A fun and fascinating phone with just the odd crease to iron out
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the South Korean manufacturer’s second folding phone. The first was the Galaxy Fold, which was essentially a tablet that folded in half to be the size of a regular smartphone. Great if you want a tablet that’s pocketable.
But the original folding phones of 20 years ago had a different purpose: to offer everything a regular phone did but in a much more pocketable form factor. And that’s what the Z Flip is aiming to do, as well.
When it’s folded, the Galaxy Z Flip is the size and shape of – and everyone I’ve shown it to has said this first – a make-up compact. This doesn’t mean it’s only aimed at women, for sure, but it fits any bag or trouser pocket with ease. The shiny, gloss-black finish is highly attractive and also comes in a similarly opulent purple hue. The smooth feel, the manageable size and the curved edges make it highly tactile, something you can roll effortlessly through your fingers. Even the hinge, with the etched-in company name on the end, is pleasing to the touch.
Open the lid and you suddenly have a large-screen phone, the 6.7in screen stretching across the entire inside face. Unlike almost every other smartphone, there’s a raised ridge around the entire display. That’s because although the screen itself is glass – yes, foldable glass! – to protect it, there’s a plastic film stretched tight across the glass and the ridge is what anchors it in place.
Run your finger across the display and it mostly doesn’t feel any different to a regular screen. Until you hit the middle. There’s a crease there, which is unmissable to the touch. If light falls on the display, the crease is also visible. As you close the screen, the light coming from the crease is brighter.
On the whole, though, the crease doesn’t disturb too much. When you’re watching a video, there’s no image distortion as you might imagine. It looks like a regular OLED smartphone screen: sharp, colourful and vibrant.
There’s a small screen on the outer case of the phone, next to the dual cameras. This tiny screen shows the time and some other notifications when you tap the little display twice.
There’s a fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy Z Flip, situated in the power button positioned on the right edge. It’s fast and accurate.
Opening and closing the phone requires a certain dexterity. You can’t flip it violently open like Captain Kirk opening his Communicator. I mean, you can, but it feels dangerous, like the thin phone might snap in two. It wouldn’t, but it’s part of the way you feel you need to handle the Galaxy Z Flip with kid gloves. It’s also not waterproof, as many flagships are these days – and the £1,300 price tag tells you this is a flagship.
But the bottom line is this is a very enjoyable phone to use: the pocket fit is just great – it takes time to get used to how little space it takes up. The display is attractive and bigger than an iPhone 11 Pro Max, for instance.
Performance is good, with a decent, though not quite top-level, processor ensuring that everything happens fast. The phone feels responsive and powerful.
It also has good battery life, running for a full day with ease and charging quickly enough. It is wireless-chargeable and even has Wireless Powershare, where placing another phone against the folded Z Flip will charge the other handset. It works with any wireless-chargeable phone, from any brand or other gadgets such as AirPods Pro or Samsung Galaxy Buds.
Cameras are a crucial part of every smartphone and the Galaxy Z Flip has three. On the display there’s a single 10MP lens which peeps out from the display, at the top in the middle. On the outer case there are two 12MP cameras, one wide and one ultra-wide. Other top-flight cameras often feature more than two rear cameras but the two here are perfectly good, just no match for the leaders in this respect, the iPhone 11 Pro and Huawei Mate 30 Pro.
You can use the rear cameras for selfies, as well as the inside one. To see what the lens is looking at, you close the phone, double-press the power button and a preview appears on the little external display.
This is a fascinating phone, offering something tangibly different from the rest of the phones out there, which are invariably flat slabs of glass and metal. It is easy to use and a great deal of fun.
After just a week or so of use, the novelty of being able to put a big-screen phone into a small pocket has not worn off.
But there are also compromises. It doesn’t feel as solid as most other phones – though those need to be protected in cases. Samsung has thoughtfully included a two-piece transparent case which clips on to keep the phone scratch-free.
Will it last as long as other phones? The hinge is solid and feels like it will be long-lasting. But the display’s protective screen is less hardy and may sustain scratches.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip proves that a folding phone is an enticing prospect and, although there are concerns about durability, this phone largely succeeds.