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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 Hands-On: A Step Towards Making Foldables Feel Normal

The best thing about Samsung's new Galaxy Z Fold 6? It's actually starting to feel more like a normal, bar-shaped smartphone. The company's new book-shaped foldable, announced at its July 10 Unpacked event, has a larger front screen and a lighter build -- two seemingly small changes that could go a long way in making the Z Fold feel less cumbersome and more natural. 

But these alterations, along with an upgraded processor, some new software tricks and a better ultrawide camera, are going to cost you. The Galaxy Z Fold 6 starts at $1,900, making it $100 more expensive than last year's Galaxy Z Fold 5. Both the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 are available for preorder starting July 10 and will be generally available beginning July 24.

With the Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6, Samsung is trying to accomplish two specific goals: Prove that there are fewer compromises between phones that bend in half and those that don't, and demonstrate how generative AI can make our phones more intuitive. Both ambitions are important because foldable phones account for just a fraction of overall phone shipments, and rival Huawei recently surpassed Samsung to be the largest foldable phone-maker. The tech world has been fixated on generative AI since ChatGPT captured the public's imagination in late 2022, prompting Samsung and other tech giants to orient their products around the technology.

It's impossible to say whether Samsung is succeeding on either front without spending significant time with the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6. Still, based on what I've seen so far, Samsung's design changes indicate the Z Fold line is moving in a promising direction. At the same time, I'm still hoping to see more dramatic software changes that truly make foldables stand out from traditional bar-type phones.

Read more: Apple and Samsung Have Different Visions of AI For Our Phones

Watch this: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6: My First Impressions

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 gets a design upgrade

The Galaxy Z Fold 6 closed

The Galaxy Z Fold 6 has a bigger cover screen.

Jide Akinrinade/CNET

The first thing I noticed about the Galaxy Z Fold 6 is how light it is. It weighs 239 grams compared to the 253-gram Galaxy Z Fold 5, making Samsung's new foldable only slightly heavier than the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Samsung also gave the Galaxy Z Fold 6 sharper, boxier edges that resemble those found on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, a fitting similarity for Samsung's two most expensive phones.

More importantly, Samsung also extended the size of the Galaxy Z Fold's cover screen from 6.2 inches on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 to 6.3 inches on the Z Fold 6. That may sound like a minor difference, but it goes a long way on a display that small.  

Other physical changes include a stronger hinge and improved layers on the inner screen to reduce the crease, although unfortunately that horizontal line is still noticeable. But the lighter build, more angular design and slightly bigger cover screen make this feel like the sleekest Z Fold yet. Those updates might seem superficial, but they're a big deal for a phone like the Z Fold, which in its early generations felt more like two phones sandwiched together. The new more compact feel could have a big impact on the Z Fold's ease of use, potentially making it more appealing to those who've dismissed foldables in the past.

The Galaxy Z Fold 6's language translation feature

The Galaxy Z Fold 6 has Galaxy AI, which includes some language translation features.

Jide Akinrinade/CNET

Samsung has been vocal about its AI ambitions since earlier this year, when it debuted Galaxy AI alongside the Galaxy S24 series. That's carrying over to its new foldables, too.

Photo editing, productivity and language translation continue to be three of the biggest areas of focus for Samsung when it comes to AI features. Among the standout new features is Portrait Studio, which creates versions of photos in different styles such as watercolor, cartoon or comic book. Samsung's creations didn't do a great job of creating stylized portraits that resembled me when I tried it with a quick selfie, but I only had a few minutes to play with it.

You'll also be able to sketch on an image and have Samsung's AI incorporate it naturally into the photo. When I scribbled a balloon in the background of a photo taken outdoors on one of Samsung's demo units, it added a white balloon to the image. The announcement comes after Apple announced some new image generation tools as part of its Apple Intelligencefeatures last month.

Samsung also wants to put the Galaxy Z Fold's dual screens to better use when it comes to language translation. A new Conversation mode in the Interpreter app will make it possible to use the front screen and inner screen simultaneously, that way the person you're speaking with can see what you're saying in their native language and vice versa. If that sounds familiar, it's because Google previously launched a very similar feature for the Pixel Fold. This seemed to work well in a demo between two Samsung employees, although I'm curious as to whether there will be any awkwardness when putting this into practice in the real world.

Since Samsung has been positioning the Z Fold as a productivity device thanks to its large 7.6-inch inner screen, there are a handful of new features aimed at reading and writing, too. When it translates a PDF file, Samsung says the translation should perfectly line up with the original text. Samsung's keyboard will also suggest words when writing emails, texts and social media posts, building on the AI writing tools it introduced earlier this year.

In the future, I'm hoping to see more AI features that feel unique to the Galaxy Z Fold. As I've written in the past, the most exciting aspect of a foldable phone isn't the fact that it folds in half, but that you have two screens that can serve different purposes. That opens up possibilities for Samsung to do some really interesting things with Galaxy AI, and so far it feels like that isn't being deeply explored beyond language translation. Instead, there's a bigger focus on using the internal screen as a larger canvas for tasks like transcribing recordings, editing photos and using Google's Gemini assistant in multiwindow mode.

Other general hardware changes

The Galaxy Z Fold 6's cameras

The Galaxy Z Fold 6's cameras.

Jide Akinrinade/CNET

The Galaxy Z Fold 6 also includes a handful of routine upgrades that you'd expect from a new phone, especially when it comes to the processor and camera. The Z Fold 6 has:

  • Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor for Galaxy, just like the Galaxy S24 series 
  • A larger vapor chamber for keeping the phone cool while playing games
  • A brighter 2,600-nit screen
  • A new 12-megapixel ultrawide camera sensor with better low light photography
  • Seven years of software upgrades for both the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6

With the Galaxy Z Fold 6, it feels like Samsung is getting closer to achieving that balance of offering a phone that doubles as a tablet without sacrificing what makes a great phone. The downside is that you must pay an even prettier penny to get that experience. Regardless, now that the hardware has evolved, I'm hoping to see even more of a focus on the software in the future. 

Source: cnet.com

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