Galaxy Z Flip 4 rumor sounds like Samsung will take on foldable phones' biggest flaw

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip
(Image credit: Future)

Samsung hopes that one day foldable phones — specifically, Samsung's foldable phones — will be as commonplace and widely used as handsets with more conventional designs. And a new leak suggests that the phone maker is taking steps with the Galaxy Z Flip 4 to make that happen.

Over the weekend, word got out that the next version of the Samsung phone with the foldable screen will feature a slightly larger battery than its predecessor. The key word there is "slightly" — the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is tipped to feature a 3,400 mAh battery when it's slated to arrive later this year, compared to a 3,300 mAh power pack in the Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Yes, a whole 100 mAh difference. Don't expend it all in one place.

As slight as the battery increase may be, it's not the only way Samsung can boost the longevity of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 over its predecessor. A more power-efficient chipset may do, and the rumored Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus, tipped for a June release, could provide that. Even if Samsung ultimately uses the existing Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, it should still give the Galaxy Z Flip 4 a needed lift in terms of power efficiency.

Because make no mistake — battery life has been the biggest drawback with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. It doesn't take long to drain that phone's battery, which is a big reason why we're not more enthusiastic about an otherwise solid attempt at a relatively affordable folding phone.

Galaxy Z Flip 3 battery blahs

When we test a smartphone's battery, we set the phone's display to 150 nits and have the device surf the web over cellular until it runs out of power. It's a demanding test on any phone, but especially so on foldable devices that have more screen space (and sometimes, a second display) to keep powered up. There's also the matter of 5G connectivity on the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which introduces an altogether different set of power demands.

But other 5G phones manage to turn in decent and even great numbers on our battery test, landing on the best phone battery life list by lasting 11.5 hours or more. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 falls far short of that, dying after 5 hours and 43 minutes on our test. Turning off the phone's adaptive display managed to improve that time to 6 hours — still nearly four hours shy of the average result for a smartphone.

That's an issue you'd want to fix in the next generation.

It's not as if the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — Samsung's other foldable — has this problem licked either. That phone last 7 hours and 52 minutes on our battery test, and the only positive thing we can say about that is it's not as terrible as the Galaxy Z Flip 3's time.

Why battery life matters

There's more at stake for Samsung here than taking on a nagging complaint about a couple of its phones. Battery life is one of the last remaining hurdles to foldable phones gaining widespread acceptance.

Initially, the biggest concern with foldables involved their durability — is this device going to break apart the moment I try to fold its display? The original Galaxy Fold did not do too much to allay that concern when Samsung had to postpone the launch to address durability issues that cropped up in review units. But to Samsung's credit, the company tackled those flaws, and each subsequent build of the Galaxy Fold and Flip has been better than the last. There's still work to be done — looking at you, visible crease on the folding display — but Samsung is making undeniable progress here.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 hands-on review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Another big hurdle stopping people from buying foldable phones en masse has been the price of these devices, with Samsung's first-generations models sporting four-figure price tags. With the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Samsung brought the cost of foldables to less than $1,000 for the first time, and got rewarded handsomely for it — the company said last fall it saw a 40x increase in Flip sales over the previous generation. Price drops on the Galaxy Z Fold models have come more slowly, with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 only costing $200 less than its predecessor, but the phone maker seems to recognize that a wider audience needs a more affordable foldable if it's going to try the phone out.

That leaves just battery life as one thing that still eludes foldable phones. No one wants to pay top dollar for a device that's going to last half as long as phones that cost just as much, giving Samsung a pretty clear idea of what it's going to need to do if it wants those foldable phone sales to keep climbing upward.

It's going to take more than just a modest bump in battery size to get the Galaxy Z Flip 4 on par with the other best smartphones. But the suggestion that Samsung is considering its options for improving battery life at least gives us the sense that the company is serious about making foldable phones an important part of its smartphone lineup.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.