Hands-On Review With the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Foldable innovation is coming at us fast. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip feels like a notable jump over Motorola’s Razr, which solved some of the design issues in Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. For $1,380-less than the Razr’s $1,499-this feels to me like a more solid, more mature form of the folding flip phone.
The Galaxy Z Flip measures 2.898 inches wide by 3.44 inches long by 0.68 inches thick when it’s folded, unfolding to something 6.6 inches long and 0.28 inches thick. It’s a tiny bit wider and a tiny bit thicker than the Razr; it could be just above or just below the boundary of one-handed use, depending on the size of your hands. It’s clad in Gorilla Glass over purple, black, or gold colored aluminum. The body is extremely attractive to fingerprints, to the point where I had to clean it off every minute or so while trying to take pictures.
If the Razr is a switchblade, snapping shut loudly (and opening creakily), the Z Flip feels more like a makeup compact. Its two halves are, individually, a little thicker than the razor-thin Razr and it closes with a balance between smoothness and stiffness. The stiffness is key. The Razr exists primarily in two modes, open and closed. But the Z Flip’s hinge stays at almost any position, so you have L-shape, V-shape, or chaise lounge-shape, as well. The screen doesn’t have a noticeable crease when it’s unfolded, and it doesn’t appear to bunch into its hinge when you’re folding it.
While I got used to opening and closing the Razr with one hand, the Z Flip was definitely a two-handed affair; just a little wider, with a somewhat stiffer hinge. Using the Galaxy Z Flip for half an hour, I hate to say that I find it a little less fun than the Razr would be just because of that extra width. The Razr tries very hard to be a one-handed flip phone; the Z Flip, like the Galaxy Fold, is a Thing That Expands With Two Hands. It’s … an origami phone.
Inside, there’s a 6.7-inch 21:9, 2,636-by-1,080 glass-covered screen with a punch-hole for a 10MP front-facing camera. You can see the crease in the screen, if you look for it, like on the Galaxy Fold. It’s a little more noticeable than the crease in the Razr. But I didn’t find it bothersome, at all.
On the outside, there are 12MP regular and ultrawide cameras. There’s a physical fingerprint sensor on the side, just like the one on the Samsung Galaxy S10e.
Samsung encourages you to use the L-shaped mode, especially, with new interface features. When you’re using the camera or YouTube with the phone fully open, the phone treats the whole screen as one screen and doesn’t really reflect where the fold would be. Fold the phone a bit, and your viewfinder or video retreats into the top half, leaving the bottom half of the phone for comments or controls. As Samsung showed during its demo and I saw during my hands-on, the L-shaped mode is great for putting your phone down on something either to shoot a long exposure, or for positioning yourself for a selfie.
About those selfies. There is a teeny, tiny one-inch, 300-by-112 display on the outside which normally shows the time and date. It also functions as the silliest possible viewfinder-looking at the world through a tiny slit-but at least you can see if the camera is aimed at your face.
I am very, very cautious about being optimistic here, because I was so burned by the Razr’s performance issues. Flip folding phones make a terrific first impression: so far, they’ve been made of premium materials, have bright screens, are easy to hold and most importantly aren’t boring. But the Razr fell short with wireless and processor performance in frustrating ways.
At least the Z Flip is using better components. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor, last year’s flagship, and a 3,300mAh battery, similar to a small current flagship smartphone. It runs Android 10, and benchmarked at 775/2625 on Geekbench. That’s similar to the Galaxy Note 10 and OnePlus 7T, and much faster than the Razr.
There’s 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and the phone has a regular SIM card slot and an eSIM. If that’s really the case in the US, this is one way the Z Flip is superior to the Galaxy S20, which doesn’t have an option to add a second eSIM for a second line or for roaming.
The Galaxy Z Flip is coming to AT&T and Sprint; AT&T is charging $1,380 while Sprint isn’t giving a price. T-Mobile confirmed that they don’t intend to carry it right now, and I suspect Verizon has a sort of folding exclusive with the Razr. Given my experience with the Razr, maybe they should consider switching horses.
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