The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 is Everything the Flip3 Should Have Been

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 is Everything the Flip3 Should Have Been

When a new product is released, or a reimagining of an old product, the first three-four generations are generally a time of big evolution before the designers run out of ideas and start doing the engineering equivalent of putting a new hat on Malibu Stacy. When Samsung announced the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 in New York recently (confusingly, the third in the Flip line), my initial feeling was that this was just a ‘new hat’ release. Perhaps not even substantial enough to be a new hat, maybe just a new bow for the old hat. But, after more than a week with it, it’s less of a new hat than a new skeleton, to stretch the metaphor to breaking point.

Here are my thoughts on Samsung’s more accessible folding phone, the Galaxy Z Flip4.

What’s new?

Not much. The camera sensor is a bit better, the hinge is a bit thinner, the chip is a bit faster, the battery is a bit bigger and the front screen is a bit more useful, plus there are some cosmetic differences (so you can’t just reuse last year’s cases). Somehow, though, it adds up to enough to make the Flip4 ready to go mainstream, rather than just be a curiosity piece for influencers.

Z Flip4 camera

It must be said that for a phone targeted towards influencers and selfie-takers, the camera system kinda sucks when compared to Samsung Galaxy S series phones. It’s a camera you’d be absolutely thrilled with five years ago. The sensors are more sensitive than the  Flip3, but judging from the specs, the camera system is roughly on par (though perhaps not quite as good) as the Galaxy S21 FE, which is a $999 phone (currently reduced to $699). The rest of the phone’s specs make it basically a vanilla S22 (from $1249) that folds, but the camera is what lets it down. Given the Z Flip4 is priced from $1499 – $1649, that’s a bit disappointing. I know Samsung was trying to keep the cost down a bit, and folding screens can’t be cheap, but it’s not a corner I would have chosen to cut.

On the back you’ll find an Ultra Wide 12MP and a Wide 12MP, with the in-display selfie camera getting 10MP. The sensor is a bit more sensitive this year, so although that sounds basically the same as last year, it is still a bit better.

New York’s famous Hope sign. Left: Z Flip4. Right: last year’s Galaxy Z Flip3. Image: Alice Clarke

If you ignore the numbers (because the numbers on a sheet aren’t as important as what the device actually does), the photos aren’t bad.

A sign in Central Park. Left: Z Flip4. Right: last year’s Galaxy Z Flip3. Image: Alice Clarke

The colours are perhaps a little oversaturated for my taste, but I like how vibrant the trees look in the Central Park photos, and the red in the Hope sign certainly pops.

times square & selfie
Left: Phoneception: The Z Flip4 takes a photo of the Z Fold4 in Times Square. Right: The Flip4 selfie camera does a good job with colour. Image: Alice Clarke

Now, comparing six (6) phones:

The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park (part 1). Left: Phone 13 Pro Max. Centre: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3. Right: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Image: Alice Clarke
The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park (part 2). Left: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4. Centre: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4. Right: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3. Image: Alice Clarke

Next to the photos from the Folds 3 and 4, and the S22 Ultra it looks a bit lacklustre. But once you have this phone, you’re unlikely to be directly comparing it to other, significantly more expensive phones. Unfortunately, I don’t have any A series or other S22 series phones on hand to compare, though you can see the photos from my S22+ review here. But I do love the surreal nature of the photos of the statue in Bethesda Fountain. It looks like it’s from another world. Perhaps not what you’d be going for in a happy snap. But that right there is art, my friend.

Flex mode takes the camera to an even better level, because suddenly you have a portable tripod that doesn’t take up any extra space, or a more comfortable way to hold the phone when taking photos or videos. Add to that that you can use the cover screen as a preview screen for selfie-taking with the good cameras and things look even better.

Z Flip4: A tale of two screens

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 in purple, closed on a table,. The front screen says the song Dead Weight by Paris is playing on Spotify
The front screen is super handy. Image: Alice Clarke

The FHD+ screen looks great! It’s a touch narrower than other smartphones, which does make the aspect ratio vaguely odd, but I really like that for reading, so it’s fine. It’s wide enough to be comfortable for typing, and that’s enough.

Overall, the colours pop, the screen material feels good in the hand, and it’s a pleasure to use.

The front screen is also way more useful now, too. It’s way more customisable and can be used for things like checking your calendar, adjusting the settings on your Buds2 Pro and checking messages. It’s now closer to the display on a smartwatch than an old school Fitbit, if that helps you imagine it. It’s an adjustment that sounds small, but makes a huge difference to how you use the phone and makes the phone an easier recommendation.

Z Flip4 style

The Z Flip4 casually half folded on a table
I wish I looked this cool. Image: Alice Clarke

It’s just such a cool phone. It looks and feels great and goes with any outfit far better than candy bar smartphones. Frankly, this is the coolest phone available, and while a 34-year-old saying that might actually tarnish its reputation, I speak the truth.

It folds so small that it fits in any pocket, including that of women’s jeans, which are somehow smaller than the pockets in the overalls of toddlers. Even without Samsung spending an ungodly amount of money getting celebrities like BTS and Olivia Rodrigo to use the phone in video clips it would be a stylish phone. Add to the fact that it’s an extremely usable, useful phone, now that it’s a bit more refined, I think we can expect to see the Flip4 in the hands of models, celebrities, and cool rich kids.

Durability: Does the Z Flip4 bounce?

I have said before that technology journalists never accidentally drop phones, but instead stage random drop tests in real world conditions. The day after I got the phone, I staged one of these tests in the most nerve-wracking way possible. (Considering this is a loaner phone, I would appreciate any Samsung PR people reading to just skip this section…)

The slippery phone slid out of my hand, which was near face height. I am not short, so it fell quite a distance onto a metal table that was low to the ground, making a loud sound that reverberated through my soul. It then bounced onto a concrete floor, where it bounced again before coming to rest. My career and bank balance flashed before my eyes. And yet, the little bastard was completely fine. Not a scratch on it. No screen or camera lens broke. The outside of the phone has no dents or scratches. There is no evidence this ever happened.

I expected the phone to be deader than a doornail, and yet it lived to fight another day. I have since dropped it a couple more times and had it slide off a variety of surfaces (you really need a case, it’s like holding a live fish) and it continues to be fine. I do not recommend trying this at home, but this is a good sign.

It’s also waterproof and didn’t die when I accidentally tipped a glass of water on it on the plane home (I swear I am normally more careful with phones). IPX8 rating means that sand is the enemy, but a bit of fresh water for a relatively short period of time shouldn’t do it any harm.

But, seriously. Get a case. It’s cheaper than a cardiologist for all the heart attacks you’ll give yourself every time it falls.

Hinge and crease

The Z Flip4 half folded at a different angle
The Z Flip4 certainly isn’t “less than”. (See what I did there?) Image: Alice Clarke

The hinge is much smaller this year and more gentle, making the phone nice to open and easier to fit into your pockets or one of those clutch bags. The crease has never really bothered me, which is good, because it’s much the same this year. Folding and unfolding makes for a great absent-minded activity, replacing my irritating habit with my Pop Socket. This is a mixed blessing.

Who is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 for, and is it good?

If you already have a Flip, look away now. This phone is not for you. This Flip is for the people who liked the idea of a folding phone but wanted to make sure all the kinks were ironed out. This is a refined folding phone with purpose. It’s less of a gimmick and more of a phone that would suit any smartphone user.

It’s not the productivity beast that the Fold4 is, but a large-screen smartphone for people with small pockets, now with a bigger battery and more useful front screen.

With the Galaxy Z Flip4, the folding phone is ready to go mainstream. The only things holding it back are the slightly disappointing camera and the high price. But, neither are unreasonable for what it is, given that it’s an engineering marvel.

If you’ve been waiting to get a folding smartphone, now is the time.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 is in stores from 2/9/2022. Check out the preorder deals here.

Alice Clarke travelled to New York as a guest of Samsung.

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