I’VE championed smartphones as an all-in-one-solution for the working journalist, when their photographic capabilities began to surpass the image-making power of point and shoot cameras. Larger, crisper screens were a happy bonus.
Samsung says a lot about their new ZFold smartphone, and it’s also a working journalist’s dream device.
I’m writing this column on a review copy of the ZFold, using Evernote, the second best word processing app on Android (after Word). The seamlessness of Evernote’s synchronisation with linked instances is an important point of differentiation.
Whatever I write on the smartphone appears soon after in my laptop’s copy of the software.
Add in a foldable keyboard (I use a model with a trackpad now that Android and iOS devices support cursors on the screen) and you’re in a very good writing space.
The screen on a device like the Samsung S20 is usable, but working with text or preparing an image on the unfolded screen of the ZFold is a transformative kind of temptation. It isn’t quite like working with a laptop, but while writing, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in the practical working experience. The cameras in the Zfold are the pro lens suite that Samsung has been shipping with the S21, so there is no loss in image capture power, but nothing’s gained either.
For an S21 user, the value of the ZFold comes down to the screen, or rather screens, since the device offers a standard screen on its front face (we’ll call it the face screen) before you open it.
That screen has been designed as half of the ZFold’s display area but it isn’t the same rectangle shape used on Samsung’s other large screen smartphones. The Zfold’s face screen seems narrower and taller than the screens on the Ultra versions of the S20 and S21, though it’s actually shorter as well as clearly thinner.
As a tool, the ZFold is two premium smartphones worth of battery, processors and circuitry joined by an admirably firm hinge with a 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4 mm AMOLED screen stretched over it.
Most apps that are coded to make use of the available screen real estate just fill the screen, including Evernote, Snapseed, Netflix and Facebook.
But one of the things I’d put on the single screen would be YouTube and VLC, because the big square screen is quite odd for viewing wide-screen video.
You don’t get letterbox black bars; the video floats between large black bands. The only video that looks good here is material shot in the old TV 4:3 format.
Widescreen video looks just as good on the single screen and makes better sense there, because you can fold the screen to your preferred viewing angle on a table.
Compatible apps can open side by side on the big fold screen, but it really isn’t big enough for that.
The half-screen slivers that’ result aren’t as productive as fast app switching and it’s an effortless exercise on the fold screen to switch between research windows in a book or website window and writing.
The use case for the ZFold isn’t limited to luxurious, pocketable screen space for text. Excel spreadsheets and digital art projects will also do well here, particularly when paired with the new pro SPen.
If your work requires you to take pictures of things, write things, look up stuff on the Internet for reference and put it together and send it off somewhere as a digital document, you won’t find many tools better to do the job that fit in a manly pocket or petite purse like the Zfold does.
Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there.