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24 hours with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2: what it is and what it isn't

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
(Image credit: Future)

Jaded about smartphones? Think you've seen it all? The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the one piece of tech that has wowed me in 2020, and it's only been 24 hours.

Every time this phone folds in half, it impresses. People in a socially distant New York City, not eager to make small talk right now, are stopping me to ask what this thing is and if it's worth it. That second question will have to wait for our full Z Fold 2 review. But, for now, I can explain the first: what this thing is – and what it isn't.

I called the original Fold 'the most forward-thinking smartphone you shouldn't buy' because, even with its screen-bending innovation, it had classic first-gen limitations at a price that was more than the very best laptop. That's a hard recommendation to make, knowing Samsung would quickly address everyone's biggest complaints.

Sure enough, 11 months later, I now have the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 in hand. It's blowing people's minds – and it contains most of the fixes I wanted from Gen 1.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

(Image credit: Future)

What this Galaxy Z Fold 2 is

As I wrap my hands around a folded Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, I remember what it's like to carry around a small smartphone. The tall but narrow design is easy to grasp with one hand, like I'm holding a rod – a very, very expensive rod.

Unfolded, it's like carrying around a mini Android tablet. That's something I typically need a backpack to cart around (and often end leaving at home). Its 7.6-inch display feels like I'm using Apple's 7.9-inch iPad mini. Yet Samsung's design makes it fully pocketable when I want to stow the Fold 2.

I've been able to take advantage of the big screen already: to edit photos in Adobe Lightroom Mobile, live stream a tech launch event, write about the launch event in a Google Doc, and, the holy grail, update a spreadsheet (normally an impossible task on a phone). Guess what? I did many of these things at the same time with split-view.

What I'm really impressed with is the small Cover Display on folded front. It fixes the biggest issue I had with the first Fold. At 4.6-inches, it felt like there was more black bezel than actual screen. The new 6.2-inch Cover Display is 1.63x bigger and takes up the entire front. It's magnificent. It truly feels like two phones in one now.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

(Image credit: Future)

OK, at times, it literally feels like two phones in one: the Fold 2 is thick at 13.8mm not counting for the camera bump. But what shocked most people was how light it was. At 282g, it doesn't feel much heavier than the Note 20 Ultra (208g).

One more Fold 2-only trick that delighted me on day one: I found a way for someone to take a photo of me using the expansive 7.6-inch display (large viewfinder so that they can't possible mess up, right?) and see how they frame it using the Cover Display to look at the shot in realtime (in case they do cut off the top of my head, I'll know).

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

(Image credit: Future)

What this Galaxy Z Fold 2 isn't

I'm torn. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is Samsung's most innovative smartphone to date. But I've also been using the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and its 5x optical and 50x digital zoom a lot. That's a brilliant feature you won't get with the expensive new Fold.

You're still getting five great cameras. There's has a 2x optical telephoto, joined by a regular wide camera and an ultra-wide camera on the back of the Fold 2, and a pair of punch hole cameras, one of the inside display and the other on the Cover Display. None of them can compare to the shots out of the Note 20 Ultra, though.

Likewise, the Fold 2 can replace some of what I do on a laptop – I mentioned that it allowed me to view and tweak spreadsheets from the large 7.6-inch display. But I still find it easier to use a laptop to create new spreadsheets from scratch and do similar complex tasks. The Fold 2 is the ideal stopgap between phone and laptop, but it's not a laptop replacement. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

(Image credit: Future)

More to test on the Z Fold 2

There's a lot to test out on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 long term – its battery life, its cameras and its durability – to determine how I'll score the final review.

Purely based on first impressions 24 hours after unboxing it, the Galaxy Fold Z 2 is a conversation starter and literally my shiny new toy that no one else has (the release date isn't until Friday, September 18). They instantly want to know about it.

Important to note: I haven't had any problems with durability, although it's only been a little over a day. You can certainly see the crease down the middle of the screen in certain reflective light, but it's hardly a deal breaker for this kind of innovation.

The Fold 2 is a powerful, cutting-edge 5G phone, and Samsung fixed my Gen 1 complaints. But is this 2020's most forward thinking phone you shouldn't buy all over again? That's what I'm going to determine over the course of the next week.

Matt Swider

US Editor-in-Chief

Matt Swider is TechRadar's gadget-savvy, globe-trotting US Editor-in-Chief who leads the US team in New York City. He began his tech journalism career all the way back in 1999 at the age of 14, and first started writing for TechRadar in 2012. He's tested over 1,000 phones, tablets and wearables and commands a Twitter account of 777,000+ followers. Matt received his journalism degree from Penn State University and is never seen without his TechRadar headphones.