After the Galaxy Fold, Samsung took a second stab at the whole foldable smartphone thing and, with the Galaxy Z Flip, has created the most practical and usable foldable phones to date. The Flip appeals more to a broader user base than the Fold, and in this full review, you will learn what life is like when you use the Galaxy Z Flip as your daily driver.
- Excellent hinge
- Cover screen swiping
- Good performance
- It's the future - trust me!
- Not much camera creativity
- Just OK battery life
- You can still see and feel the display crease
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip release date and price
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has been on the market since February 2020, but it has taken a while for review units to filter through to European tech guys and girls like us. If you want to buy the Galaxy Z Flip without a contract, you have to put $1,380 on the table. You may be able to find a deal on this phone if you shop around, but don't expect to pick one up for less than a grand. On the other hand, Samsung makes it easy to choose. There is only one memory variant and two colors, Mirror Black and Mirror Purple.
A design that successfully turns heads
Samsung sees the Galaxy Z Flip as much of a fashion accessory as it does a phone. For this reason, it has dispensed with a larger outer display. Instead, a small 1.04-inch display located next to the dual camera must be sufficient for displaying important information. In my opinion, the Mirror Purple, in particular, can certainly find its place in the fashion sector. The Mirror Black version is probably not for fashionistas, because in this color the Galaxy Z Flip is less striking, and perhaps even a little boring.
It is difficult to critique the design of this on a level playing field with the rest of the smartphone market. Aside from the Motorola Razr 2019, the Flip is in a league of its own here. As someone who regularly switches phones, it was amusing to see the reactions of friends when using the Z Flip. Suddenly, people who would not even flinch if you popped the new iPhone or Galaxy S20 on the table are asking to get their hands on this futuristic phone you just pulled out of your pocket. And that's kind of what the Z Flip is all about. It is undeniable a cool smartphone. For me personally, the Razr is cooler, on a purely aesthetical level, but the Flip excels where the Razr often stumbles when it comes to the bigger picture.
The best foldable display (so far)
As with all folding smartphones, the wow-factor only occurs when you open the object of desire. When the Galaxy Z Flip is unfolded, you can see the 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display in all its glory. But until now, foldable smartphone displays could only convince optically, because as soon as you glide your fingers over the display, you could feel the soft and usually not so slippery plastic protection foil. Samsung has actually managed to use a very thin and flexible display glass in the Galaxy Z Flip, although the actual amount of glass in this has been disputed in videos online.
Since I've had both the Galaxy Fold and the Motorola Razr in my hands, I have to admit that this flexible display glass on the Galaxy Z Flip feels like the best solution yet. I get the sense that my fingers slide over the glass and not over soft fragile plastic, whatever the true composition of the material is - you can argue until the cows come home about whether this is glass or not - it feels like glass, and that's the only thing that really counts. The crease, however, is still visible and you can still feel it when you brush your finger over the middle of the display. It is particularly noticeable on apps that have a lot of blank, dark space, such as the Nuki Smart Lock app. It is less noticeable when browsing a web page, for example.
Samsung has also done some excellent work on the hinge, compared to what we go on the Galaxy Fold. The hinge of the Z Flip is what the South Koreans are calling a "Freestop" hinge. This means that the Galaxy Z Flip remains open when half unfolded. Further practical added value is noticeable when the Galaxy Z Flip becomes a table tripod. And as a cherry on top of the cake, the camera software recognizes when you use the Z Flip in table mode. The upper part of the flexible display becomes the viewfinder, while the lower part becomes the control panel for the camera. It's great for selfies.
If you're still worried about the durability of the hinge and the flexible display including flexible display glass, it's worth noting that Samsung opened and closed the flip a full 200,000 times in the stress test and the Z Flip survived. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has a minimum use-by date of five years with 100 folds per day (thanks to our Golem.de colleagues for crunching the numbers).
It is worth declaring at this point that when I test smartphones, no matter how much they cost, I use them in exactly the same way. I do not use a protective case because I don't want my phone to feel fatter than it already is. I slide them into trouser pockets and chuck them into my backpack or jacket pocket when I feel like it. Keys and phones never rattle around in the same pocket, but I don't like this idea that you have to be careful or go out of your way to protect your smartphone. The phone is meant to work for me, and if it looks like it's been through a warzone after two weeks of normal use, that's a poor product, not abuse.
After using the Galaxy Z Flip as my daily driver for two weeks, the display and hinge are impeccable. The camera hump on the front of the phone has a tendency to collect gunk around the rim, but aside from that, I feel confident the Flip can survive out in the real world without having to be wrapped up in cotton wool.
Useful software tweaks for the foldable display
The software on the Galaxy Z Flip is Android 10 with Samsung's One UI 2.1. Of course, the Galaxy Z Flip comes with a few software tricks that no other Samsung smartphone has. First of all, there is the table mode in the camera app, which I described earlier. Secondly, there's the multitasking capability of the Galaxy Z Flip, which Samsung emphasized during the phone's presentation. Due to the display's aspect ratio of 21.9:9, you can only use two applications in parallel with the Z Flip and not three as with the Galaxy Fold.
Then there's the functionality of the so-called Cover Screen. The tiny display on the front of the Flip has a couple of cool tricks and some not-so-cool ones too. Far from just an always-on display, the 1.1-inch AMOLED screen can display notifications, answering calls, audio controls, and can even be a viewfinder for a quick selfie. The audio controls are the most useful feature here, although I admit I did read more notifications on this when it was sitting on my desk than I was expecting to.
Top hardware in a clamshell
So now we come to the inner values of the Galaxy Z Flip, and here I have to tip my hat to Samsung. In comparison to the almost equally expensive Motorola Razr, Samsung brings out the heavy guns. A Snapdragon 855+ with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal storage is a statement to the Motorola Razr, which is inferior in every respect with the hardware used. Even in terms of eSIM or normal SIM, the Galaxy Z Flip is superior to the Motorola Razr, because the South Korean engineers give their folding smartphone both.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip benchmarks comparison
|Samsung Galaxy Fold||Samsung Galaxy S20||OnePlus 8 Pro||iPhone 11 Pro Max||Galaxy Z Flip|
|3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1||5485||6775||7147||5396||5583|
|3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0||6609||7789||8851||5419||6425|
|Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi)||719 / 2570||704 / 2283||861 / 3316||1338 / 3512||746 / 2609|
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has plenty of power thanks to the Snapdragon 855+ and under daily usage feels identical to use as the Galaxy S20. For everyday tasks such a navigating with maps, messaging, and browsing around on the internet, there is little noticeable difference in performance between the Snapdragon 855+ and the 865. For demanding games, you will be in better hands with the S20 and its 865 SoC, but the Flip is never going to be appealing for mobile gamers anyway, not with that crease in the display.
Nobody is buying this for the camera
Yes, even a folding smartphone like the Galaxy Z Flip offers cameras, even if they are initially pushed into the background by the display and form factor. Samsung gives its second foldable smartphone a dual camera consisting of the following:
- A 12-megapixel wide-angle sensor (f/1.8 aperture + 1/2.55'')
- A 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor (f/2.2 f-stop + 1/3.0") with 8x digital zoom
In addition, the Infinity-O-Flex display also features a 10-megapixel wide-angle self-view camera with f/2.4 aperture. Basically, these camera specifications will no longer be considered 'flagship' in 2020, but for the target group who see their smartphone as a fashion piece, I think the camera setup of the Galaxy Z Flip is more than sufficient.
What's interesting about the Galaxy Z Flip is that you can also use the 1.04-inch front display as a viewfinder. Two short pushes on the combined fingerprint sensor and power button, and you can use the 12-megapixel main camera as a selfie camera. It's a convenient way of taking a quick selfie, but the viewfinder is so small you are essentially shooting blind. You can see if your face is roughly in the shot or not, but nothing else. After trying it once, you'll likely forget about this feature if you buy a Z Flip.
Overall, the camera quality is decent but not spectacular. You are limited in terms of creativity with only two lenses instead of three or four, but for a simple non-nonsense shooter, it is fine. One thing I do like is that the Single Take feature from the S20 series has made it over to the Galaxy Z Flip. You can tap one button and record several seconds of action, and the software will compile a selection of photos and short videos from the footage. It's a smart way to capture a moment without having to worry about what equipment or settings to use. Essentially though, none of this matters - nobody is going to buy a Galaxy Z Flip based on the camera performance.
Just OK battery life, nothing more
In terms of energy storage, two battery cells are hidden in the Galaxy Z Flip's divided case, which are of different sizes but are equal partners both during use and during the charging process. This measure is intended to ensure that both cells are worn down evenly and ideally, both will die at the same time. Overall, the Galaxy Z Flip is pretty well equipped with a 3,300 mAh battery. The Motorola Razr can only come up with a total battery capacity of 2,510 mAh, in comparison. This is naturally short of the 4,000 mAh average we see in flagship smartphones around the $1,000 mark, but you can still easily get through the day without the Z Flip. My average on-screen time when testing the foldable Samsung was between five and five and a half hours.
The Z Flip supports wired charging up to 15W. Again, this is a little slow compared to the big boys that are getting upwards of 30W chargers packed into the box these days. Still, the Z Flip is not about the numbers, it's about the style, and who cares about your on-screen time when you are folding your phone in half.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip technical specifications
Samsung has a really good alternative to the Motorola Razr in its range with the Galaxy Z Flip. On paper and in reality, the Galaxy Z Flip offers much more than Motorola's icon. But this is exactly where the difference lies: if you want to get more for your money and you want a foldable smartphone, then Galaxy Z Flip is the right choice. But if you want to rave about memories and emotionally indulge in nostalgia, then the Galaxy Z Flip is certainly not for you and you should go for the Motorola Razr.
The questions of whether or not foldable phones are solid alternatives to regular smartphones feel kind of irrelevant to me. Sure, you can get better hardware, a better display, faster charging, longer battery life, a better camera, and all the rest of it, for the same money. But the Galaxy Z Flip has something that none of those alternatives can offer. That's why you'd buy this. If you want a clamshell phone with smartphone features, the Z Flip is pretty much your only option right now (aside from the Razr), and that makes it the coolest smartphone on the market right now.