We’ve had the opportunity to test out Samsung’s latest folding phone – it’s called the Galaxy Z Flip – at the company’s Unpacked event where it also introduced the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra.
This second folding phone from Samsung folds in half like a modern-day flip phone. 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.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip release date and price
Like all foldable phones, Samsung’s latest comes with a high asking price of $1,380 / £1,300 (around AU$2,050).
It’ll be available in the US and UK on February 14, which is this coming Friday. Those in Australia have yet to hear how much it’ll cost or when it’ll be out, but you can pre-register internet on the official Samsung website.
Design and display
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 is a bendable screen that stretches from top to bottom. We’ve also seen a similar sort of design from the new Moto Razr.
The candybar-style of the Galaxy Z Flip, when unfolded, makes it distinct from the mini-tablet-like Galaxy Fold. The Z Flip has a 6.7-inch Full HD+ screen and 12.9:9 aspect ratio, which feels extremely tall in the hand.
At 425 pixels per inch, this isn’t as high resolution as the display on the Galaxy S20 series but in our limited testing time we found it to look good enough when scrolling through apps and playing a video.
You can see how the phone folds out in the video below:
This is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, which is the company’s latest foldable phone. It’s all yours for just $1,380 or £1,300. The best bit? It’s out this Friday in the US and UK #SamsungEvent pic.twitter.com/KsmFqidzYcFebruary 11, 2020
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 – in the form of a scrolling name or phone number. That said, 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 on the display, plus there’s a way to tap a notification on the Cover Display and then open up the phone to see the app in full.
It’s something called contextual continuity, and it’s a similar feature to how apps were capable of running on the outside display and instantaneously loading on the main display of the Galaxy Fold.
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 main 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 has a 3,300mAh battery compared to Motorola’s 2,510mAh capacity, and we’ve heard of poor results from the latter. Samsung is able to pull this off with a dual battery design, much like it does on the larger Fold.
There’s even wireless charging on this device, which is something that is notably missing from the Motorola Razr. We don’t currently know how long the Galaxy Z Flip will last from a single charge, but we’ll be sure to test it thoroughly in our upcoming review.
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, which wasn’t the case on the original Galaxy Fold.
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 hasn’t been folded many times.
Either way, you’ll likely learn to ignore the crease if it’s anything like the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
The phone is available in the Mirror Black that you can see throughout this hands-on as well as Mirror Purple and Mirror Gold. Only certain markets get different colors though, so you may be restricted in choice.
Specs and functionality
When it comes to cameras, there’s only two shooters on the rear of the Galaxy Z Flip. This isn’t going to compete with the Galaxy S20 Ultra anytime soon. There’s a 12MP F2.2 Ultra Wide camera that works with a 12MP F1.8 wide-angle shooter.
There’s a small cutout in the display for selfies when you have the phone unfolded and that’s achieved through a 10MP front-facing shooter. We were unable to test these out properly in our first time with the phone, but we’ll be sure to put them all through their paces at the time of our full review.
In the US and UK, the Galaxy Z Flip is using 2019’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset and it’s not currently clear if it’s different in other markets. That chipset should offer suitable amounts of power, but isn’t as impressive as the tech used inside the S20 range.
There’s only one variant of the Galaxy Z Flip that comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. There’s no microSD slot here though, so you won’t be able to expand that any further.
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.