I started composing a review in my head as soon as Galaxy Fold landed on my desk.- Samsung's new phone with a foldable screen:
"It looks cool, but at the end of the day, it's a gimmick."
But as my week with it wore on, I fell increasing in love with the Fold and was loath to give it back.
The Fold looks and acts like a regular smartphone when it's closed - albeit with a noticeably much narrower screen and much chubbier body than, say, a regular Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone. It reminded me of Nokia's chunky Communicator from two decades ago.
But once you flip it open, it transforms into a big-screen, thin device. It's not unlike holding an iPad Mini.
And whatever you've been watching on the small outer screen - from a txt to a website to a video - automatically displays on the big (7.3-inch) inner screen after you unhinge the Fold (and in a neat party trick, it continues to display as you bend the display shut).
The first question people always asked me is: could you see the fold-line in the middle of the display?
The answer: I expected to be an issue, and more so when I saw the graphic that Samsung uses as the standard wallpaper, with the butterfly's body carefully positioned to camouflage the hinge.
But it's just wasn't. When playing Spark Sport, Sky Sport Now or Disney+ video, and looking straight on - the natural viewing position - I just couldn't see the crease in the middle of the display at all.
I'm not sure what voodoo the clever folks at Samsung used to achieve this invisibility, but well done.
The crease is visible if you look at video from an extreme angle, or with the likes of a web page or Kindle reader software if you look for it but, honestly, I just forgot about it.
You also get all the frills you'd expect in a high-end smartphone these days, including face and finger recognition for easy unlocking, a powerful processor for multitasking, and no less than six cameras, including ultra-wide and telephoto (2x optical, 10x digital) options. Samsung also throws in a pair of wireless Galaxy Buds (see full tech specs here - https://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/galaxy-fold/).
Clever tricks abound.
Overall, Fold seemed a good alternative to carrying both a smartphone and a tablet.
It was a wonder of engineering and I felt, as I said before, feelings of love.
But was it $3399 worth of love?
Probably not (and a moot point, given my lack of a spare $3399).
And as sturdy as it felt with my review unit, I also worried about the long-term reliability of the hinge, especially given Samsung's false-start in April (when what appeared to be an issue with debris getting through the hinge and damaging the screen emerged with early demo units - caps were added to the final version to stop it) and its stutter in September when general release was again delayed as Samsung said it had to "rethink the customer experience" - the result of which was to bundle 24/7 phone and web support for Fold buyers (for the record, I found its interface all very intuitive. If you're used to Android, there's nothing to scare the horses).
It is a chubster when folded.
There is a 5G version, but it's not being released in NZ.
And while the inner-display's boxy 4:3 ratio is great for websites and surfing, it also means you have quite big black bars if you watch a wide-screen movie, which is better-suited to the 16:9 ratio used by almost all smartphones (and all widescreen TVs).
Still, overall a stunner, and the folding screen fad (also seen in Huawei's Mate X and Lenovo's reboot of the Motorola Razr, both yet to reach NZ, and to a lesser degree Microsoft's Surface Duo with its overt hinge) at least offers something fresh and innovative after years of lookalike slab-phones.
If you want to be the top geek on your block, you'll be ordering the Fold today.
Otherwise the old maxim for any cutting-edge new technology hold true: wait for Version 2.0 next year, when any remaining kinks should be ironed out, and the price will be a lot friendlier if the Fold is a hit and production scales up.
Pre-sales for the Galaxy Fold open Monday for $3399, and it'll be officially on sale by December 18. Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees are all carrying the Fold.