The Galaxy Fold has a much bigger screen than its 7.3-inch diagonal suggests

The Galaxy Fold has a much bigger screen than its 7.3-inch diagonal suggests
Despite the turbulent arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, it looks like foldable smartphones are here to stay, bound only to become more prevalent in the future, as prices drop and more brands enter the market. But as is usually the case when a new technology is introduced, its pros and cons may not be immediately obvious, obfuscated by new terms and misleading figures.

That’s why we decided to take a closer look at the main advantage of foldable smartphones: the unexpectedly large folding display. On paper, the 7.3-inch display on the Galaxy Fold might not seem like a huge bump over something like the iPhone XS Max and its 6.5-inch screen. In reality, however, the gains in screen area are quite significant.

Display diagonal is just half the story


We're used to screen size being expressed by the length of its diagonal in inches. It's a practice dating back to the era of old-school tube TVs – a simpler time when all screens were more or less of the same rectangular shape. And because they had the same shape, a screen's diagonal length was enough for one to get a clear idea of how big that screen was and how it compared to other screens.

Old-school TVs came in different sizes, but they all had the same roughly rectangular shape

Old-school TVs came in different sizes, but they all had the same roughly rectangular shape


The shape of a rectangular display is usually expressed by its aspect ratio. For example, a screen whose long side is twice as long as its short side has an aspect ratio of 2:1 (pronounced "2 to 1" or "2 by 1"). The same aspect ratio may be stated as 18:9 and it would basically mean the same thing. Following the same principle, if a screen's long side is 1.5 times longer than the short one, its aspect ratio would be 1.5:1 or 3:2. A square display would have an aspect ratio of 1:1 because its sides are all of the same length. Here are some aspect ratios common among smartphone displays:

  • 16:9 - on older phones like the iPhone 8 and the Galaxy S7
  • 19:9 - like on the Galaxy S10, for example
  • 19.5:9 - seen on the iPhone XS and XS Max

Because display aspect ratios vary from one phone to another, the size of a display's diagonal is not an ideal representation of its overall size. Two screens with the same diagonal length but different aspect ratios – or vice versa –will have different areas. 

Now let's go back to the above example. The Samsung Galaxy Fold has a 7.3-inch foldable display, a diagonal length only 12.3% greater than that of the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max. However, the Galaxy Fold provides over 55% more screen area than the iPhone XS Max – and it's hard to realize this looking at diagonals alone. 

Diagonals, aspect ratios and screen size


The Galaxy Fold has a much bigger screen than its 7.3-inch diagonal suggests
Even if square inches and percentages don't mean much to you, from the picture above it's obvious how big the difference is. True, the iPhone has a small handicap, but even if we bump its diagonal to 7.3-inches, the display area will reach 19.8 sq inches, still 20% less than that of the Galaxy Fold. The reason for that is the much "taller" aspect ratio of the iPhone. To match the area of the Galaxy Fold, the iPhone would need to have an 8.12-inch display.
 

Are foldable phones optimal for video watching?


But how good are those larger foldable displays when it comes to videos? Unfortunately, watching a typical 16:9 video on a phone like the Galaxy Fold will result in significant black bars. This is where regular smartphones gain back some of the lost ground. How much, exactly? Let’s see!

The Galaxy Fold has a much bigger screen than its 7.3-inch diagonal suggests

As expected, the bigger Galaxy Fold still holds a significant lead, displaying video across a 50% greater area. That’s without “stretching” the video to fill the display of the iPhone. If you opt to do that, you'll gain a few square inches but sacrifice parts of the video in the process, so we won't examine that scenario. 

Since neither display's aspect ratio is exactly 16:9, both lose part of their areas to black bars. For the Galaxy Fold, this means black bars on the top and bottom, while for the iPhone, the bars show up on the sides. It should be noted that on the Galaxy Fold, the notch bites away part of the video (not shown in our graphic), while the iPhone's notch remains hidden in the black bars unless you choose to stretch the video. The Galaxy Fold has the option to shrink videos so that they don't extend beyond the edge of the notch, but this will cost you a few precious square inches of area.

Here’s what percentage of each display is lost to black bars and what the diagonal is of the 16:9 video you’re watching:

  • Galaxy Fold: 21.4% black bars, 6.81 inches video diagonal
  • iPhone XS Max: 17.8% black bars, 5.56 inches video diagonal

Both devices lose about a fifth of their displays to darkness, with the Galaxy Fold being slightly ahead in that category as well. In terms of video size, the fold only lost half an inch of the total 7.3 inches, while the iPhone lost a whole inch.

Overall, the advantages of the Galaxy Fold's bigger display are unquestionable. You do get significantly more screen real estate for your browsing, gaming, and productivity needs. That's the case for video watching as well, although the gains aren’t as drastic. If YouTube is your main portal for entertainment, then a traditional plus-sized smartphone is more than enough to have a good experience. That is unless you want to be able to scroll through the comments while watching the video. In that case, the Galaxy Fold has no competition.

Related phones

Galaxy Fold
  • Display 7.3" 1536 x 2152 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 10 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB
  • Battery 4380 mAh
iPhone XS Max
  • Display 6.5" 1242 x 2688 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A12 Bionic, Hexa-core, 2490 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB
  • Battery 3179 mAh

FEATURED VIDEO

13 Comments

1. d1g1te

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

Huawei Mate X - Whole screen 31.77 SQ in (20% bigger display area than Galaxy Fold),16:9 video 22.47 sq in (10% bigger display area than Galaxy Fold). Surprised that Mate X is missing in this comparison. Dimensions are already available. :)

7. eausa

Posts: 69; Member since: Feb 28, 2019

Because the thing is ugly and beats the purpose of being portable.

9. kiko007

Posts: 7466; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

The Fold is much uglier than the Mate X lol. Look at that notch...

12. d1g1te

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

Looks are more matter of personal taste rather than fact comparison. For me personally Galaxy Fold looks too much like Nokia 9100 communicator from age 10-15 ears ago. But it doesn't mean it can look attractive for some people. For me Mate X looks more like 2019 phone especially when folded with no notch, no bezzel. That huge Galaxy Fold notch while unfolded and gigantic top and bottom bezzel while folded to me personally feels ancient. But again, it's personal thing and it may have its perks. But maybe not as great as we initially thought as that hinge with large spacing on Fold seems to be sucking in dirt and breaking display. Only time will tell if Mate X design will be better or worse. 2019/2020 is also year of 5G and if I am buying 2000+ USD phone I would expect it to have 5G onboard. But Galaxy Fold does not have 5G right?

2. d1g1te

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

Mate X folded thickness 11mm, Galaxy Fold 15mm. So Mate X is 30-40% slimmer than Galaxy Fold while folded. Not even taking about usable screen area when both phones are folded. That would be too shamefull for Galaxy fold with it's 4.6 inch cover display that have problems to fit even keyboard comfortably.

3. d1g1te

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

My only concern would be durability of "outie" folding display on Mate X and fact that one half of screen will be used/weared more than other, which can potentially result in brightness difference between halves as they wear off with the different speed. But only time will tell right now if Mate X case can protect it's screen and how display will wear off.

4. BL4NKF4CE

Posts: 116; Member since: Aug 06, 2017

You should do a comparison between the 7.3" screen of the fold and the 7.2" screen of the Huawei Mate 20 X. It would easier to show exactly how much more screen real estate we get with the 2:1 aspect ratio because the diagonals are so much closer.

5. shm224

Posts: 232; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

I'd love to see a foldable phone which unfolds to at least 9." And a laptop display which unfolds to 21" display (3 way folding?).

6. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2249; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

First of all, your measure of the unfolded Galaxy Fold screen didn’t take into account the notch. In fact, it’s entirely missing from the picture you posted even though you show the notch for the iPhone. Secondly, why not compare the Fold against other phones that do indeed offer more real estate when viewing videos? Just because you have an iPhone that has a notch issue doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other phones that wouldn’t allow full screen viewing. And I do question how you even know all of this considering PA wasn’t given access to a review unit.

8. eausa

Posts: 69; Member since: Feb 28, 2019

Ah, so that's where the $1980 came from, the 19.80 Sq In

10. Plutonium239

Posts: 1144; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

Thank you for writing this article. Some commenters didn't get this concept in many articles about the fold when they were attacking the fold by comparing the iPhones screen diagonal to it.

11. odachek

Posts: 113; Member since: Sep 01, 2012

I'll stick to my 17.7 square inch Mi Max

13. LiveFaith

Posts: 347; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

It's high time that the concept of diagonal be used to identify a devices display size. With all the aspect ratios out there, it's very inaccurate. We need to be using AREA and aspect ratio to describe / compare displays.

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