This Should Be Your First Foldable

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The first question one should ask before spending a thousand dollars on Samsung’s latest foldable phone – the Galaxy Z Flip 4 – is “How bad do I want a phone that folds in half and what am I willing to sacrifice?” If it’s already decided that you truly, really need a foldable in your life to experience the latest in smartphone tech, the right stepping stone is the Galaxy Z Flip range, which costs about half the price of the $1,799 phone-tablet hybrid that is the Galaxy Z Fold 4. In 2022, making the right choice is easier than ever.

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This time around, Samsung is taking a conservative approach with its clamshell foldable, focusing more on meaningful changes under the hood instead of going bonkers with a fresh design. But make no mistake, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 can still go toe to toe with your average Android flagship on key parameters, and even races ahead in a few areas.

Related: Can You Use An S Pen With The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4?

With the Galaxy Z Flip 4, you get the customary processor upgrade, a cover display that is slightly more pixel-dense, and most importantly, a bigger battery with faster charging speeds. The asking price remains the same as its predecessor at $999, which is always welcome from a buyer’s perspective. If you’re eyeing it as your next phone that can also wow folks around you, this review goes through the nitty-gritty of it all.


Design

At first glance, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 looks identical to its predecessor, but it’s actually a tad smaller. The side frame is made out of what Samsung calls Armor Aluminum. But this time around, the sides have been flattened. While the polished flat sides look better, they make the phone a bit harder to open with one hand. There is no recessed line akin to the lip on a laptop to press the thumb in and flip it open. Another minor change is that Flip 4’s colored glass is no longer slippery. Instead, Samsung has gone with a satin-like finish that is more grippy, feels good to touch, and masks smudges quite well.

There are four colors you can choose from, of which Samsung leased us the Bora Purple variant. But there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eyes. The company currently has something called a Bespoke Studio exclusive to its online storefront where you can customize the look of the phone by picking the frame color as well as the tint of the glass panels on the top and bottom.

Samsung says you can create a total of 75 unique color combinations for the phone, which is quite impressive. And the best part is that Samsung doesn’t charge extra for all that design customization. The last time a brand offered such customizability was Motorola with its Moto Maker system all the way back in 2013. Nearly a decade later, if you seek a phone that truly stands out with its design, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is the only option out there. The Bespoke Studio is a criminally underrated perk, one that every buyer should take advantage of.

Plus, there are no caveats with the customizability, and the results we’ve seen so far look nothing short of stunning. Samsung has often touted the Flip line as more of a fashion statement, and with the Bespoke Studio, the design choices are more versatile than ever. Not much has changed with the durability aspect. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is still IPX8-certified, which means it can handle splashes of water or shallow dunking, but don’t take it for a swim.

Also, keep it as far away from salt water as possible, lest you risk exposing it to corrosion, especially on the hinge mechanism. The outer glassy shell is covered with Gorilla Glass Victus Plus. Samsung also claims that the inner foldable panel – which relies on the in-house UTG (Ultra Thin Glass) tech – is more durable compared to the Galaxy Z Flip 3. For folks worried that the outer plastic layer will peel off in the long run, Samsung claims that it is using a stronger adhesive material on the Galaxy Z Flip 4.

Display

Screen technology is one area where Samsung flagships have consistently delivered, and that pedigree is on full show on the Galaxy Z Flip 4, as well. The 6.7-inch full-HD+ display offers a 120Hz refresh rate and produces rich colors with good viewing angles. Colors are vibrant, and you won’t find yourself cranking up the screen brightness above the 80 percent mark even under daylight. By default, the screen profile is set to vivid, which is ambitious on the saturation factor. It is pleasing to the eyes, but you can always switch to a more neutral color profile and adjust the display temperature, too.

While screen quality leaves little to complain about, the tall 22:9 aspect ratio is somewhat cumbersome, as trying to reach the upper half of the screen with your thumb will definitely need some in-hand adjustment. Plus, the odd aspect ratio also means you will either see some blank bars in landscape mode while playing games or watching videos, or the on-screen content will be slightly cropped / stretched out. It’s not really a red flag, but feels a tad out of place in the first few days of using the Galaxy Z Flip 4.

But this is a foldable phone after all, and it is definitely not as sturdy as a regular glass slab phone. The company claims that the Galaxy Z Flip 4 has been tested to survive 200,000 folds, which roughly translates to about 100 folds each day for five years. But these tests are conducted in lab conditions using robotic arms and uniform force, which is not always the case with manual usage on a day-to-day basis. Plus, there is no dearth of users complaining about a dead pixel line alongside the crease within just a year of using their Samsung-made clamshell foldable, so some caution is definitely advised.

Talking about the crease, it’s still there, but you’ll get used to it pretty soon. Put a bright and colorful wallpaper on the screen, and you won’t even notice it. It wasn’t even a distraction for watching movies or playing games. The tiny cover display still measures 1.9-inches across. The OLED screen, as expected, is bright and punchy. But Samsung hasn’t made any major changes to make it more functional.

New clock faces have been added, and you can now respond to messages with a set of pre-fed short replies. There’s still no keyboard input support, despite the fact the smaller screen on the Galaxy Watch 5 offers that convenience. With all those extra pixels and raw firepower under the hood, one can’t help but notice that Samsung is pulling the punches. The best example of that reluctance is CoverScreen OS. This third-party app brings the whole app drawer to the Galaxy Flip 4’s secondary screen.

You can scroll through any social media app, reply to messages with a full-fledged QWERTY (or T9) keyboard, fire up Google Maps, browse the web, and if you’re brave enough, watch YouTube videos, too. Just don’t try to play games. The gesture system is quite intuitive, and even though the swipes can be a hit or miss from time to time, CoverScreen OS is a clear sign that the Galaxy Z Flip 4’s secondary screen can do a lot more. It’s Samsung that is holding itself back from turning the 1.9-inch cover screen into a seriously productive smartphone interaction space.

But limiting the cover display functionalities also comes with an unexpected benefit – less distraction. Over a course of two weeks, my screen time and phone unlock frequency have come down by about 15-20 percent. Call it the bare bones notification interaction system on the cover screen or the hassle of opening and closing a phone a few dozen times each day, the results were ultimately positive.

Performance

Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC runs the show inside the Galaxy Z Flip 4. As expected, everything feels buttery smooth. Apps launch swiftly, there is no aggressive background task killing, and switching between apps is executed flawlessly. If you’re worried that your first foldable phone might be a laggard in terms of raw firepower, you can comfortably put those concerns to rest. Samsung has also got you covered in the software department. The phone will get Android OS updates for the next four years (all the way up to Android 16) and security updates for the next five years. In a nutshell, if you put a case on your Galaxy Z Flip 4 and don’t get too adventurous with it, this phone will last you a presidential tenure.

Despite being a foldable phone with all its additional hinge system bulk, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 (187 grams) is still lighter than flagships like the Galaxy S22 Ultra (228 grams) and iPhone 13 Pro Max (238 grams). Plus, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is slimmer, too, which is nothing short of an engineering victory. But not everything is perfect, as those ergonomic perks comes at a cost – thermal performance and battery life. The dedicated hinge hardware and the partition of an otherwise normal phone in two folding halves leave little room for fitting in an efficient heat dissipation hardware, the likes of which you will find in high-end phones.

An average smartphone user who is not deeply invested in gaming need not worry about this caveat, but for those who like to push the graphics envelope in demanding mobile games, there are a few concerns. Throttling under load is a key problem here because Samsung is clearly prioritizing fluid day-to-day experience instead of sustained peak performance. For casual titles like The Battle Cats, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 won’t give you any issues. But if you want to push that flagship Qualcomm chip, you might want to reconsider. As long as you stick to the recommended graphics settings in demanding games like PUBG Mobile, Fortnite, and Call of Duty Mobile, you’ll have an enjoyable experience.

Camera

At the back of the Galaxy Z Flip 4, you’ll find a pair of 12-megapixel cameras, which is the same as the Galaxy Z Flip 3, but the pixel size on the main sensor has gone up this year. There is no telephoto zoom camera to be found here, which is disheartening. However, the consistently excellent output from the two rear cameras is a welcome trait. The primary snapper takes sharp photos with striking colors and an ample amount of detail. When compared side by side with the photos clicked by the Pixel 6a’s 12-megapixel camera, stills taken by the Samsung phone look more pleasing to the eyes. The colors captured by the Pixel 6a’s camera are closer to the real thing, but the vibrancy added by Samsung’s color algorithms makes the shots look more lively.

Portrait photos also look great with admirable subject separation, clean depth segmentation, and accurate edge detection. While taking macro shots, there is little focus hunting and the surface details are retained quite well. The camera does struggle with blown-out highlights against harsh sunlight, but the results are better than the Galaxy S22.

Low-light photography is another area where the Galaxy Z Flip 4 delivered better than expected results. Even in extremely dark settings, noise suppression was impressive, and the photos bring out elements that are otherwise not visible to the naked eye. Coming to the ultra-wide camera, it also produces contrasty photos with good dynamic range and plenty of details. Notably, there is little color disparity between photos captured by the main and ultra-wide secondary camera, which is always welcome.

The cameras, however, struggle with skin tone and texture in indoor frames, producing a splotchy skin texture in challenging scenarios. However, enabling the night mode and maxing out the capture time solves the problem. The 10-megapixel selfie camera also produces good results, but if you seek better exposure and tighter dynamic range, you can fold the phone and use either of the 12-megapixel rear cameras while the cover display doubles as a viewfinder. It’s a neat little benefit of the foldable form factor, and a godsend for users finicky about their social media selfies.

The Galaxy Z Flip also captures excellent quality videos. The visuals are sharp, dynamic range is adequate, and focus lock is also on point. Stabilization has also been executed well, and the raw output truly becomes apparent in 4K videos that turn out pleasing. Banding is still a problem with slo-mo video capture, especially indoors, but that’s a hurdle almost no smartphone maker managed to fully overcome yet. Overall, the Galaxy Z Flip 4’s camera hardware is top-class, and the only area where it loses ground against mainstream thousand-dollar flagships like the iPhone 13 Pro is the lack of a dedicated zoom camera and weaker videography chops.

Battery Life

With the Galaxy Z Flip 4, Samsung has solved the two biggest pain points of its predecessor – battery capacity (now 3,700mAh, up from 3,300mAh) and charging speed (now 25W, up from 15W). With regular usage, you can manage screen-time of around three and a half hours with the screen brightness set to auto preset. It’s not the best, but still a major improvement. The phone can last a full day, but if you pair a smartwatch and wireless earbuds, expect serious headwinds. To really make the phone last a day while using the Galaxy Buds 2 earbuds for a few hours and the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic paired to it all day long, the Adaptive Battery toggle had to be enabled, while the Performance Profile had to be set to ‘Light’ in the battery settings.

You can also enable another option that puts used apps to sleep in order to reduce battery drain. Of course, the output will vary based on your usage pattern, but the Galaxy Flip 4 is no longer the battery anxiety machine that its predecessor was. The phone supports wireless charging, and can also juice up accessories like a smartwatch or earbuds by simply placing them on the rear panel.

Should You Buy It?

It’s easy to recommend the Galaxy Z Flip 4 to a foldable phone shopper, especially in the U.S. where Samsung is really aggressive with trade-in benefits and freebies. If you are really chasing a phone that also serves as a fashion statement and stands out in a sea of metal-glass slab phones, don’t look elsewhere. For folks chasing the foldable factor but have concerns about making major sacrifices including the durability aspect, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 has got you covered. Of course, the likes of iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S22 offer better cameras and bigger batteries for around a thousand dollars, but they are far behind the Galaxy Z Flip’s innovative swagger and aesthetic distinctiveness.

Here’s another way to simplify things. Imagine Samsung charging $250 solely for the folding screen shtick with all the complex hinge hardware and flexible glass inside. You’re left with $750, and for that price, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 offers a top-of-the-line processor, feature-rich software that will be updated for the next half-decade, flagship-tier cameras, and a battery that can last a day of regular usage. All that, in package you can design on your own, with no extra cost added on top. Yes, Samsung has little competition, but the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a refined piece of hardware that is totally worth becoming your first foldable phone.

Source: Samsung