The August 10 Samsung Unpacked event is right around the corner, which means that the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 are already finalized. And I really hope Samsung has made these improvements. Otherwise, I won't be able to recommend these new foldables.
Foldable phones are still in their infancy, despite us facing the fourth generation. Just like slab smartphones before them, this new device category has some teething pains to overcome before they'll see mainstream adoption. Samsung, and others like Oppo, need to address them before I'll be convinced to actually suggest a foldable to anyone but the most avid early adopters.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 need to fix the following things before I can in good conscience suggest someone buy them.
1. Battery life
This is my primary gripe with the current crop of foldables. Battery life is atrocious on the Galaxy Z Flip 3, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is not much better. The batteries themselves, smaller than comparable smartphones, have to power cover displays and two internal displays, the latter of which operate at an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. That's a lot to ask.
Now that we've seen that devices with the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset can outlast similar Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Snapdragon 888 handsets, I have some tiny hope that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 will at least be able to best their predecessors by a slim margin.
Rumor has it that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will sport a 4,400 mAh battery (split between the two halves of the phone), while the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is rumored to have a 3,700 mAh battery, again split between the phone's halves. Considering Samsung's other trouble with battery life on the Galaxy S22 series, I think that tiny hope I have dwindles with each passing day.
Battery life plays a huge part in whether I'll recommend a phone or not. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 need to be better.
Samsung still struggles to beat Apple and Google among the best camera phones, and while the company has noticeably improved recently, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 did not impress me in the photography department. The software needs some work, as I noted that both phones bore Samsung's older characteristic over-saturated, fantastical look.
That's not to mention the hardware itself. The Galaxy Z Flip 3, for example, sports two cameras, a main and an ultrawide. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 adds a telephoto lens, but with just 2x optical zoom. Compare the Flip 3 to the similarly-priced Galaxy S21 Plus released several months prior. The S21 Plus had a 3x hybrid zoom lens. Heck, look at the Galaxy S22 Plus, also $999 (which we expect the Flip 4 to cost). It has a 3x optical zoom telephoto camera.
The point is that the camera hardware on both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are inferior to their Galaxy S cousins. While the Fold 3 was not necessarily aimed at photography aficionados, the Flip 3 targeted the general demographic, attempting to lure them with its more attainable price tag. Those people are more likely to care about their photos, and I don't think the Flip 3 did as well here as the Galaxy S21 Plus did.
To be fair, rumor has it that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will see a camera upgrade, such as a 50MP main sensor up from the 12MP one on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It also might get a 10MP 3x optical zoom telephoto, likely the same as one of the Galaxy S22 Ultra's telephoto cameras. So maybe there's some hope after all, at least for the Fold 4.
3. Display crease
The display crease — the joint where the two screens meet — is perhaps the most unsightly thing about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. Not only is it visible, but you can also feel it when you slide your finger across it.
You might think that is just par for the course with foldables, but that's not actually true. The Oppo Find N is far less obnoxious with its display joint. (And its hinge is better, but I digress.) I want to see Samsung overcome this nuisance this year, and I imagine it will.
Does the display crease prevent me from recommending the Galaxy Z Fold 3 or Galaxy Z Flip 3? Not on its own. But it adds onto the other dissatisfaction I have with both phones.
Here's where the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 truly diverge. The latter likely won't have an issue with pricing, given its predecessor's $999 price tag. But it's the Fold 4 that needs to work on this.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 launched starting at $1,799, an astronomical sum for a mobile device. It no doubt hampered the handset's adoption rate, since it's no secret that a lot of people balk at even $1,000 for a phone.
Simply put, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 needs to be less expensive than the Galaxy Z Fold 3. But I don't think that'll happen, even though it makes sense. It's hard to recommend a phone that's almost two grand, especially given its notable shortcomings.
5. App compatibility
Finally, we come to a problem that I'm not entirely sure Samsung can solve on its own. In fact, the phone maker can't. More app developers need to support Flex Mode. Part of the problem is that many Android apps aren't built for larger screens, which is partly why the Android tablet experience pales in comparison to the iPad. And so it comes as no surprise that there aren't many apps that support Flex Mode.
But Samsung is one of the top phone manufacturers in the world, so if any company has the strength to convince devs to get onboard, it's Samsung.
Right now, I find that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 lacks as much utility as it promises, while the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is full of missed opportunities. I think being able to tell people about all of these cool app features when they're considering the Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy Z Flip 4 would go a long way to speeding foldable adoption.
Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 outlook
I've outlined five things I want to see the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 do before I can wholeheartedly recommend them. My job here centers around helping you all make the best phone buying decisions. If a handset fails to meet my criteria, no matter how cool it is, I cannot recommend it.
Battery life is my biggest concern, and I can't say I'm very hopeful about Samsung's attempts to improve it this year. We hope to go hands on the phones soon, at which point we'll put both through the Tom's Guide battery life test to see if there's any jump from last year. It's not a high bar to clear.
August 10 is mere weeks away, and I expect to hear more about both foldables in the days leading up to Unpacked. Here's hoping Samsung has made at least some of my wish list come true.