This year Samsung has launched its latest generation of flippy-floppy phones, and we managed to get our hands on both of them. We have been using Samsung Galaxy Z-Flip and Z-Fold for about a month now. While my natural instinct was to go straight into covering specs and benchmarks, we decided to take a different approach to this instead, keeping this review subjective and more relatable to us on how we used them. I hope this approach will answer some questions you may have and help with your buying decisions or at least you will enjoy the content.
Let's start with the first impressions - both phones feel incredibly premium and also futuristic due to the unusual formfactor. Z Flip feels tiny while folded up and really tall once opened, and Z Fold feels chunky while folded up and abnormally large unfolded. The weight of the Fold is also very noticeable but I’d say since it is rather narrow, that did not bother me at all, I would even say it provides a more solid grip on it.
I really like the matte black finish that the Z Fold has, it negates all the fingerprints and looks nice. The Z Flip that we have here is in glossy cream colour, it does catch the fingerprints but due to its colour they are not too visible. The only matte finish for this model is in colour black and it would probably be my first choice.
When I started using these phones, I immediately had an issue with the lock button which doubles as a fingerprint sensor. On both phones it is almost flush with the frame so it is not as easy to locate without looking. On the Fold it took about a week of me pressing the volume down button until muscle memory kicked in. The Z Flip ergonomics are even worse. Due to the hinge location this button is much higher than what would naturally be comfortable, so you have to flip it open, then reach up or reposition your hand. Even with time, it is still pretty hard to do without looking and for someone with smaller hands I can see this being a big problem.
While we are on the subject of lock button and fingerprint sensor - I have mixed feelings about it as a whole. With the Z Fold I can now press it as I am taking the phone out of the pocket so it is ready to go when lifted which is pretty nice. Where I find it an issue is while the phone is on the desk. To quickly check notifications I have to lift it to unlock or type in my password in comparison to phones with under screen fingerprint sensor, where I can just tap it and see whatever is on the screen without lifting.
This is of course exaggerated on the Z Flip, to simply check messages you have to open the phone up, unlock and only then you can see the notifications in full. There are exceptions to this. Due to having a really well balanced hinge mechanism, nothing stops you from keeping the phone on the table half folded. That does come with some quirks, the unlocking is pretty simple but when you swipe down to check for the messages, you push on the screen making it wobble so you would most likely have to hold it to use comfortably.
In terms of cameras these phones don’t feature the best of the best but are still really good. There are two on the Z Flip - wide and ultrawide, while Z Fold also features additional 2x telephoto lens. The thing that really stood out for me is camera usability on both devices due to the form factor. You can use both phones in a very stable tripod mode which is especially useful when taking group photos or pets. Look at these pictures of our kitten Nano, you get a completely different perspective while shooting so low.
Also while folded up, Z Fold is an amazing point-and-shoot camera system - set the lock button as a shortcut to open the camera and then just snap away. The shape of it is perfect for this and it has great performance.
Next, let’s discuss probably the main reason you may go for these phones - the fold up screens. The most obvious question is - can you see the crease? The answer is resounding… it depends. If you are looking at it head-on, then unlikely. But if you are looking at it from an angle and especially if you are outside in a bright environment, then you can definitely see the crease and feel it when swiping over. That being said, it took about two or three days to completely get used to it and now I don’t notice it at all.
How about the usability, you might ask... The Z Flip folding in half and becoming this kind of tiny little phone is really cool. It can fit in any pocket and kind of reminds me about the good old flip phones from back in the day. It is super satisfying to hang up at the end of the call simply by closing it.
Other than that, the screen itself is slightly taller than a normal phone but works and feels the same when unfolded.
In the case of Z Fold, the extra large screen is just awesome - it is not for everyone but personally I am completely in love with it. And it is quite versatile, you don’t need to use the big screen all the time, the small front display is good enough to quickly check something or reply to a message.
The large display is great for checking calendars, emails and even working on Word documents. Of course, it is amazing at reviewing photos and pretty good at watching videos, but it is more suited for multitasking, for example, watching YouTube videos and checking out the comments at the same time. Something to note on this - there are still applications that have not been optimised for this or some that are flat out missing features, like in YouTube app on my S20 Ultra there is a button for shorts which is not on either of the screens.
I actually rather like using Fold for some mobile gaming - the screen is large enough to see things and have enough space for your hands. The sound it produces is also pretty good but I wish the speakers were on the opposite side as currently while holding the phone in a most comfortable position the speakers are covered by the hands. You could flip the phone but then the camera bump is in a way and that gets pretty annoying.
One area where I have my concerns is longevity. I am sure the hinge will hold for a while but I am worried about the screen. While it does not feel like plastic, it is not gorilla glass and is prone to scratches. In general it does feel a bit softer to the touch which I actually prefer, but this is highly subjective.
Battery life on these devices is ok. With moderate use Z Flip lasts all day. Fold on the other hand is usage dependent. If you use the big screen all the time, it will certainly drain the battery pretty quickly, but I have adapted to use the front screen for the majority of the tasks and only open the large screen when reading articles or doing other productivity tasks. With this usage it will last a day for now, until the battery starts degrading. I would have liked this phone to have 10-20% more battery to have more headroom for the future.
Overall, I am really glad that Samsung is developing these line-ups and can see selling more and more of them. Both phones are not flawless but it’s the right step towards more user-friendly form factor phones and brings some change in the overall phone market. Z Flip is a great small phone for those who may not be checking their notifications every 5 minutes, and Z Fold is a perfect companion for all the power users out there.
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