- Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Z Flip on Tuesday, a flip phone with a foldable screen that bends in half.
- During my brief time using the Z Flip, I was impressed with its smooth glass screen, the way the hinge was able to keep the display propped open, and its compact design.
- The Flip still doesn’t answer the overarching question of why you might want a foldable phone in the first place, but its glass screen, lower price, and higher-quality camera should give it a leg up over the very similar Motorola Razr.
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With its next foldable device, Samsung is bringing back the flip phone.
The company unveiled the Galaxy Z Flip on Tuesday, a new smartphone with a foldable screen that snaps shut like an old-school flip phone. For Samsung, it’s the second iteration of what it believes could be the next evolution of the smartphone, coming after it launched the larger, tablet-sized Galaxy Fold last year.
The Z Flip’s defining feature is its foldable display, which bends horizontally to give the phone a clamshell form factor. That’s a major departure from the Galaxy Fold, the phone Samsung debuted roughly one year ago that opens and closes vertically like a book.
Samsung’s new take on the foldable smartphone – and the other improvements it’s brought to the Flip such as a flexible glass display and a hinge that’s better at keeping out debris – serves as further evidence that major device makers are still experimenting with what’s next for the smartphone. It also comes after Motorola just launched a very similar foldable phone, a revival of its classic Razr from the early 2000s.
After spending roughly 30 minutes using the new Z Flip, I can tell that there’s promise in bringing back the flip phone. There’s the convenience factor that comes with being able to fold a phone in half and more easily store it in small spaces, like a small purse or pocket, and the way the foldable screen neatly splits the display in half when using apps in split-screen mode. But whether that justifies paying a price that’s slightly higher than that of the average smartphone has yet to be seen.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Flip doesn’t feel all that different than using a regular smartphone, and perhaps that’s a good sign. That it feels just as natural as the phones we use today and doesn’t require a learning curve is a signal that there might be promise in the Z Flip.
Here’s a closer look at what it’s like to use the Galaxy Z Flip.
The Galaxy Z Flip, like its name implies, open and closes like a flip phone. Here’s what the phone looks like when its opened halfway.
It will be available in black and purple in a glossy, mirror-like finish as shown below.
What really sets the Galaxy Z Flip apart, however, is its glass display. Other foldable devices like the Motorola Razr and Galaxy Fold have plastic screens. I haven’t tried the Razr yet, but during my brief time with the Flip, the display felt as smooth and fluid as you’d expect from any non-foldable phone.
Still, the crease where the screen folds in half is also fairly noticeable on the Z Flip, although it does seem more subtle than that of the Galaxy Fold.
One of the most interesting uses for a phone like the Flip that bends in half is the way you can easily prop the phone up to take a photo. The bottom half of the phone essentially acts like a tripod, as shown below.
In the short time I spent using the Galaxy Z Flip, I was also able to see how apps worked in split screen mode. In the example below, YouTube is running in the top portion of the screen while Gmail is on the bottom.
The phone’s crease naturally splits the display in half, but it’s unclear whether the foldable aspect of the screen will actually make the Flip any better at multitasking than any other Android phone.
For the most part, snapping photos with the Galaxy Z Flip feels the same as taking photos with any other smartphone. But it did seem like the section of the camera app that includes the shutter button and other shooting controls occupied a larger portion of the screen than usual.
The Galaxy Z Flip has two 12-megapixel camera: one wide-angle lens and one ultra-wide-angle lens. It lacks a telephoto lens like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S20, but it still has an advantage over Motorola’s competing Razr, which only has one 16-megapixel camera.
The Galaxy Z Flip has a small 1.1-inch cover display for showing the time and notifications. You can also see text messages on this tiny screen, as shown below.
The display will also prompt you to open the phone to view the full notification.
It’s also possible to use the small display as a viewfinder for the front-facing camera, but doing this felt awkward. The screen shape and size isn’t well-suited for taking photos.
Still, the small notification window on the Galaxy Z Flip feels like it makes a lot more sense than the cover screen on the Galaxy Fold, which was too thin and small to really use for more than viewing the occasional text message. It’s great to see Samsung lean into this aspect by minimising the screen and optimising it for its most important job on the Z Flip.
Samsung is flaunting the phone’s ability to fold in half as a perk for those who are looking for something more portable than today’s rectangular-shaped smartphones. The Z Flip certainly does feel more compact when closed, but shutting the phone also makes it slightly thicker than the average smartphone.
It’s also not quite as easy to open with one hand as I had hoped. But I was impressed with how durable the hinge felt overall.
And even for those who do want a smaller phone, it’s unclear whether a phone like the Galaxy Z Flip, or Motorola Razr, would accomplish that. The Galaxy Z Flip is only more compact when you’re not using it, as is the Razr. When the phone is unfolded, it’s around the same size as Samsung’s 6.9-inch Galaxy S20 Ultra.
All told, the Z Flip’s lower price, high-quality glass screen, and dual camera could make it a more compelling choice over the Razr for some shoppers.
With the Galaxy Z Flip, it’s clear that Samsung is still getting a feel for what the next generation of mobile phones may look like. And perhaps the answer isn’t just one form factor but several, unlike today’s market in which nearly every smartphone pretty much looks the same.
The Z Flip in some cases makes your phone more portable – primarily when you’re not really using it – but it’s unclear what it will bring to the experience beyond that.
Or maybe the fact that using the Galaxy Z Flip doesn’t feel all that different than a regular smartphone is the biggest indicator of Samsung’s success with the device.
But at the very least, the fact that its price point is lower than the nearly $US2,000 Galaxy Fold and $US1,500 Motorola Razr – combined with a familiar, nostalgic design – could mean that the Flip has a better chance at success.