While the basic premise of a foldable is simple enough, finding use cases and people who actually see themselves relying on this bleeding-edge hardware is proving a little tricker – especially right now.
The newly-launched Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the latest entry in a small-but-growing assortment of foldable mobiles, primarily from Samsung, but also the likes of Huawei and Motorola/Lenovo.
While the category as a whole is still relatively young, it’s clear that the Z Fold 2 doesn’t just learn from its direct predecessor – last year’s Galaxy Fold – but every major foldable launched over the last few years.
The design doesn’t deviate from the original Galaxy Fold all that much, although it does serve as a notable refinement; shrinking down every dimension (aside from height) while offering up larger screens and narrower bezels on both its 6.2in cover display and the all-important 7.6in folding main display.
It’s improved hinge adopts two important traits from the Galaxy Z Flip too, with brushes ensuring detritus doesn’t gum up the phone’s dual-hinge mechanism (all rated for 200,000 folds, based on a rate of 100 folds a day for five years) and Flex Mode – operating between 75° and 115°, splitting the UI for richer functionality across everything from taking photos to video playback.
If you look past the Z Fold 2’s price tag – which was always expected to be steep – it makes for an enticing prospect; as a result of the high-end internals, optimised Flex UI user experience and the inherent adaptability of the folding technology on offer.
Under the same launch conditions as the original Fold, the Z Fold 2 seems like a well-executed upgrade that those with the available cash would be foolish to pass on, however, the last few months and the ongoing effects of the global pandemic have completely changed the conditions under which such products need to be viewed.
Paying a premium for a tablet that folds into a phone, allowing you to get more done on-the-go without needing to carry multiple devices with you, makes sense. It’s a bigger screen than your pocket could ever normally accommodate, not to mention Flex UI is optimised to allow for heavy-duty multitasking in a mobile capacity that no other phone and most tablets struggle to match.
It’s the ‘on-the-go’ aspect that drives a wedge between the ideal use cases of the original Fold and the ones the Galaxy Z Fold 2 has been built for, though. With more people working at home than ever before, they aren’t limited by the space and power constraints that previously helped sell the promises made by the original Fold.
You’ve already got your laptop, your phone and your tablet sitting around your house, so paying extra to have those devices folded (no pun intended) into one experience, when you’re still just sitting at home doesn’t have quite the same appeal as was present when last year’s Fold arrived.
There’s no denying that what Samsung has done in developing and refining the Z Fold 2 is superb – it makes a better justification for the foldable form factor on its own merits than the original Fold ever did – but it arrives in a market where its fundamental strength, in the form of adaptability, doesn’t have a place.
That isn’t likely to change until the threat of COVID-19 is no longer and the economy has had time to recover, by which point Samsung will have innovated even further, leaving the Z Fold 2 devoid of its launch-day lustre.
Read next: How to pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2