There’s nothing conventional about Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip.
Before confirming the Z Flip’s existence, Samsung aired its first commercial for the device during the Oscars. And just like that, it was on the scene. Fast-forward to the following Friday, the device’s official release date, and the Galaxy Z Flip was in my hands. One day later, it was gone — due to Samsung’s brief 24-hour loan.
It’s a curious choice on the company’s part, one we can only assume is due to the stumbles it faced seeding the first Galaxy Fold devices. The company’s first folding-screen phone was plagued with durability issues, released, recalled, then relaunched months later after a much needed refresh.
Here’s my Galaxy Z Flip review after just 24 hours with the phone.
I’m loving the hinge and design
I absolutely love the design. The Motorola Razr made me curious about horizontally foldable phones, but the Galaxy Z Flip has me convinced. This is the future of smartphones.
What sells this point is the impressive build quality of the Galaxy Z Flip. Not only does it look flashy and cool with its mirror finish and iridescent colors, it feels premium in the hand whether it’s open, closed, or anywhere in between. Samsung’s proven itself to be manufacturer that comes up with great-looking phones, and the Z Flip is no exception. It meets the standard of fit and finish for Galaxy flagships and takes things a huge step forward with its foldable design.
The Motorola Razr folds in half too, as does the Galaxy Fold (vertically), but the Z Flip surpasses both in build quality thanks to a well-designed hinge and Samsung’s proprietary foldable glass. Samsung’s hinge is quiet, satisfyingly tactile, and mostly unexposed. It feels good, it sounds good, and it looks good — three things we can’t say about the Motorola Razr. Small magnets in the top and bottom edges of the Z Flip ensure it snaps together with a satisfactory whap.
Maybe it’s a vestigial mental response from my formative years of using flip phones, but each time I shut the device, it’s a small dose of ASMR. Closing a well-built laptop may give you a similar feeling, but Samsung’s done well to evoke that feeling in a perfectly pocketable, palm-sized phone.
The screen crease can be ignored
You can see and feel a crease in the center, but looking straight on, it’s not something you’re going to notice much at all. You also won’t frequently feel the crease, since it’s dead center across the phone. It’s surprising how little your thumb touches the center of a device. Most actions, including scrolling, happen toward the top or bottom of the screen.
Samsung’s foldable “Ultra Thin Glass” feels like solid glass when you tap on it, or even press down a bit — the latter being something Samsung urges strongly against (sorry, Samsung). However, since returning my device, YouTuber JerryRigEverything showed how easily scratched the display can be.
According to Samsung, its Ultra Thin Glass has a protective plastic layer over it, and that’s what is being scratched. Do bear in mind this is a foldable device that remains closed in your pocket, so as long as you don’t fold any foreign objects into it, you shouldn’t have to worry much about the screen’s scratch resistance.
While I don’t mind the folding screen’s crease, I don’t like the tiny, mostly useless outer screen. It’s a one-inch OLED touchscreen that works alright for snapping selfies, swiping to answer or decline calls, or reading a short message, but it’s just a clock outside of that.
The cameras are flagship quality
Equipped with a wide-angle regular camera and an ultra-wide-angle shooter in its dual-camera setup, the Galaxy Z Flip has essentially the same cameras as the new Galaxy S20, minus the telephoto lens.
While you won’t get 3x optical or 30x digital zoom on the Z Flip, it’s more than capable of taking 2x zoom shots that are comparable to that of other devices, like the iPhone 11 Pro. For me, the difference between 2x optical or digital zoom is negligible, as I don’t often take shots zoomed in beyond 2x.
The Galaxy Z Flip’s main camera captures great color and detail in most situations, particularly well-lit scenes, though it can get caught doing a bit of over-sharpening. As was the case with 2019’s flagship phones, I rank Samsung third behind the iPhone and Pixel devices in terms of all-around quality, but that’s not a serious issue. It’s still an excellent camera, though the 10 MP front-facing camera was notably less impressive.
I’ve grown accustomed to using the ultra-wide-angle cameras on my phones to capture huge objects and creative shots, so I’m happy to have that option on the Z Flip. It produces pleasing shots and, like the main camera, does well in most lighting scenarios.
Low light photography is an area Samsung’s lagged behind Apple and Google in the past, and although some slight improvements have been made, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, in a setting like a restaurant, photos can come out rather grainy, so it’s best to flip on night mode to sharpen things up a bit and bring back in a little more color.
Dynamic night shots with significant brightness variation can trip up the camera. Sometimes, you may be best served to leave night mode off, and other times, you’ll be better off flipping it on. In my experience, if you can see what you want in a shot when you’re looking at the preview, it’s best to leave night mode off and avoid potential graininess and over-sharpening. But if you need to pull some things out of the shadows, night mode is your best bet.
The Galaxy Z Flip doesn’t have 8K video recording like the S20’s do, but 4K video looks just as good as photos, though it could still use better image stabilization.
You do have Samsung’s new Single Take feature, which captures about ten seconds of video and pulls various bits of content out, such as a portrait photos, wide-angle shots, black and white pictures, short GIF-able videos, or whatever the A.I. deems appropriate. It’s proven a neat way to capture a short video and not miss all the photos or GIFs you could’ve captured during that time.
Battery life is about a day
With a 3,300 mAh battery split between the two halves of the Z Flip, all I really want to be able to do is get through the day with it. It’s a good thing that’s all the time I had, because that’s exactly what it did.
After a full charge at 5pm, the battery was at 25% by 11am the next day, after hours of taking photos, navigating, texting, and taking a couple phone calls. I’d say it was a pretty active day of use, and while it technically lasted me into the next day, I don’t think it’d last a full 24 hours.
Still, the Z Flip should give you a solid day’s use without having to worry about charging until you’re in bed. That’s good enough for most people.
It’s plenty fast, but the UI’s not unique.
The Z Flip has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus paired with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. It doesn’t offer expandable memory, which is a bummer, but 256 GB is a solid offering, and the performance won’t leave you wanting for much.
Think of it as a slightly souped-up Samsung Galaxy S10, so maybe a Galaxy S10.5, or perhaps Galaxy S15. It won’t deliver a silky-smooth 120Hz refresh rate or let you force certain apps to stay in RAM, like on the S20, but its performance is excellent all the same.
Samsung’s Flex Mode, which splits the screen into halves, plays to the novelty of having a device that folds in half horizontally, but it doesn’t add much to the experience. Realistically, no one needs the phone to change what the bottom half of the display shows. That said, using the phone half folded on a table is useful for video calls and selfies.
Bring on the foldable revolution!
The time is now! Call your local congressperson and tell them the time for flat phones is over. Yes, I’m talking about a revolution.
Ok, perhaps your congressperson has little to do with the matter. Still, I want more foldable flip smartphones, and I want them now. I’m looking at you, Apple!
I know it’s going to be some time for iPhones to catch up. In the meantime, the Galaxy Z Flip is here for those who want the future, today. It might even compel some people buy a Galaxy phone for the first time.
I’m itching to have the Z Flip back. I haven’t craved an Android phone like this since the first Motorola Droid. Thanks to the premium look and feel of the Galaxy Z Flip, and the mechanics within, I’m again excited about the future of phone design.