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Samsung's Galaxy Fold: Make peace with a crease

Any new technology is bound to have wrinkles. On Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold, a phone that opens into a tablet, they include one prominent crease. It goes down the middle of the Fold’s remarkable flexible screen, like a pleat on polyester pants.

I’m sure it will dominate discussion about this much-anticipated gadget, arriving April 26. But after spending a few hours with the Fold, I made peace with the crease. You forget it’s there, like the notch on an iPhone X.

There’s more to iron out than the screen before the Fold is a phone for most of us. Its weight: three-quarters of a can of soup. Its functions: far better tablet than phone. And its astronomical price: at $1,980, only for first-adopters and the sorts of status-seekers who might also buy a phone studded with Swarovski crystals.

Even if you’d never dream of spending so much on a phone, the Fold is worth your attention as a potential new branch on the evolutionary tree of the most-important gadget in our lives. Our desire to do more, more, more with our phones — working, gaming, watching TV — has outgrown our hands and pockets. To keep giving us more screen, Samsung had to figure out how to break beyond the rectangular slab and into a new world of origami shapes.

The Fold feels more solid and responsive than you’d expect from a first-generation device. It does things we’ve not seen before, such as make a hinge disappear inside a screen, thanks to an interlocking set of gears you might expect to see on a German car. But we had different views on a few of the Fold’s faults.

It’s going to take more time to understand whether the Fold is the future or just a Frankenphone. A smartphone and tablet in one could be convenient ... or do both jobs less well. I suspect it has more potential as a replacement for a tablet than as a phone. To find out, I would need to operate the Fold one-handed on my morning commute, try to burn through emails at a coffee shop, and catch up on my Netflix queue on a flight.

Samsung was right years ago about the trend toward larger-screen phones, which not that long ago we used to jokingly call “phablets.” The Fold combats the distressing trend of people needing handles, like those stick-on circular PopSockets, just to firmly grip their phones. If it catches on, the Fold could be the beginning of an era where big phones really are just tablets.

Perhaps the lesson from the first folding phone will be about the value of making devices smaller. Instead of doing origami on a tablet, imagine folding in half the phone you already own. ”I don’t just want bigger screens, I want being smart with the screens you have,” Milanesi said. Welcome back, flip phones.

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