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Hey Google and Samsung, why can't I rent a Fold to test it out?

Undecided but interested buyers should be able to test the Folds before committing.

Published onAugust 26, 2023

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold closed
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority
Left: Galaxy Z Fold 5, Right: Pixel Fold

Foldables are fascinating to me. Having a small tablet-sized display that I can run two full apps on simultaneously then bend and stash in my pocket sounds like the productivity future I want to live in. But foldables are very expensive too, prohibitively so. No matter how I spin it, I can’t justify dipping into my piggy bank for $1,800 (even a bit worse in Europe as they cost €1,900 to buy a Google Pixel Fold or Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 just for the luxury of finding out if they fulfill their promise for me.

Better yet, as a Pixel user for six years who’s aware of Google’s first-gen product troubles, I’m not sure which foldable to go for. I’ve read our Pixel Fold vs Galaxy Z Fold 5 comparison and I still don’t know. Should I privilege the camera performance as I do on my regular phone or will I find that moot once I focus on the productivity-driven aspect? And does Samsung offer enough foldable features to convince me to dump the Pixel experience I love?

To answer those questions and figure out how good of a fit either of these phones is for me, I’d love to be able to test them out. No, not at a store where I can barely swipe through a few menus for two minutes and get a basic feel for them. But actually rent the Folds out and use them as my own phone for a week or a couple of weeks. Discover their strengths and shortcomings first-hand before committing to a purchase — or before making a wrong investment. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love that.

Would you pay to test drive a Pixel Fold or Galaxy Z Fold 5?

612 votes

I can test-drive a car, so why not an expensive foldable?

Google Pixel Fold vs Galaxy Z Fold 5
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

Despite being pretty familiar, foldables are a brand new category of phones. I can almost imagine what using one would be like: It’s like my regular phone, but when I open it, it’s like having two phones stuck together, and the experience is akin to an Android tablet, but at a smaller scale. I’ve used Android phones and tablets before, so it’s easy to draw these parallels.

But I have no idea how the extra heft will affect my usage or wrist pain (hello, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!) or what role the added thickness will play when I just want to use the outer display. I can’t even tell how useful the large internal display would be in my day-to-day life or if the productivity benefits will justify the exorbitant price. And I can’t decide between Samsung’s thin and tall form factor and Google’s chubby and short approach.

Foldables are a new expensive product category. No amount of YouTube videos or written reviews will tell me if they work for my own use.

I trust my Android Authority colleagues’ assessment, and I’ve read both our Pixel Fold review and Galaxy Z Fold 5 review, yet I still can’t make up my mind. No amount of YouTube videos will answer those questions either because this is a paradigm shift in how we use smartphones and whether or not it fits me — or you — is very personal.

I’m undecided, and because my money doesn’t grow on trees, I have erred on the side of caution. So, five years in, I still haven’t bought a foldable. And I’m sure I’m not the only one: Undecided people don’t make a purchase.

Google Pixel Fold and other foldable phones on table 2
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

Other industries have figured out an answer to this already. Renting, trials, or test drives — whatever you want to call them. You pay a small sum and get to test the product for a short period of time on your own terms. Outside of a showroom and in your everyday life. You get to see how it actually works for you and make an informed decision.

Undecided people don't make a purchase. Samsung and Google are leaving money on the table by not allowing interested buyers to rent a Fold.

I wish Samsung, Google, and other foldable makers would adopt this policy. Let me rent or test drive an open-box Pixel Fold or Z Fold 5 for a week or two for ~$50-100 and, if I’m convinced, I’d be ready to put my money down on a new unit. If I’m not, I give it back and the company gets to avoid processing a sale and return. It can then rent the unit to someone else.

Yes, I know in some countries or with some retailers, you can buy a product and return it in less than 30 days. That’s a huge upfront commitment, though, and it feels disingenuous to do that if I’m not sure about my purchase, so I’d love a sanctioned way to try the product without the capitalist guilt. I’m also aware that some third-party services around the world offer renting plans, but most of them are actually leasing and not affordable short-term tests. One pure tech-renting service I’ve come across is Grover, but it’s limited to a few countries. An official rent program for foldables would be better than any of these solutions.

Opening up folds for rent or test drives makes more sense than Samsung spending money on a marketing ploy to pretend that two iPhones work like a Z Fold 5. It’s a way to lower the barrier of entry for undecided but interested potential buyers. And I think Samsung and Google are leaving money on the table by not actively trying to sway these undecided users like me.

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