Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Samsung flips its lid

The company’s new phone is a solution in need of a problem

Samsung has gone flipping mad. No, we’re not talking about putting underpants on their heads, sticking pencils up their nose and saying ‘wibble’ – the company has unveiled its brand new flip phone. The heavily-rumoured successor to the ill-fated Galaxy Fold was unveiled alongside the S20 range, and has been dubbed the Galaxy Z Flip. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Design

The device’s unusual design is what has got everybody talking about Samsung’s new device. The company has dropped the vertical hinge from the Galaxy Fold and gone for a horizontal model instead. It snaps shut in a manner satisfyingly reminiscent of an old-school compact mirror and folds open with a nice smooth action – but truth be told, it’s a little too big. 

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Measuring 74 x 167mm, the screen uses a taller aspect ratio than the roughly 18:9 configuration of most devices, which may be due to its desire to maintain a symmetrical square shape when closed, but this makes it tricky to open and close one-handed without using something else as leverage. Despite our relatively large hands, we found it an awkward mechanism to operate, which doesn’t bode well for the more dainty-fingered amongst us.

After the myriad problems foldable devices have run into, the question on most people’s minds is whether or not this design is sturdier than the ill-fated Galaxy Fold. For us, though, the bigger question is whether or not it’s more useful – and we’re struggling to see how it could be. The Z Flip features a 1.1in touchscreen panel that shows notifications while the phone is closed, but in order to act on them, you’ll need to open up and unlock the device, which actually involves more steps than with a normal smartphone.

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You’re also not saving much space; sure, the Z Flip will fit into shorter pockets without poking out the top, but is this really such a huge problem that consumers need an all-new, £1,300 device to remedy it? We will say that the fact the hinge will remain at any angle you place it at is interesting, and it does look good. Its mirrored clamshell exterior makes an eye-catching sight when folded over and its square dimensions are certainly pleasing, even if it does remind us of a fancy Gameboy Advance SP. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Display

As previously mentioned, the 21:9 aspect ratio Samsung has used on the display is an unusual one. The only other mainstream device-maker that uses it is Sony, and just like with Sony’s Xperia devices, Flip owners will struggle to find content to fit that somewhat peculiar format. 

With that having been said, the 6.7in FHD+ AMOLED screen looks exactly as gorgeous as we’ve come to expect from Samsung devices, fold and all. There is a somewhat noticeable crease at the point where the hinge is, but it’s not overly intrusive at first glance. Whether it will become more pronounced over prolonged use is hard to say, though.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Specs and performance

Samsung is so far remaining oddly tight-lipped regarding the phone’s internal components – official specifications simply list an unnamed 7nm octa-core processor, which indicates that Samsung may not be using its own Exynos chips as it usually does for Galaxy S devices. All we can say for sure is that the chip has a 2.95GHz maximum clock speed and is backed up with 8GB of RAM.

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How well this mystery chip will perform under strain remains unknown, as does the battery life offered by the 3,300mAh dual battery. We’re expecting it to be reasonably capable at the very least, however.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Camera

Always a point of focus for Samsung, the Z Flip’s camera looks to be a credible offering, although the limitations of the foldable form-factor mean it’s not as impressive as the S20’s. The rear camera is a 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle lens, with dual-pixel autofocus, HDR10+ recording and optical image stabilisation.

Although not as sharp or feature-rich as the snaps offered by the company’s flagship S20 Ultra, the Z Flip’s camera provides shots that will be good enough for the vast majority of average users – although we’ll know more when we can test it more fully.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Features

The Z Flip boasts many of the features of its non-foldable stablemates; biometric authentication via face and fingerprint is present and correct, as are power management features such as wireless charging, fast-charging and wireless power-sharing. Sadly, however, the Z Flip is not set to be 5G-compatible.

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The big unique feature, of course, is the hinge, and Samsung has worked with Google to design a UI called ‘Flex Mode’, which effectively splits the screen into two separate windows when the device is open at an angle. This supposedly allows users to view content on the top half of the screen while controlling it with the bottom half – an interaction model which again seems somewhat awkward at best. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on review: Early verdict

The Galaxy Z Flip is by far the best implementation of a foldable phone we’ve seen yet (with the caveat that we still haven’t got our hands on a Surface Neo or Duo), and it seemingly solves many of the problems faced by both its predecessor and the Motorola Razr at a stroke. 

Before Samsung starts getting too much of a big head, however, it should be noted that the Flip does not solve the biggest issue with foldables – they are a problem looking for a solution. Short of removing the need for a phone stand when making a video call or watching a video, there is no practical reason we can see that a foldable phone would be preferable to a normal, non-foldable one. 

Is the Z Flip the best foldable phone around? It looks like it. Does that make it a good phone? 

Not necessarily.

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