In the history of mobile phones, there are a fewer than a handful of devices that have changed the direction of the entire industry, with the iPhone being the most influential. Samsung’s much-delayed Galaxy Fold, for all its gen-one shortcomings and high price tag, may be part of that rarefied group, based on a week spent trying it out. Design and hardware The Samsung Galaxy Fold has two physical looks. In its standard, “unfolded” form, it is an unusually thick handset with a relatively tiny 4.6-inch screen that, because of an elongated 19:9 aspect ratio, feels very cramped by 2019 standards. However, anything you can do on a smartphone, you can still do on this screen – just expect a few more typos because of how cramped the on-screen keyboard is. Its second form factor is the reason for its existence: the device flips open horizontally – like a book – to reveal a 7.3-inch screen. The display can bend and fold like a book because it’s made of plastic; these plastic OLED (P-OLED) panels have long been in development by Samsung and fellow South Korean rival LG. The Fold’s P-OLED display produces the usual vibrant colours, high resolution and excellent viewing angles that Samsung panels are known for, but the nature of a plastic folding screen brings two undesirable side-effects: the plastic screen is harsher to the touch compared to the premium glass screens we’ve become used to on smartphones, and there is a noticeable crease at the folding point when light hits the spot at certain angles. Still, this is a fully functional touch panel, and all the taps and swipes we’ve grown used to doing on smartphones work. In its unfolded form, the Fold’s shape resembles that of a small tablet such as the iPad mini. When closed, the Fold resembles a candy bar; despite a thickness of 15.5mm, it fits into my trouser pockets without issues. The Fold was supposed to go on sale six months ago, but a design flaw with the hinge mechanism – the moving parts had large enough gaps for small particles such as dust and lint to fall through – led to malfunctions in review units. Samsung said it fixed the problem by making the hinge tighter, and adding two plastic caps that “seal” the area in which the hinge meets. After a week of heavy use, the hinge still feels sturdy, and the gaps are so tight I don’t think lint or dust can get through. Only time will tell whether this hinge holds up, however. The specs remains mostly unchanged from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones: a Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a triple camera system featuring standard, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses. Samsung has given the Fold two sets of selfie cameras. There’s a single 10-megapixel front-facing lens for use when the device is folded; in its unfolded form there is another 10-megapixel selfie lens plus a wide-angle lens in the upper right corner of the plastic screen. For security biometrics, the Fold has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor on the right side of the aluminium chassis. Software and features The Fold runs on Android 9 with Samsung’s One UI on top, and Samsung has done a superb job of fine-tuning the software to account for the shifting form factors and larger screen. For example, if I decide to unfold the unit and switch to the larger display, whatever action I was in the midst of – in the camera app; cycling through a friend’s photos on Facebook; or in the middle of typing an email – will usually carry over to the large screen uninterrupted. Some apps, such as certain games, will require reloading, but all the crucial, widely used apps such as Gmail, Google Chrome, phone dialler, and WhatsApp transition smoothly. Split-screen multitasking is also well optimised on the larger screen. The Fold can display up to three apps at the same time (a fourth or even fifth app can be opened too, though they’ll operate in a floating window). The action to trigger split-screen is intuitive, and I’ve ran multiple combinations, such as YouTube with WhatsApp and Gmail, or WeChat with Facebook with Netflix, without issues. Videos play uninterrupted as I’m chatting away or writing emails. For a gen-one device, the software experience exceeds my expectations. Performance and battery life Using the Fold in its full-sized glory is akin to using a tablet, so expect everything from gaming to movie watching to be vastly superior to the standard smartphone experience. When the device is folded, the cramped screen makes typing and reading text a bit more difficult, but it’s manageable. Performance is virtually identical to that of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10, so expect plenty of processing power and a very capable of camera that focuses fast, and produces lively colours and high detail, but has a tendency to overexpose shots. Samsung’s cameras are among the best in the industry, but a bit behind Apple’s and Huawei’s latest offerings. Battery life is surprisingly good. Even on days when I used the large screen extensively (average screen time five-and-a-half hours), the 4,380 mAh battery was usually enough to go a full day. Charging can be done wirelessly or via USB-C. Conclusion The Galaxy Fold represents the future not just of smartphones, but of personal computing. Just as the iPad (and other tablets) has replaced the personal computer for many users, this hybrid foldable device that is both phone and tablet will replace those in a few years. We’ll all be carrying wallet-sized devices in our pockets that, if needed, can unfold to become a 12-inch productivity or movie watching machine. Of course, I don’t recommend the average consumer buy the Fold now, as the durability of the foldable screen is still in question and the second generation of these products will surely be much better. But for tech enthusiasts who want the latest and greatest, its US$2,000 price tag isn’t unreasonable. That the Fold sold out on the day of its release in South Korea, Singapore and the UK is proof of that. Dimensions: 160.9mm x 62.9mm x 15.5mm (folded); 160.9mm x 117.9mm x 6.9mm (unfolded) Weight: 263 grams Display: 4.6-inch 720 X 1,680 OLED panel (small); 7.3-inch 1536 x 2152 P-OLED panel (large) Battery: 4,380 mAh OS version reviewed: Android 9 with One UI on top Processor: Snapdragon 855 Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.5-f/2.4 main sensor; 16-megapixel f/2.2 wide-angle lens; 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto lens; 10-megapixel selfie lens (X2); 8-megapixel wide-angle selfie lens Memory: 12GB RAM/512GB ROM Colours: black, silver Price: US$2,000 For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters , subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast , and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report . Also roam China Tech City , an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus .