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HomeTechSamsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 hands-on: These key upgrades put it above...

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 hands-on: These key upgrades put it above the OnePlus Open for me

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

It’s hard to believe the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series is now six years old, but an afternoon spent with the shape-shifting smartphone made clear to me just how far the South Korean giant has come — and how much more work is needed to reach the promised land of mainstream acceptance.

Also: Everything announced at Samsung Unpacked July 2024: Galaxy Z Fold 6, Watch Ultra, Buds 3 Pro, Ring, more

I won’t bury the lede: This year’s Galaxy Z Fold 6 costs $100 more than last year’s model — meaning it goes from very expensive to very, very expensive. It’s made with more durable materials, from the hinge to the outer shell, and is thinner and lighter than ever. A “phone” that feels more like a phone in the hand is always welcome.

Is the camera system finally Ultra tier? Only if you think an improved AI processing algorithm is enough of an upgrade. Also, because it’s 2024, Samsung is introducing several new Galaxy AI features to give the foldable form factor a little more purpose. I don’t mind that; at a starting price of $1,899, give me anything and everything.

In the hand, the new Galaxy Z Fold 6 feels like the most polished version yet. I’ve daily driven — or at least attempted to use often — every Galaxy Z Fold model since the very first, and the sixth generation is easily Samsung’s crème de la crème. (I’m in Paris for Unpacked, so please forgive the French.)

Also: Save up to $1,500 on new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 phones – here’s how

The edges are more flattened and treated with metallic aluminum, which feels like, and reminds me of, the Galaxy S24 Ultra‘s natural titanium. Samsung also tweaked the foldable’s aspect ratio, widening the internal display by 2.7mm (from 129.9mm to 132.6mm) and dropping the overall weight down to a more bearable 239g (from 253g on the Z Fold 5). As a result, the Z Fold 6 finally feels as burdenless to use as the OnePlus Open.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 Online Colors

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Samsung is selling the Z Fold 6 in three general colors: Pink, Navy, and Silver Shadow (which is a lighter, whiter hue compared to Natural Titanium), and two online exclusive colors: White and Crafted Black. Based on my two-hour-long demo with the phones, you really can’t go wrong with any of the options. If you want the most unique colorway, go for the Crafted Black, which has a carbon-fiber-like back cover that’s full of grip.

Also: Buying a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6? This model looks and feels the best in hand

Samsung calls the Z Fold 6 its most durable Z series device yet, and I believe it. There’s a new Dual Rail Hinge design with improved shock distribution, a folding edge for enhanced resistance to pressure and sharp objects, the outer materials include enhanced armor aluminum for scratch resistance, and the Fold finally has an IP rating for dust resistance, scoring at IP48.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6

The outer display feels more like a standard smartphone and less like a remote control.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

The biggest upgrade with the Z Fold 6, depending on who you ask, is across Galaxy AI. You’ll find some familiar tools like Circle to Search and Note Assist, but such features are greatly enhanced by the larger screen real estate of the foldable. By finger or the optional S Pen, it’s much easier to circle over text and images to run a Google Search, see note summaries and transcriptions while playing audio on the side, and more.

Also: How to use Microsoft Edge’s integrated AI image generator

Add to that list the below AI features, which Samsung says will improve the productivity and communication capabilities of its Z Fold users:

  • PDF overlay: You can now translate/transcribe a PDF and overlay the result exactly where the previous text was, such as on graphics and off-center locations.
  • Sketch to Image: You can apply generative AI art on top of images by sketching over them and having Galaxy AI use the drawing as a reference point.
  • Photo Assist: You can select a person or animal in a photo and generate a themed version of the subject — including Comic, 3D cartoon, Watercolor, and Sketch.
  • Interpreter: With the phone folded 90 degrees, you can see live translations/transcriptions on both the outer and inner screens as you converse with the person in front of you.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 Interpreter Mode

Interpreter Mode supports Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and other languages.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

These hybrid AI tools — meaning they run on-device and on the cloud — are powered by a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip and 12GB of RAM. From my initial testing, all the features worked as intended and much better than I expected. While I don’t see myself doodling over family photos and generating hats and glasses, features like Sketch to Image can be fun and tasteful for social events. 

Also: Everything unveiled at Samsung Unpacked: Galaxy Z Fold 6, Watch Ultra, Buds 3 Pro, Ring, more

While I’m in Paris for the week, something like Interpreter mode would go a long way when I’d rather not butcher my pronunciations. 

Unfortunately, the camera setup continues to feel like a non-priority for the Z Fold, with Samsung sticking to last year’s 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 12MP telephoto setup. Instead, the company has added what it calls ProVisual Engine, an AI algorithm responsible for photo features like object awareness, zooming, nightography, generative editing, and more. The Z Fold can also modify the camera’s auto-mode settings based on the subjects and context in the frame, which feels like a helpful way to make photos and videos look better without you having to fiddle with filters or retouches.

There’s plenty more to dig into with the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 — at a starting price of $1,899, you can bet that I’ll dive deeper into all its features and capabilities — but for now, it’s shaping up to be one of the best foldable phones on the market. 

While enthusiasts and the Foldable Faithful will be most drawn to a device of this caliber, new consumers should be just as keen on trade-in deals and other promotions both from Samsung and their mobile carriers.

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