on the first LTE phones, oversized video game consoles, or the original iPhone’s nonexistent third-party apps — the original Galaxy Fold stood out as a particularly problematic freshman attempt.
The original launch had to be delayed for months after multiple review units (including The Verge’s) outright failed. And even when the $1,980 smartphone did launch after a reinforcing redesign, it was with plentiful warnings about handling the delicate plastic display gently, with Samsung advising customers to avoid even tapping the screen too hard. The phone also was still at risk from debris, which could make its way inside the hinges and damage the screen from the back.
That’s all before getting into the actual issues with the Fold’s functionality as a phone: the original Fold featured a tiny 4.6-inch external display that made it uncomfortable to use as a regular smartphone. There was a giant notch that took up an entire corner of the display. And a “jelly-scrolling” effect that was disappointing to see on a phone this expensive.
The good news is that Samsung is promising to address nearly every single one of these issues on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, to the point where it took the time from its Unpacked event to call out the various reviewers who had cited these issues, to show off the fixes it’s made.
Samsung played videos from Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) commenting on the plastic nature of the original Fold’s display (Brownlee’s comment that “glass doesn’t fold” gets rebutted by Samsung’s ultra-thin glass). Another series of clips from Brownlee and The Verge’s own Dieter Bohn were used to show the progression of the hinge design from the Fold to the Z Flip to the Z Fold 2. And in what might have been the most shocking thing of all, Samsung showed a clip from JerryRigEverything pouring dirt and gravel over the phone — so it could highlight the new brushes that (in theory) will prevent that issue.
The display is no longer a dangerously easy-to-break sheet of plastic but the same ultra-thin glass technology that Samsung debuted with the Galaxy Z Flip earlier this year, which promises more durability. Although for protection, the glass component here is still covered with a plastic cover, which can pick up nicks. Despite this upgrade, it’s still much more fragile than the hardened Gorilla Glass most of us are used to on regular smartphones.
Samsung has also redesigned the hinge in the Z Fold 2. It’s able to stay in place at a wider range of angles, allowing it to be propped up on a desk. It employs stronger force to keep the phone open when its unfolded, and it features additional springs to allow for a smoother opening experience. Samsung’s also using a similar “sweeper” technology that it debuted with the Z Flip to brush out any dust or dirt. The new system actually makes several improvements on the Z Flip’s method to account for the even smaller hinge, with shorter fibers and adjustments to the elasticity of the brushes to ensure that everything works the same despite the smaller size.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 also promises to be a better phone. The outside screen is now a full-size 6.2-inch panel, although it’s likely still quite narrow, so that diagonal measurement may not be the best indication of how it feels to use. The notches on the main display have been tossed out in exchange for diminutive hole-punch cameras, and the display technology has been improved to offer 120Hz refresh rates (although the word is still out on the jelly scroll.)
It’s a message focused on selling customers a phone based on the things that it isn’t — too small, too awkward, too prone to breaking — rather than the things that it is. It also puts a lot of pressure on the upcoming Z Fold 2. Samsung has made the idea of this phone being its fixed foldable its defining characteristic, which is a lot of weight to put on a single device. Customers could forgive the first Fold for having issues as a first-generation piece of hardware. The second time around, there’s far less room for error.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Z Fold 2 — information that will presumably come when Samsung is ready to show off the phone more fully on September 1st. But with the emphasis on getting right what it had gotten wrong last time, Samsung is renewing its commitment to foldable phones as the future. And maybe the Z Fold 2 is the phone to prove that’s even possible.