Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 Design: What We Know So Far

Foldable phones are one of the more curious members of the mobile tech market. They seem like an answer looking for a problem, though some consider them as something they never knew they needed until they laid hands on one. It’s not exactly a stable market either, but that’s stopping Samsung from pushing out new models every year. 2024 won’t be any different, but the Galaxy Z Fold 6 might be, at least in some ways. Unlike its early days, Samsung seems to be content to move more slowly this time, letting its designs simmer longer even while its hardware grows by leaps and bounds. That’s especially true for its next foldable based on unofficial information, but that also paints a very mixed picture that could leave Samsung playing catch up in the very market it created.

Designer: Samsung

Thin and Square

While foldable phones over great flexibility, they come at the cost of not only complexity and price but also ergonomics. These devices are practically two narrow smartphones joined together, so their combined thickness when folded is also twice that of regular smartphones. The most basic solution would be to make the device thinner, but like with regular smartphones, you’re bound to hit the limits of how thin you can go without compromising durability or safety.

Pushing those boundaries has been one of the biggest obsessions that foldable phone makers have, and it seems that Samsung is joining the fray this year. According to the latest leak, the Galaxy Z Fold 6 will be 11mm thick only when folded shut, a significant diet compared to the 13.4mm thickness of the current Galaxy Z Fold 5. That would make the unfolded form only about 5.5mm thick, which is crazy thin even by regular tablet standards. If true, that hopefully won’t come with compromises to the phone’s structural integrity and battery life.

The profile isn’t the only thing expected to change in the Galaxy Z Fold 6. The external Cover Screen is also tipped to be a bit wider this time around, more in line with the standard aspect ratios of non-foldable phones. In theory, this would make it less awkward to use it as a regular phone when folded, but that also means that the unfolded aspect ratio will be more square than any Galaxy Z Fold before it.

S Pen No Home

Making the Galaxy Z Fold 6 thinner is going to be a dream come true for some fans, but it will also probably disappoint a certain group because of the consequences of that change. If you make a phone thinner, you either have to shrink or reduce the size of other components, for example, the battery, or spread them around wider. Either way, it’s going to be a cramped space inside, which leaves no room for an S Pen silo yet again.

Although the Galaxy Z Fold series has supported Samsung’s Wacom-powered stylus since 2021, the S Pen never really had a proper home inside the device itself. Contrast this with the Galaxy S Ultra series that, inheriting the Galaxy Note spirit, came with an S Pen as part of the package. There might be debates on the ergonomics of such a thin stick, but owners at least had the option of not buying two extra accessories just for that writing and drawing experience.

Yes, two accessories, because you’re likely to buy a compatible case if you’ll be investing in an S Pen Fold Edition. There really is no other convenient alternative to making sure that you don’t lose the stylus in your pocket, bag, or anywhere else. Unfortunately, designs for these cases feel more like works in progress and it seems it will continue to be the case for another iteration.

Camera Shy

The biggest disappointment, however, might come from the Galaxy Z Fold 6’s cameras. The latest word is that the upcoming foldable will sport a 50MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide shooter, and a 10MP telephoto camera on its back. The external front camera will be a 10MP selfie shooter while the internal front-facing camera has a 4MP under-display sensor.

Those are very much the same cameras used in the Galaxy Z Fold 4 from 2022, and although we don’t know yet of any hardware or software tweaks that Samsung will make, they’re still disappointing to hear. This is one area where the brand is being left in its competitors’ dust and where the product doesn’t feel deserving of its premium price tag. Some might actually forgive Samsung for putting a large camera bump on the phone’s back compared to reusing the same cameras for the third year in a row.

Of course, all of these are still unofficial information, so we might be pleasantly surprised by a more noteworthy Galaxy Z Fold 6 in August. Given the trends, though, that doesn’t seem to be likely, as Samsung is taking a more iterative approach to design with its large foldables. Maybe it doesn’t feel the heat from its rivals that don’t have the same market reach as the tech giant, but it’s also very close to stagnating and killing off the very trend that it started.

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Google Pixel Fold 2 renders say goodbye to a distinctive design

The foldable phone market is still very young, which means there’s plenty of room for design improvement across the board. We can expect manufacturers to experiment with different combinations that try to cram as much hardware as possible inside super-thin bodies. Change is inevitable but not every change will be welcomed with open arms. Some are bound to be controversial, especially when they involve removing something that people have grown fond of. That might be the case with Google’s second foldable phone, which will trade its somewhat iconic “visor” camera design for a rather unusual spin on the common camera bump that might prove to be quite unappealing if these unofficial renders are correct.

Designer: Google (via Smartprix, @OnLeaks)

Granted, the Google Pixel’s rear camera bar isn’t exactly loved by everyone, but it still gives the smartphones a distinctive appearance that can be considered Google’s signature design. That’s not exactly easy to pull off on a foldable phone like the Pixel Fold, so Google had to modify it to be less elegant but still shouted “Pixel” nonetheless. Whether you liked that design or not, it might not be sticking around on Google’s foldable for long, and maybe not even on its future smartphones.

Renders based on leaked information reveal the alleged Pixel Fold 2 design that is so different from the first-gen foldable. Gone is the horizontal bar, replaced by what almost looks like a more conventional rounded square in the corner. That illusion quickly breaks down, however, when you notice the two horizontal pill-shaped cutouts for the camera lenses. In addition to possibly being very thick, this could easily be one of the least attractive camera designs today.

The more subtle changes can be found in the sizes of the two screens. Not only are they larger, they also have different aspect ratios. The external Cover screen, for example, is a bit narrower and taller, resulting in an unfolded shape that is more square than the first Pixel Fold. The bezels around the internal display are also much thinner, which leaves no room for a camera. Apparently, this could also be Google’s first phone to use an under-display camera as well.

None of these details are guaranteed, of course, and Google might surprise us with a Pixel Fold 2 that looks almost exactly like the Pixel Fold 1, except more refined. It is definitely within Google’s right to change its designs as it sees fit, but there are also times when you’re just left scratching your head at the oddity of it all. Fortunately, the Pixel Fold is hardly the only foldable phone available, especially with OPPO confirming it’s still in the race.

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Vivo X100 Pro Review: A strong contendar for the best camera phone of 2024

PROS:


  • Exceptional imaging capabilities

  • Great display

  • Snappy performance

CONS:


  • Front facing video is capped at 1080p

  • Limited market availability

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

The Vivo X100 Pro currently stands as one of the best camera phone on the market, transforming even the most maudane scene into form of artistic expression.

In the landscape of mobile phone space, making a significant impact can be challenging unless you belong to the elite trio of Apple, Google, and Samsung. The task becomes even more formidable for an underdog like Vivo. If you are not familiar with Vivo, the company was founded in 2009 and has since become a significant player in the mobile phone industry with a strong presence in Asia and the Middle East with its footprint extended to certain regions in Europe. The company is known for offering devices with innovative features, and its X-series flagship, in particular, has gained attention for its impressive mobile imaging performance, through continual collaboration with the renowned lens manufacturer Zeiss. Vivo’s new flagship X100 Pro, which was launched in China on December 19th last year, is yet another Vivo device with outstanding camera capabilities.

We’ll explore how Vivo continues to push boundaries in the realm of mobile photography and invocation. From its sleek aesthetics to the powerful internals, the X100 Pro promises an immersive user experience. Join us as we uncover the nuances of its design, performance, and unique features, providing you with a comprehensive insight into what makes this smartphone a noteworthy contender in the ever-evolving world of mobile phones.

Designer: Vivo

Aesthetics

A large, circular camera module proudly graces the top of the device and rightly commands attention. Aside from the massive camera module, Vivo does not shy away from splashing X100 Pro’s camera capabilities. At the center of the camera module, the Zeiss logo gleams, accompanied by the red letter T* beneath it to indicate the anti-reflective coating that significantly increases light transmittance and helps accurately reproduce colors, according to Vivo. Made of aerospace-grade stainless steel, the “Sun Halo” or “Moon Halo” Ring surrounds the camera module with lens specs on the ring. Underneath the camera module, you’ll find “Xtreme Imagination” Vivo Zeiss Co-engineering branding. On the bottom, you’ll find big, but subtle Vivo branding. If all these texts on the back of the device are not enough for you, look at the top of the phone, and you’ll find a “Professional photography” sign.

A bit cluttered with texts aside, the X100 Pro is a sleek-looking device. It is available in two color options: Asteroid Black and Startrail Blue. We received the Asteroid Black variant which has a glass back panel with a matte finish, resembling sandblasting. The Startrail Blue variant also boasts a glass back panel but distinguishes itself with patterns that emulate the streaks of light created in the night sky.

Ergonomics

Vivo X100 Pro measures 164.05 x 75.28 x 8.91 mm and weighs 225 g. The display features slightly curved side edges. The side edges of the back panel are also slightly curved. The device fits nicely in the hand and thanks to the curved edges, it does not bite into the palm. In the Asteroid Black variant, the glass back panel offers a velvety touch that is quite pleasing but tends to be a bit slippery. Luckily the textured gray case came with the phone to provide a nice grip, though it tends to show scratches easily.

Like numerous other smartphones with an in-display fingerprint scanner, the positioning of the scanner near the bottom edge of the display can present a challenge for swift unlocking and seamless navigation with one hand. Fortunately, the fingerprint proves to be fast and accurate. The arrangement of the physical buttons and SIM tray is also similar to other phones, with the volume control button situated on the right side, and below it, the power button. At the bottom, you’ll find a SIM tray, primary microphone, USB-C port, and speaker. Meanwhile, on the top, there is a secondary microphone and an IR emitter.

Performance

There is absolutely no doubt that the main attraction of the Vivo X100 Pro is its upgraded ZEISS co-engineered imaging system. Before delving into the details, I’ll spill the beans – it is phenomenal. X100 Pro boasts a triple camera setup. The main 50MP camera uses a Sony 1-inch IMX989 sensor with an aperture of f/1.75. However, the true standout in the triple camera setup is the Zeiss APO floating telephoto camera with an aperture of f/2.5. The telephoto camera features an innovative periscope group structure called the Floating Elements Design, enabling sharp focus both up close and at a distance, by allowing individual lens elements to move freely. Both the main and telephoto cameras support OIS. Rounding up the triple camera setting is a 50MP ultra-wide with an aperture of f/2.0.

The main camera produces excellent images with plenty of details and a wide dynamic range. The photos are sharp and color rendering is realistic. The 2x zoom photos, captured with the main camera, are great as well.

The ultra-wide does its job well, and the photos captured are equally impressive as those taken by the main camera. However, it’s not very wide (119-degree field-of-view) compared to some other phones.

Both the main and ultra-wide cameras are also very capable in low-light conditions, capturing images with the right level of exposure, excellent dynamic range, and substantial details even in dark areas.

However, as stated before, 4.3x Telephoto is hands down the star of the triple camera setup, delivering superb photos in nearly every lighting scenario. Even in low-light settings, the handset takes photos with plenty of details, balanced exposure, and minimal noise. With the 100mm equivalent focal length, you can get close to your subject and snap the photos with a nice bokeh, and if you need to get even closer to the subject, the device is capable of digitally zooming up to 100x.

I took the Vivo X100 Pro to Ed Sheeran’s show in Osaka, Japan, and captured many photos and videos using mainly telephoto throughout the show. My seat was located on the first floor of the baseball stadium, which had been transformed into a concert venue with a capacity of 36,447. I was very impressed with the photos and videos I snapped at the show where lighting was constantly changing and tricky.

Given that this is an imaging-focused mobile handset, the device offers an array of shooting modes and styles to cater to your creative vision. There are Snapshot mode, Night mode, and Portrait to name a few. In Photo mode, the users can select from three distinct color treatments: Vivid, Natural, and Zeiss. The Portrait mode offers various styles to choose from, with my personal favorite being Vintage, delivering a film-like output.

With photos captured in Portrait mode, you have the flexibility to adjust the focus point and aperture after the fact, allowing you to customize the desired focal point and level of bokeh.

I usually don’t find much interest in Macro mode as the photos produced are subpar. However, the X100 Pro proves to be an exception. It produces sharp images with a pleasing bokeh effect, as you can see in the sample photo below.

Vivo X100 Pro’s excellent capability does not stop at taking photos. The device takes great videos as well. The phone is capable of taking up to 8K 30fps video with its main camera. The telephoto and ultra-wide cameras can record videos up to 4K at 60fps. Unfortunately, the front-facing camera is maxed out at 1080p at 30fps. Stabilization works very well in well-lit conditions but struggles a bit under low-light conditions.

There is a 4k Cinematic Portrait mode that offers automatic focus switching, similar to Apple’s Cinematic Mode. While its performance can be inconsistent, it takes artistic videos when it gets right.

Powered by MediaTek’s latest and most powerful Dimensity 9300, the device offers a seamless experience whether you are playing graphically demanding games or multi-tasking with numerous apps opened. Despite the phone’s responsiveness and speed, the battery performance can be somewhat underwhelming depending on what you do on the phone. Equipped with an enhanced 5,400mAh battery, the phone provides ample power for normal daily use. If you take tons of photos and videos(which with the phone this good, you will be inclined to do so), topping up during the day might be required. Fortunately, it supports 100W FlashCharge and 50W wireless FlashCharge.

Vivo X100 Pro sports a 6.78-inch AMOLED screen with 2,800 x 1,260 resolution, a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, and is equipped with LTPO technology for dynamically adjusting the refresh rate while saving the battery. With a local peak brightness of 3,000 nits, the screen is ample bright even under direct sunlight. It delivers smooth images with vibrant colors.

Running on Funtouch OS 14 on Android 14, the photo provides smooth performance. There are many customization options for things like lock screen styles and useful features like split-screen and small windows. Another welcoming change is having less bloatware.

Sustainability/Repairability

With its exceptional ability to capture high-quality photos in diverse situations, the likelihood of reaching for the Vivo X100 Pro to snap moments becomes a natural inclination. Considering the exposure to elements like water and dust, it’s comforting to know that the device has an IP68 rating, meaning it can endure submersion up to a depth of 1.5 meters for a duration of up to 30 minutes.

Vivo does not specify the use of sustainable materials for the phone. However, the material used for the ring around the camera module is crafted from aerospace-grade stainless steel, known for its resistance to wear, high temperature, and corrosion, ensuring durability.

Value

Vivo X100 Pro X was launched in China with a price tag of 5,499 CNY (about 770 USD)for the 16GB RAM/ 512GB storage variant. Since then the company has gradually rolled out the device into other Asian markets including India, Malaysia, and Thailand. It has finally reached some European markets. It’s worth noting that the price is higher than anticipated, at 1,199 Euros (about 1230 USD). However, given the phone’s quality, particularly its exceptional and versatile imaging capabilities, it is not excessively expensive.

Verdict

If mobile photography is your priority when choosing a phone, the Vivo X100 Pro currently stands as one of the best camera phones on the market. Whether capturing moments with friends and family, street scenes, or exploring the intricacies of subjects like flowers and bugs in macro mode, this device has the remarkable ability to transform even the most mundane scene into a form of artistic expression, thanks to its exceptional camera features. The images captured by the telephoto camera are just another level, setting the new standard for mobile photography. Beyond its impressive camera capabilities, the Vivo X100 Pro is a solid device with a vibrant and sharp display, responsive software, great build quality, and fast wired and wireless charge capabilities. The handset also offers a well-rounded and high-performing smartphone experience.

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Foldable Phone Designs are about to get more interesting but also less diverse

The number of foldable phones launching each year is slowly rising, suggesting that these former novelty items are here to stay. To manufacturers’ credit, the phones are getting more reliable and attractive, even if their prices are still prohibitive for most people. With more players in the market, it’s bound to become a somewhat livelier place, with brands putting their own spins or changing designs to match or challenge their rivals. It now seems, however, that the still niche foldable phone category is about to enter another tumultuous phase with new designs that could shake up the market and some companies throwing in the towel, leaving only a few designs to stick and stagnate.

Triple Folding Phones

The biggest and perhaps only reason for a foldable phone would be to provide a device that can be used as a regular phone when wanted but can transform into a tablet when you want more screen real estate. The current crop of foldable phones does meet those requirements, though almost barely. As tablets, they’re painfully tiny even compared to the already small iPad mini and some 7-inch slates. As phones, some designs make them awkward to use because of their narrow and tall external screens.

One possible solution would be to have a large screen that can fold in three parts, turning into a phone-sized slab, albeit probably a bit thicker than even today’s foldable phones. Samsung has, in fact, been working on such a design for years and it finally showed off a prototype two years ago. It turns out that it might even launch its first tri-fold phone slash tablet later this year.

Designer: Samsung

This timeline is reportedly due to one of Samsung’s biggest rivals trying to make a move first. Huawei, who is rebuilding its empire in some markets, is rumored to be launching a foldable phone that transforms into a 10-inch tablet. Just for the title of being the “world’s first,” Samsung could be taking a big risk and making a leap of faith to get that triple foldable phone out the door quickly, even if it means repeating the mistakes of the first Galaxy Fold.

Stylus Support Inside and Out

One of the biggest draws of foldable phones is, of course, their big screens. They’re not just perfect for showing more content, but they’re also great for actually creating content. With tablets now being seen as productivity and creativity tools thanks to the iPad Pro, these foldable phones are truly powerful laptops you can fit in your pocket, at least in theory. Ironically, very few of the brands actually support such a use case with the right accessories. Even Samsung forces you to buy the S Pen Fold Edition if you want to scribble and doodle on your foldable phone like a notebook.

The newly launched mouthful that is the Honor Magic V2 RSR Porsche Design bucks the trend by actually including a stylus inside the box. Granted, the price of this limited edition would make you think it should include such an item, but you’re also paying for other luxuries at the same time. For example, you get two charging bricks instead of one. Some foldable phones other than Samsung don’t even advertise support for a stylus even if they’re capable of supporting one.

Designer: Honor

More interesting, however, is how the Honor Magic V2 RSR Porsche Design actually supports that active stylus not only on the large internal screen but also on the smaller cover screen. That one-ups even Samsung who is famed for its stylus-enabled Galaxy Note phablets, now sold under the Galaxy S Ultra brand. Honor is showing that such a set of features is possible, and it could lead to a long-overdue trend in the foldable smartphone market, presuming there’s still one in the next few years.

Design Monoculture

One of the reasons why the foldable phone market seems to have stabilized a bit is because of the number of players now in the ring. Of course, you have Samsung and Huawei leading the charge, but now you also have Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, Tecno, OnePlus, and Honor in the running. Unfortunately, there are whispers that two of these are bowing out of the race, and their absence could actually have an indirect though significant negative impact on foldable phones as a whole.

Those rumors claim that both OPPO and vivo are calling it quits in the foldable market. The cited reason is not exactly surprising, with both brands suffering significant losses in foldable phone sales last year and they don’t believe they can throw in more resources to recover. It’s unknown at this point whether OnePlus will also be following its cousins, though there’s a real possibility that these manufacturers will pull out sooner rather than later.

Designer: OPPO

While that indeed sounds like a win for Samsung and Huawei (and Honor), it might not actually be good for the entire market in the long run. Competition often breeds innovation, with these brands pushing each other to develop new designs and features at every turn. With only two contenders, each with their own separate kingdoms, there might not be enough incentive to push the boundaries, leading to stagnation and eventual death of the market.

Designer: Vivo

Uncertain Tomorrow

Of course, there’s still no confirmation that OPPO and Vivo are indeed making an exit strategy, but it does paint a picture that isn’t as rosy as these brands try to paint. Even with the popularity of clamshell-style foldables and with new models coming out year after year, actual sales might actually reveal a very different and less encouraging situation. Given the way technology is developing, foldable and rollable displays will eventually be a staple of tomorrow’s devices, but that doesn’t mean the market won’t experience a few flops first along the way.

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Google Pixel Fold prototype shows it could have been a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Although there were plenty of rumors and high expectations, it was still a bit of a miracle that Google came out with a foldable phone. After all, it didn’t exactly hold tablets in high regard, so a phone that transforms into one would have probably been even less within Google’s radars. Of course, that’s now history with the launch of the Pixel Fold, Google’s first and so far only foldable, which turned out to be quite popular, especially with its design. It turns out, there was a slim possibility that the Pixel Fold could have turned out very differently and looked more like Samsung’s design, at least based on a prototype that is now running over the Internet.

Designer: Google (via Mishaal Rahman)

Phone manufacturers go through numerous prototypes before settling on a final design, especially when the device is rather new or unconventional. That’s true for seasoned brands like Samsung, and even truer for the likes of Google, and a device codenamed “jumbojack” was spotted nearly four years ago as Google’s foldable prototype. Now that name has become a real device, at least based on what is allegedly that very same prototype device which happens to be a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

This “jumbojack” foldable doesn’t look like a custom prototype made by Google but an actual Galaxy Z Fold 2 that has been repurposed to run “stock” Android stripped of Samsung’s branding. It’s pretty much a quick and easy way for Google to test its Pixel user experience on a foldable without having to go through the trouble of assembling a prototype. That said, the final flavor of Pixel is quite different since it was designed to work on a foldable with a distinctly different form factor.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The prototype does raise the question of whether Google actually considered following in Samsung’s footsteps to adopt a design that was already in use for a few years by that time. That meant that it would have used a design that resulted in a narrower external display, a squarish unfolded shape, and possibly a gap at the hinge when folded. Perhaps it was for the best that it went the other way and used a design more similar to the OPPO Find N, which was wider, a little smaller, and also a bit more comfortable to hold.

Then again, the “jumbojack” prototype might have simply been used to test the software without committing to the device’s design. Unfortunately, there are now rumors that Google might actually be heading towards Samsung’s direction for the Pixel Fold 2, along with a camera design that’s sure to cause some controversy. If anything, this alleged prototype only proves that there is still plenty of room for improvement in the foldable phone design space, but recent rumors are already painting a rather bleak future in that regard.

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Samsung triple foldable phone rumor hints at a 2024 launch

Foldable smartphones are an attempt at solving an old problem with two diametrically opposed goals. On the one hand, people want large screens that give them enough space for their content, from videos to social media to even work. On the other hand, they still want a device they can conveniently carry around, especially inside their pockets. Today’s generation of foldable phones similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold deliver a phone that does transform into a tablet, but the latter is admittedly still a small piece of screen real estate, even smaller than the iPad mini. Having a regular tablet-sized display requires drastically changing the design and construction of a foldable phone, which isn’t exactly easy to pull off, judging by the current state of foldables. That’s not to say that manufacturers haven’t been working on a feasible solution, and Samsung itself might be ready to unveil its answer this year to beat one of its rivals to the punch.

Designer: Samsung (via @Tech_Reve)

The current design of foldable phones has never been the endgame. If you reference Samsung’s concept video back in 2013, you will realize its ambitions go beyond this simple foldable design. A phone that unfolds into a tablet would definitely need more than just one fold, and the company’s display manufacturing arm has been working on such a screen for years now. In fact, it demonstrated in 2022 how close it was to an actually usable form, suggesting that such a device is not only plausible but might even be just around the corner.

A new rumor adds fuel to speculations that Samsung might, in fact, announce this “Flex S” triple foldable phone this year, maybe even alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Galaxy Z Flip 6. Samsung might be in a rush to push out this revolutionary new device due to rumors that long-time rival Huawei also has a tri-fold phone that it will be launching in the second half of 2024. Unsurprisingly, Samsung wouldn’t want Huawei to claim the title of “first,” even if the Chinese brand has extremely limited market reach these days.

A triple folding phone, under the prototype name of “Flex S,” will drastically change the game when it comes to foldables. Not only will it offer a much larger screen in tablet form, it also allows the collapsed phone form to retain a wider aspect ratio, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold designs so far. At the same time, it also offers new modes of use for the device, from a tent-like stand mode to a unique laptop mode that’s like having a mini dual-screen laptop.

That said, haste always makes waste and Samsung should have already learned its lesson five years ago. Even after years of R&D, the first Samsung Galaxy Fold (no “Z” in the name yet) was plagued with problems, especially when it came to reliability. Given how a new tri-fold design will once again test the durability of flexible screens, there will be even more risks and costs this time around. And with Huawei’s limited presence in global markets, Samsung has no need to be afraid of not being the first, but that has never stopped any company from rushing out a product launch anyway.

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Google Pixel Fold 2 leak hints at worrying changes, questionable design

Just like with the Apple Vision Pro, Google’s entry into the foldable smartphone market has been a long time coming. Given how the Android maker itself has been rather slow on jumping on trends, there might have even been a chance that it would snub the form factor completely. After all, it showed tablets no true love, even if big Android slates have been around for years. For better or worse, Google did decide to join that bandwagon, which isn’t always an assurance that it will work on a second-gen device. Now it seems that a Pixel Fold 2 is indeed in the works, at least based on a blurry leak, but that small glimpse might be dashing some hopes, as word of Google’s big changes also comes with questions about its design goals.

Designer: Google (via Android Authority)

There are two distinctive elements of the Google Pixel Fold’s design. The most prominent is its camera bar, an approximation of the “visor” design that it uses on its Pixel phones. The other is the external or second screen’s wider aspect ratio, which meant that the unfolded device would also be wider and take on a horizontal or landscape form factor. It’s a design that was more conducive for wider content like videos as well as splitting the screen between two panels or two apps. More importantly, however, it meant that the folded phone was more comfortable to use and hold, almost like a regular phone.

A single leaked photo of the Pixel Fold 2 might be leaving some fans scratching their heads. The external display is noted to be narrower, as per the source, which inches it a bit closer to the awkwardness of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, though thankfully not yet on that level. This also means that, when unfolding the phone, you will be greeted with an internal screen that is more square than rectangular.

The biggest change, however, seems to be the camera, which moves away from the bar design to a bump that sits in a corner of the Pixel Fold 2’s back. It’s not the same square design as older Pixel phones, nor is it even similar to rectangular camera islands that run vertically down. Instead, it seems that this box will march across the width of the phone, taking up almost two-thirds of the space.

Granted, the photo is an alleged prototype only, so there is no guarantee that the final Pixel Fold 2 will take this form. If it does, however, Google might be facing a bit of a backlash for changing the design so drastically and in such an unappealing manner. It will be interesting to see how the Pixel Fold 2 will actually look like in the end, and we might not even see a shadow of it until Google I/O 2024, which should happen sometime in May or June.

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World’s smallest smartphone turns into a gaming handheld with this case

Gaming smartphones are quite the novelty in the mobile world, but despite their advertised or actual gaming chops, they often lack the necessary controls that would put them on par with consoles. Conversely, most of these gaming smartphones have designs that make them a little less appropriate for more formal environments with their flashy RGB lighting and distinctive motifs. A middle ground between these two extremes would be to slap on some controllers on “normal” but premium handsets, effective but also a little too mundane these days. This rather unusual phone case, however, tries to add a new flavor to mobile gaming by introducing not only an unusual controller design but also by making it exclusive to one of the weirdest and cutest smartphones in the market.

Designer: Sugar Cubes (via Retro Dodo)

The Unihertz Jelly Star is obviously not your typical smartphone. With a size that’s no larger than a credit card, the tiny device is advertised as the world’s smallest Android 13 smartphone, a title no one will probably try to wrest away from it anyway. With a 3-inch screen, a transparent colored back, and some rather reasonable specs for its size, the Jelly Star is probably also the world’s cutest smartphone.

A Chinese accessory maker by the name of Sugar Cubes is taking that cuteness and turning it into something that even gamers will find alluring. Rather than simply attaching controllers, which would be gigantic compared to the Jelly Star, you will instead insert the tiny phone into a large, boxy case that transforms it into a rather unusual gaming handheld that is more reminiscent of the “Game & Watch” devices of old than any modern handheld console. Even the controls themselves are in non-standard locations, even though they provide most of the standard buttons, including a joystick.

There seem to be two designs for the Sugar Cube Jelly. One has the Unihertz Jelly Star lying horizontally and near the top, giving the device a more Game Boy-like appearance, though short in stature. The other has the phone standing vertically in the middle, flanked by two sets of controls, a design closer to the Nintendo Switch by some stretch of the imagination. Details on how the small phone will be inserted into the case are still slim, though it seems that the vertical design will simply have the Jelly Star slip into the case from the side, with one of the controllers swinging open like a flap.

The unconventional and eye-catching design of the Sugar Cube Jelly makes it perfect for branded merchandise, theming the colors and decals accordingly. That said, there’s still no word on when this product will actually hit the market, or if it will even be made available outside of China. Even then, the Unihertz Jelly Star isn’t exactly oozing with power, so while you might be able to comfortably run some retro games via emulation, forget about boasting your odd contraption while playing Genshin Impact.

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Vivo V30 Review: Slim, Stylish, Simple

PROS:


  • Thin profile and lightweight body

  • Beautiful and subtle water ripple design (Waving Aqua)

  • 50MP wide front camera with autofocus

  • AI-powered Aura Light for studio-quality portrait photos

CONS:


  • No telephoto camera

  • Decent but unimpressive camera output

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

With an incredibly thin profile and a simple yet elegant design, the Vivo V30 is like a breath of fresh air, presenting a familiar face and offering a well-rounded set of features that speak to the hearts of a selfie-loving generation.

Design in the mobile market never sits still, although we are now seeing certain brands leave their design DNA on their phones for longer periods of time. Most of those designs involve cramming everything but the kitchen sink, turning smartphones into a display of technological marvels more than anything else. That’s great for specs and features, but not always for the overall user experience, especially when it comes to aesthetics and usability. Amidst a sea of thick slabs of glass and metal and bulging camera bumps, the Vivo V30 arrives with a more familiar yet still enchanting face. But is it just a pretty face or does it offer something more inside its incredibly slim physique? We take it for a spin to find out.

Designer: Vivo

Aesthetics

The Vivo V30 will immediately strike you as a very different beast from its peers, and that’s even before you pay close attention to the rather graceful patterns on its back, which we’ll get to later. Even before you hold it in your hand, you can already get an impression of how thin it is, a trait that seems to be quickly disappearing even among premium smartphones. Yes, it’s probably because of that curved glass back and “3D curved screen,” a design that some consider to be no longer fashionable these days, but at just the right angles and with the right play of light, it’s hard to deny how sleek and slim it makes the phone look.

The camera bump is similarly distinctive and unique as far as conventional camera designs go. It’s a single raised rectangle with rounded corners that catches your attention not with an obnoxious size but with a pleasant combination of form, color, and finish. The black rounded square of the camera lenses contrasts and complements the similarly shaped Aura Light ring below it. The “2.5D” curved edges of this raised “One-Piece Cloud Step” design are surrounded by a polished metal bezel refined using a diamond cutting technique, providing not just protection for the cameras but also adding a sleek look to anyone looking at those cameras.

The real design highlight, however, is the subtle patterns that give each Vivo V30 model a unique personality. The greenish-blue Waving Aqua review unit we received employs tens of thousands of tiny magnetic particles integrated into a flowing resin material, creating the illusion of ripples that may conjure up images of beaches, lakes, or rivers, all giving a serene and peaceful vibe. The other designs are no less stunning, with Bloom White’s 3D Petal Pattern, created by engraving 13 million tangent lines into the surface using photolithography, or the color-changing Lush Green that turns into tranquil Blue when exposed to UV light. Even Noble Black, with a typical Fluorite AG Glass back, sparkles like a starry night sky thanks to an etching liquid process that transforms the microscopic crystals on the glass surface into prism-like structures.

All in all, the Vivo V30’s slim profile, minimalist aesthetic, and subtle yet elegant design make it easily stand out from the rest of the crowd, especially at its price point. Yes, some might say that its curves make it a bit dated, but that’s exactly why it also feels rather refreshing to take a break from that current trend, especially when the end result is definitely just as beautiful, if not more so.

Ergonomics

There is still some debate on which predominant smartphone design is actually more ergonomic. Fans of curves claim that their preferred design is more comfortable and gentler on the hand, while advocates of flat edges criticize how it doesn’t provide a confident and solid grip. The Vivo V30 is obviously on the former camp so your mileage may vary, but there’s one aspect that puts all those debates to rest: its weight.

At only 186g, the Vivo V30 is easily one of the lightest smartphones on the market, making it comfortable to hold for long periods of time. That’s even more impressive when you find out that it hides a 5,000mAh battery, also one of the largest among smartphones, which should have weighed the phone down significantly, not to mention adding to its bulk. Thanks to a new “One-Piece Encapsulation Technique,” that large battery can become unbelievably thin, and a “Comprehensive Cushioning Structure” is credited for not just the phone’s aesthetics but also its durability.

Performance

The lines between traditional smartphone market tiers are continually blurring as hardware becomes more diversified yet also more powerful. In the old days, a phone like the Vivo V30 would be classified as a mid-range device because of its Snapdragon 7 Gen 3, but that distinction barely holds today. With 12GB of RAM (plus 12GB Extended memory), the Vivo V30 can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, with moderation, of course. Mobile gaming is no sweat, especially if you turn down the settings a bit, and the large vapor cooling chamber inside ensures your hands won’t burn when you do so.

The large 6.78-inch AMOLED screen boasts 2800 nits of brightness and a fast 120Hz refresh right. The display is definitely bright and vibrant enough to make your content pop, though it’s not exactly something that will blow your mind either. Audio is a bit so-so, decent enough to let you enjoy music, videos, and games without having to reach for wireless earphones, but more discerning users will prefer higher-quality sound anyway. As mentioned, the 5,000 mAh battery is a major highlight for this unbelievably thin phone, and the 80W charger makes sure you can fully top off in a little just 50 minutes or so.

Like any smartphone these days, a lot of focus is placed on the Vivo V30’s cameras, no pun intended. Truth be told, it’s a rather mixed bag for Vivo’s 2024 V-Series frontrunner, checking a few boxes in some areas while missing out on others. For example, there is no dedicated telephoto camera, which means you’ll have to rely on digital zoom and in-sensor cropping for those closeups. Instead, Vivo puts two co-equal 50MP cameras on the V30’s back, one for the main shooter and the other for ultra-wide panoramic or group shots. In fact, group shots are a big thing for the Vivo V30, but we’ll get to that later.

The main 50MP camera advertises a “True Color” Camera-Bionic-Spectrum VCS technology that is supposed to produce color-accurate images that are close to how our eyes see. While the resulting photos do look vibrant and colorful, they still tend to lean more towards oversaturation rather than the more natural and realistic tones. A highlight of the Vivo V30’s camera system is the latest iteration of its Aura Light, basically a mini Ring Light that’s popular among live streamers and influencers. Used for portrait shots, it offers a softer and more distributed light than what a single LED flash can give. It’s even guided by AI so it can automatically adjust its intensity and temperature depending on the distance from the subject and ambient light.

Vivo positions the V series as a line that targets a more youthful crowd, and nowhere is that more evident than with the selfie camera and its whopping 50MP sensor, complete with autofocus and a 92-degree field of view. Just like the 50MP ultra-wide on its back, this camera was made for taking Group Selfies, ensuring that your friends won’t be left out of those Insta-worthy shots. That said, you don’t have the advantage of the Aura Light with this selfie camera, something Vivo might want to look into for future iterations.

Sustainability

It’s going to be hard to deny that the Vivo V30 isn’t exactly a premium device, at least not with the specs above. Most of the phones on this tier skimp on a few features to meet a certain low price point. In most cases, some corners are cut when it comes to durability, but not this beautiful phone. The V30 boasts an IP54 rating, which is modest but sufficient to protect the phone from dust and water accidents. Given who the phone was made for, those accidents are often the norm rather than the exception.

When it comes to materials, however, the phone doesn’t exactly have anything to boast. It uses quite a variety of special materials and processes to make those intricate patterns on its back, none of which can be said to be sustainable or environment-friendly. The V30 doesn’t stray from the beaten path in this aspect, but hopefully, trends will change and even the young will start demanding for more responsibly made smartphones to put inside their pockets.

Value

Given its target audience, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Vivo prices the V30 very competitively. It’s still playing coy about exact figures, but it should start somewhere around $300 upward, depending on the configuration. It’s something that those with very tight budgets would be able to afford, but it’s almost too easy to say you will also get what you pay for. In reality, however, you’re actually getting a solid deal.

Vivo chose its battles wisely and focused on the things that matter most to its core customer base. The phone is light, easy to hold, and easy to take out of or slip into your pocket. Its design adds a bit of glam to the device, and its cameras, though lacking one member, are made for a generation that loves to take selfies, either alone or with others. With gaming performance the only consideration, the Vivo V30 actually offers a well-rounded set of features wrapped in an elegant aesthetic and matched with an accessible price tag.

Verdict

The market is overflowing with smartphones and, despite all the analysts’ warnings, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of slowing down. Designs are also ever-changing, though the trend seems to be moving towards bigger, thicker, and flatter smartphones. Against this backdrop, the Vivo V30 arrives like a breath of fresh air, offering a face that is both familiar and striking. It’s not going to win benchmarks or photo contests, but its features have been carefully selected to really address the needs and desires of its target market: people who just love taking selfies and holding their phones almost all day.

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Wider, more ergonomic Samsung foldable phone might be in the works

Samsung might be one of the pioneers of the whole foldable phone craze, but the disadvantage of being the first is that you risk getting things wrong the first time around. In contrast, hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and many of its competitors have used that advantage to catch up and even overtake Samsung at its own game. Of course, the tech giant isn’t content to just sit around while others outrun it, and it has been catching up with “innovations” like a hinge that lets the phone fold flat. Now it seems that Samsung will be catching up in another aspect, with a Galaxy Z Fold that’s a little bit wider when folded and, therefore, easier to use as a regular phone.

Designer: Samsung (via Pigtou and David Kowalski/xleaks7)

To be fair, Samsung was sailing on uncharted waters, so it was bound to miss a few marks. For its inaugural foldable phone, Samsung aimed for a tablet that was like a mini iPad mini or, closer to home, a smaller Galaxy Tab A, which meant it adopted a vertical or portrait format when unfolded. That meant it would have an extremely narrow phone when folded, which was heavily criticized for being awkward to hold and nearly unusable as a regular “candy bar” smartphone.

In contrast, foldable phones like the OPPO Find N and the Google Pixel Fold aimed for a more “traditional” horizontal or landscape tablet design, which had a few direct benefits in terms of consuming content like videos or even books. More importantly, however, it also meant that the folded form of the phone more closely resembles regular smartphones with a wider and sometimes shorter design. In over five generations, Samsung has never changed its design on that front, but that might not be the case with the Galaxy Z Fold 6 or later models.

OPPO Find N3

OPPO Find N2

Vivo X Fold 2

Google Pixel Fold

A recent patent filed by Samsung reveals a foldable design that is significantly different from its status quo in more ways than one. First, it is noticeably wider when folded, giving it a shape that will feel more natural to use compared to the recent crop of Galaxy Z Fold models. Additionally, it’s also significantly thinner, both folded and opened, which would go a long way in increasing the usability of an otherwise heavy and bulky device. In other words, it would be the foldable that Samsung should have launched in the first place if it had the benefit of hindsight five years ago.

Of course, a patent doesn’t immediately mean it will be implemented, whether in the Galaxy Z Fold 6 or future incarnations. It is at least proof that Samsung is aware of the shortcomings of its current design and is taking steps to correct its course. It would definitely be grand if it could launch such a sleek foldable this year, but such a thin design would also go against calls for bigger batteries or a built-in S Pen. For now, other brands still have an advantage over Samsung in some aspects, including and especially the price of such a premium piece of technology.

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