While you could argue that Samsung’s foldable devices are now somewhat mainstream, since the company has commercials for them and you can technically buy them online rather easily (even though the Z Flip is backordered for the next month), we aren’t quite sure doing our typical review is necessary for these devices just yet. Keeping it real, there aren’t millions of people walking around with these phones currently, so instead, we’d prefer to give you a rundown of our past week with the device, going over the pros and cons of living with a phone that can fold in half.
Samsung’s first foldable, the Galaxy Fold, was a great entry into the world of devices that fold. It was such a good entry that Kellen and I found ourselves sorta wishing we could go back to it, but going back to our keeping it real theme here, there’s no way we’re dropping $2,000 for the novelty of folding our device.
That’s what makes the new Galaxy Z Flip so interesting, not just to an Android blogger like me, but to consumers who maybe don’t get too turned off about dropping well over $1K for a smartphone. Priced at $1,380, the Galaxy Z Flip is actually $20 less than the new Galaxy S20 Ultra base model, and while the S20 Ultra blows the Z Flip out of the water in terms of specs, you can’t fold an S20 Ultra in half.
Let’s go ahead and dive right into this.
So as you likely know, this isn’t my first time with a foldable phone. I gave you my rundown of the Galaxy Fold when that first dropped and it was mostly great, but honestly, right off the bat I was way more impressed with the Galaxy Z Flip in one major area. Where the Galaxy Fold sometimes felt fragile and delicate, the Galaxy Z Flip feels like a little tank that can handle some abuse. The hinge system feels extremely durable and I find myself not worrying about it at all when opening and closing the device. I haven’t worked up the courage to start opening it up with one hand, which would be the use-thumb-as-wedge technique (and I probably won’t ever), but it wouldn’t surprise me to see people getting really confident with how they operate this phone’s hinge system. My only advice to those people would be — please be careful.
To recap the specs for you on this nearly $1,400 device, it features a 6.7” FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display (2,636 x 1,080, 21.9:9) when unfolded, 1.1″ Super AMOLED display (300×112) on the outside that acts as a cover display, Snapdragon 855+ processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, dual 12-megapixel camera (standard wide angle + ultra wide angle), 10MP front-facing camera, 3,300mAh battery, Wireless Power Share, support for Samsung Pay, fingerprint reader, no water resistance at all, no 5G connectivity, and Android 10 with One UI on top.
Thinking back to Kellen’s recent review of the new Motorola Razr, it’s insane just how far better of a phone this is over that. Samsung built in a real camera system with optical stabilization here (only for the standard wide angle lens), has a much better display experience, and the overall fit and finish of the device is way closer to current devices than the Razr. It’s important to bring up the Razr here because again, the Z Flip is just $1,380, well under Samsung’s initial foldable offering of $2,000 and also $100+ cheaper than the Razr. If a foldable phone is truly what you’re shopping for currently, you’d be making a big mistake to get anything other than this Galaxy Z Flip.
On the outside of the phone, you have a dual wide-angle camera system complete with OIS for the standard lens, as well as Samsung’s Super Speed Dual Pixel auto focus and HDR10+ video recording. From the shots I’ve snapped, the camera seems on par with other Samsung smartphones, though, you aren’t getting as many lenses as you would with the current S20 lineup. Personally, I don’t care about a telephoto lens, and if cutting down on some lenses helps the price stay low, I’m all for it.
Colors are rich and vibrant in photos, contrast is well balanced, and the device comes with all of the shooting modes you’d expect from a Samsung smartphone. Inside the camera app you’ll find the Night mode, Pro Video, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse, Super Slow-Mo, Live Focus modes, as well as Samsung’s AR Zone nonsense that grants you AR Emoji, Doodle, and other things that might impress the TikTok community. Taking selfie videos has been a real joy as well, since I can prop the display with the phone’s flex mode and record video of myself (usually doodling on guitar) very easily.
Here are a few camera samples. No edits have been made, but due to resizing and our site’s compression, you can expect some details to be lost.
For the display, besides the noticeable crease across the middle of the phone, you wouldn’t really suspect it bends in half when looking at it in someone else’s hand. Unlike the Fold, when it’s closed up, there isn’t a wide gap near the hinge either, so overall, the experience is very clean and nice. The 6.7″ Dynamic AMOLED gets plenty bright, good for use in direct sunlight, and like all other Samsung panels, the colors are great. It also gets plenty dark with a supported Blue Light Filter for laying in bed, too.
Samsung attempted to add a few software things to take advantage of the fold, but personally, they weren’t too interesting. Of course, you can run multiple apps simultaneously, which is not very useful on a display of this size. That made much more sense on the larger Galaxy Fold.
Samsung also worked in a tweak for YouTube, where users can watch a video on the top portion, then also interact with comments on the bottom portion. Since I think YouTube comment sections are home to the most vile thoughts the human species has ever thunk, I don’t find myself using that anytime soon. Other than those few tweaks, if you’ve ever used a Samsung phone, you’ll know exactly what to expect from this device.
I think what I take away most from the Galaxy Z Flip is that you have what is a mid to high-end smartphone with good specs, but Samsung is introducing this new clamshell folding design to prove that devices like this are in demand and can be done well. Where I was nervous in using the Galaxy Fold for an extended period of time out of fear of breaking it, I really don’t get that sense from the Z Flip. This device feels like it can last, and for anything priced around this much, that should be the case.
There are a few downsides to the Galaxy Z Flip, so let me go over those now.
The first major issue I have is the battery. It’s relatively small at 3,300mAh for a phone of this size, so if you’re coming from a device that doesn’t flip and has a larger battery, you’ll likely notice the difference immediately. My typical day is 7:30AM off the charger to about 10:30-11PM, and almost every day, I was nearly out of battery but only had over 2-3 hours of screen on time. If I really hammered on the device, like on a day I was traveling, I had to plug in the device that afternoon because I knew it wouldn’t get me through the full day.
It wasn’t an ideal battery situation for me, but I’m hesitant to blast it too harshly due to an update that I received on day one of the device. Before the update, I thought the battery life was pretty good. Then the update came and the battery life was poor. I’m curious if there was something in that update that Samsung can possibly revert back to. Again, it’s a small battery, so I wasn’t at all expecting amazing life from it.
The other aspect of the device I didn’t care for whatsoever is the external speaker. Oh boy, is it terrible. Most flagship devices have solid dual speaker setups these days, so going not only to this single speaker, but a small one with little volume has been a real downer.
I suppose I have to talk about the idea of taking it in and out of my pocket as well. Obviously, you’ll be doing a lot of opening and closing of the device, so if it bothers you that there’s a whole extra step of checking incoming notifications, since the cover display is useless, maybe stay away from this clamshell design. For me, this experience is at its worst when I have gloves on (it’s cold here) and I’m out walking the dogs. It’s a total pain to stop dogs, take gloves off, shimmy leashes under my arm, use hand to remove phone from pocket, use two hands to open it, and then do whatever I need to do. It’s time consuming, and since I want to be so careful with the device, it’s a requirement to go slow and be sure not to drop anything.
However, if you’re just out and about, it’s really not too bad and it all seems worth it when you pull the device out and people instantly ask you about the phone. I love it when people ask me about the phone I’m using, so I gladly tell them, “Here, this is the Galaxy Flip from Samsung, it’s probably the future for all of us.” Unlike the Galaxy Fold, I don’t mind handing this phone over because it’s a lot more sturdy in the hinge department and people absolutely love opening and closing it. If you need a Wow Factor phone, it doesn’t get much better than the Z Flip.
As for things I’d like to see improved on a sequel Flip, let’s talk about the 1.1″ AMOLED cover display. This iteration is pretty useless besides glancing at the time. Incoming notifications aren’t usable because they’re just too small to read anything, and controlling music playback is difficult because even my skinny fingers have a hard time pressing on the right button. It’s just a really, really tiny display that needs to be bigger.
- Fiancée Impressions – “I like the retro feel of the phone, kinda fun to go back to a flip phone after all these years. The flip mechanism is very smooth and the phone feels really good in hand size wise once it’s open. However, I would not be able to use this phone day to day because the bend in the glass would drive me crazy. Overall, it’s really fun and feels great.”
- Samsung Pay – Still kicks ass.
- Fingerprints – Yeah, so, this display and exterior pick up fingerprints very easily. It’s obnoxious how often you might find yourself cleaning this thing, but that’s just life these days.
- Fingerprint Reader – The fingerprint reader doubles as the power button on the right side of the device. It works just fine, though, it does take a little while to set it up.
Buy Galaxy Z Flip
You can get the Galaxy Z Flip from both Samsung and Best Buy directly. As I mentioned, the phone appears to be backordered and due to Coronavirus, it appears recent production of the device might be delayed a bit. Just know that when you order one, it will eventually come. For the US, it comes in either Mirror Purple or Mirror Black, priced at $1,380.
The Galaxy Z Flip is your best bet at a good foldable experience should you be in the market for one. However, if you’re on the fence about these devices, you’ll be more than fine waiting to see how Samsung improves them. For those who think folding phones are a gimmick, I think you’re mistaken. The Galaxy Z Flip proves that these phones can be made to not feel and look like novelty garbage. This is a solid device and I could easily see myself continue to use it — the camera is good, the folding action is slick, and hardware itself is very well built. I just wish it had better battery life and wasn’t a pain to pull out of my pocket at times.
This isn’t the ideal phone for me, but it could be for someone else. Samsung made a great foldable here, reinforcing that they can be done right and also be made in a relatively affordable fashion. Big props to Samsung for this one.
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