Games controllers have a long history of being mostly awkward. Ignoring truly horrendous efforts like the Phantasy Star Online gamepad, which had a full-size keyboard between the analogue sticks, this fact is typified by the original Xbox and Dreamcast controllers. These two devices looked like they were liberated from a crashed alien spacecraft in the 1990s. The former’s girth helped it acquire the moniker “The Duke” in Xbox circles.
It’s only since the PlayStation controller arrived in 1994, itself a more comfortable riff on the rectangle NES gamepad, that the experimentation ceased, and hand-friendly designs started to become the norm. However, mobile devices continue to struggle to provide comfort and usability when playing games, and Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Fold 3 provides the latest footnote in this unfortunate trend, albeit with some caveats.
Screen Real Estate
While it might surprise some observers that Samsung is already on its third iteration of a foldable smartphone, the first few years in the lifetime of any piece of technology are often filled with frantic development (and re-development). Apple filed a patent for a similar concept in 2016 but its horizontal-folding iPhone Flip could still be several years away, according to tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Despite wielding an obvious gimmick, the Fold 3 hasn’t done all that badly in terms of professional reviews. Its pair of QHD+ (120HZ) are the inevitable highlight of the system but the camera, battery life, and overall price, at £1,599, do take a hit as a consequence of its unusual design. This is a phone for people who want a tablet or ‘phablet’ that fits in their pocket, though.
The additional screen real estate will be a benefit to plenty of activities. Small-screen movie-watching is an obvious example and support for the S-Pen means that it has instant appeal to graphic designers. As far as apps are concerned, though, their usability may depend on how responsive the software is in the first place, as the app will inevitably have to shift between narrow and square aspect ratios.
For such a powerful device, the Fold 3 does fall down a little in gaming. As mentioned, it’s an unpleasant controller because it’s either square when folded out or too thick when folded in. There can also be quite an obvious line running down the join in the pair of screens. The 3g website notes that playing CoD Mobile on the device doesn’t feel natural, partly due to the fact it’s presented in a square.
The phone also struggles in two key areas relevant to gaming – battery life and heat generation. However, IGN claims that the Fold 3 can run Asphalt 9, a high-spec racing game, at maximum settings, which is a vote of confidence in the device as a gaming tool. Of course, many mobile gamers will never need that kind of performance, though the high heat generation common to apps like Pokémon Go may prove to be a concern.
The Fold 3’s impressive power may also be a boon to sports betting fans, as interactive content like in-play wagering and HD streaming inevitably require more resources than most other apps. The Unibet app, for instance, considered one of the best betting apps in Australia by AussieBet, offers both live betting and live streaming. The Fold, with its generously sized screen, could work quite well for those wanting to live stream matches – as long as you don’t mind the big line down the middle!
Any game that requires a hands-off approach, such as strategy or ‘idle’ games may benefit from the Fold 3’s unique design, too. It’s easy to see how playing chess would be a delight on a virtual gameboard that’s the same shape as the real one, for instance. Its suitability for games ultimately comes down to how the player is expected to respond. Games that suit the S-Pen are an ideal companion for the Fold 3 but frantic battle-royale experiences are definitely not the phablet’s intended use.
Overall, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 still feels like an experiment in design but one that may serve professionals well in the absence of a laptop.