We got to test out the new Galaxy Z Flip at Samsung’s Unpacked event and, sure enough, it folds in half like it’s a modern-day flip phone. Don’t “Okay, Boomer” us – we kind of like it.
It’s ready to bend over frontwards to offer a daringly fresh concept next to today’s traditional-looking smartphones. Samsung says it’s the ‘full screen that fits in your pocket’ and we can confirm just that. The design makes it infinitely easier to hold and pocket than regular smartphones.
That’s a win for those of us with smaller hands and tight jacket pockets. It also comes with some neat slip-view UI tricks for multitasking and acts as an impromptu tripod for video calls when half-folded.
Yes, due to its small footprint, the Z Flip is lighter on specs compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but it’s not short on novelty – that it has in spades. Just don’t expect the latest 7nm chipset, Samsung’s newest cameras or largest battery capacity.
The obvious difference between this phone and Samsung’s first folding phone, the Galaxy Fold, is that the inside contains a bendable screen that stretches from top to bottom. We’ve also seen this from the new Moto Razr.
The candybar-style deign of the Galaxy Z Flip, when unfolded, makes it distinct from the mini-tablet-like Galaxy Fold. It has a 6.7-inch Full HD+ screen and 12.9:9 aspect ratio, which feels extremely tall in the hand.
You could easily mistake the opened Z Flip for a typical Android flagship phone if you don’t pay attention to the faint crease across the middle of the display; collapse that hinge down, however, and the phone’s footprint gets much smaller.
There’s a tiny 1.1-inch AMOLED ‘Cover Display’ on the outside, with enough space to show an incoming call from a contact – if their name is short enough – or a scrolling name or phone number (even our 10-digit number proved too long for the entire Cover Display when we tested it out).
Notifications, battery life, and the time can also be shown on this small screen, and it does more than just display static information. You can scroll through the various sets of data, and use contextual continuity to tap a notification on the Cover Display and then open it on the main unfolded screen.
We also like the fact that when it goes black, the Cover Display can be lit back up with a simple double tap, like any other Samsung screen. We’re wondering how useful all of this scrunched-up information will be compared to the larger cover displays of the Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr, but we’re ready to give it a whirl in a full review.
There are two things that we feel Samsung gets right about its new foldable: first, it uses thin glass to cover the inner screen. The Moto Razr, Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X all using vulnerable plastic screens, and we’re interested in seeing how this design stands up.
Second, the Z Flip is has a 3,300mAh battery compared to Motorola’s 2,510mAh capacity, and we’ve had serious problems with the latter. Samsung is able to pull this off with a dual battery design, much like it does on the larger Fold. We’ll go into the battery life more in a second, but it’s an encouraging sign for the future of flip-style foldables.
Like all foldable phones, Samsung’s latest comes with a high asking price: $1,380 / £1,300. It’ll be available in the US and UK on February 14. We’ll update this hands-on review as we get more prices and release dates for other regions.
About that thin glass
The Galaxy Z Flip display is made of Samsung’s ‘Ultra Thin Glass’, which one-ups what we’ve seen from other foldables, including the Motorola Razr with its plastic OLED.
Samsung’s glass-based approach felt smooth to swipe across, with a frictionless feel. The slickness is akin to Corning Gorilla Glass, which is typically found on non-folding phones. You can easily forget that you’re using a new display technology.
More important, the Ultra-Thin Glass felt pretty durable, and when we tapped on the screen, even fairly hard, we didn’t feel like the device was in any risk of breaking. Of course, we weren’t hitting the screen as hard as a drop would hurt it – this wasn’t an official drop test. But we’re still pretty confident that this is a durable foldable phone.
One potential issue with the Ultra Thin Glass, however, is that there’s a crease on the screen side where the hinge is located. The crease doesn’t seem as dramatic as on the Galaxy Fold, but, then again, it’s across a smaller screen and this is a brand new phone unit that hans’t been folded many time. Either way, you’ll likely learn to ignore the crease if it’s anything like the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
The Galaxy Z Flip doesn’t necessarily represent a pivot in Samsung’s foldable phone strategy – it feels more like another experiment to see which design sticks with consumers. Who knows, both the Fold and Flip styles may co-exist.
In launching after the Moto Razr, the Z Flip gets a lot of things right that Motorola got wrong, including stuffing in a bigger battery and thin glass, not plastic, to protect the 6.7-inch inner display. That’s not enough reason for everyone to pay so much money for a phone that’s just as pricey as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which has better camera and specs. You have to be looking for something new and chic.
If anything, the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is evidence that the future of foldable phones hasn’t been decided; it’s a bold idea – and one that’s rather flexible, if you will.