That wasn't the case with last year's Fold, a device that opens up like a book to unveil a 7.3-inch display. The Galaxy Z Flip is different. This time around, Samsung uses a flip phone design. (Yes, exactly like the Motorola Razr.) The Z Flip flips open to reveal a 6.7-inch display that includes a layer of ultra-thin glass for an extra level of polish. More importantly, when the phone is shut, it's tiny — a closed-up Z Flip fit easily in my hand and my paws aren't exactly meaty.
So already the Z Flip is off to a promising start. We'll have to put the Galaxy Z Flip through more testing to see if it can land on our best phones list, but after some initial hands-on time with the phone, we may finally have found a foldable device that appeals to more than just early adopters.
Using the Galaxy Z Flip: Pros and cons
The first thing you notice from the very moment you start using the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is simply how solidly built and sturdy it is. I'm arriving to the Z Flip merely days after reviewing the new Motorola Razr, and everything about Samsung's second stab at a foldable phone just oozes this sensation of quality and thoughtfulness, from the operation of the hinge, to the look and feel of the ultra-thin glass shrouded display to the operation of the camera and that tiny ticker screen on the top-half of the exterior.
There's no sound when you open or close the Galaxy Z Flip, and the nature of the free stop hinge means you can stop adjusting the angle of the flexible display wherever you wish, and the device will hold its orientation. That's extremely useful if you want to capture a selfie or video chat while going hands free.
However, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip isn't difficult to pry open in spite of that — while it doesn't snap into a fully flexed or shut position like the Razr does, I didn't find the Z Flip's hinge to be heavier or more recalcitrant than the Razr's. That said, this is still the sort of foldable you'd need two hands to open most of the time, so don't expect to flip it effortlessly with your thumb alone.
I'm equally impressed by how flat the phone lays when outstretched. There's always an angle at play with the Motorola Razr, even when fully opened. It's slight, but it's there and hard to ignore. And although the Galaxy Z Flip has one semi-prominent crease cutting horizontally right down the middle of its expansive 6.7-inch display, the rest of it looks and feels just right.
There are absolutely no bumps and lumps hiding in the screen of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, nor are there any unsightly rainbow swirls you often see with plastic screens. The use of ultra-thin glass may have been Samsung's crowing achievement with this new foldable, though we'll obviously need more time to evaluate how it holds up in everyday use.
The display looks just as good as any of Samsung's AMOLED panels from what I can tell, and the performance is snappy as you'd expect, given that this device employs a speedy Snapdragon 855 Plus processor and 8GB of RAM. While that may not be quite on par with the 865 5G chips making their way to the Galaxy S20 range, the 855 Plus is more than powerful enough for practically anyone, and won't leave you feeling short-changed where performance is concerned.
Aside from the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's ability to pack down into a much more pocketable form factor, its foldable nature also unlocks some interesting software experiences. While in the camera app, you simply need to begin folding the device, and the interface immediately goes into Flex Mode. Here, the viewfinder occupies the top half of the screen, while the bottom half is reserved for camera controls.
I love that you don't need to press a button to launch Flex Mode; you simply begin to close the phone, and it fires up, with the software adopting a more ergonomic layout to match the device's physical state.
Additionally, in Flex Mode you can start a five-second timer simply by briefly holding your palm up, and the Galaxy Z Flip also has the S20 series' Single Take mode, which captures multiple forms and types of media with a singular press of the shutter button.
If you're a mobile photography aficionado, you might be ever so slightly disappointed by the Galaxy Z Flip's primary camera module, which pairs two 12-megapixel sensors — one with an ƒ/1.8 regular wide lens, and the other with ƒ/2.2 ultra-wide optics.
While that's half the number of lenses you'll get from the Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's cameras have still produced impressive results during the short time I've had to use them. Samsung's computational photography chops might not have been quite up to Apple and Google's level over the past several years, but it's been very close, and the Z Flip should more than suffice in this department.
For example, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's ultra-wide camera squares up nicely with the 12-megapixel one inside the iPhone 11 Pro. Samsung's algorithms definitely brighten the darker regions more aggressively than Apple's, and there are some regions — like the brick walkway toward the bottom of the frame — that seem a tinge blown out. Otherwise, there's a lot to like here.
This portrait I snagged of my colleague Henry is also quite good, even if there are aspects I prefer from Apple's rendition. Henry's skin tone is a bit more natural through the iPhone's cameras, and of course the presence of a telephoto shooter on Apple's handset provides that more dramatic, zoomed-in look you probably want from a portrait. But the Z Flip appears to do a better job isolating Henry's clear glasses frames.
Ask anyone in the Tom's Guide office, and they'll tell you I really, really dislike big phones. But the Z Flip is a big phone I can get behind, precisely because it becomes so small when you're not using it. In fact, while some critics argue Samsung still hasn't proven there's much of a use for foldable tech yet, that reason alone is all I personally would need to justify the Z Flip and its high price tag — so long as the rest of the device is up to snuff, of course.
Our full review is coming, but until then, here’s some more impressions from our hands-on time with the phone both right after the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip launch and during our first day with the phone.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip specs
|Display||6.7-inch Super AMOLED (Ultra-thin glass; 2636x1080)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 855 Plus|
|Rear cameras||Dual: 12MP main (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2)|
|Front camera||10MP (f/2.0)|
|Size (folded)||3.4 x 2.9 x 0.61-0.68 inches|
|Size (open)||6.6 x 2.9 x 0.28 inches|
Galaxy Z Flip price and release date
One of the most appealing things about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip may be its price tag. The Z Flip isn't inexpensive — not when you compare it to more conventional handsets. But in the world of foldable devices, the Z Flip feels like a bargain.
Samsung is charging $1,380 for the Galaxy Z Flip. That's a $600 drop from what you'd pay for the Galaxy Fold, and it also happens to be less than the $1,500 the Motorola Razr will set you back. Whether the Z Flip delivers the kind of performance, battery life and photos to justify the four-figure price remains to be seen — that's what has tripped up other foldable devices — but at least the price of these kinds of phones is heading in the right direction.
The Galaxy Z Flip is available today (Feb. 14) — at least in theory. Both AT&T and Samsung were listing the phone as out of stock before noon EST, leaving Sprint and Best Buy as the only places with the Galaxy Z Flip still in stock. Here's how to order the Galaxy Z Flip, which appears to be available in limited quantities at this point.
Galaxy Z Flip design and durability
The distinctive thing about the Z Flip's design is its horizontal hinge, a contrast to the vertical hinge that the Galaxy Fold used. Samsung put a lot of effort into making sure that hinge is durable, claiming it can flip open 200,000 times.
Even more significantly, the Z Flip's hideaway hinge is designed to keep out dust, with a thin layer of fabric that's specifically there to make sure that particles can't find their way into the gap that exists between screen and hinge. That's what felled the original version of the Fold, forcing Samsung to delay that phone's release last year. At first glance, it look like Samsung learned its lessons from that phone's rollout.
When open, the Galaxy Z Flip's screen measures 6.7 inches from corner to corner. Rather than using plastic to protect the panel — the tack taken by every foldable maker to date — Samsung is debuting a new ultra-thin glass material on this model that we hope will make the Z Flip's display less prone to damage. It certainly feels more polished than the foldable phones I've held to date.
According to durability testing performed by the YouTube channel JerryRigsEverything, the Galaxy Z Flip’s display behaves more like plastic than glass when subject to various torture tests. However, we will wait to form our own conclusions after prolonged use.
Speaking of polish, you'll need to do that a lot to the exterior metal case of the Galaxy Z Flip. We've only had the phone in our possession for a brief time, but it picks up fingerprints faster than a criminologist. That's a shame because it mars an otherwise stylish look that you'll be eager to show off.
You'll be able to pick up the Galaxy Z Flip in Mirror Purple, Mirror Black and — depending on what country you live in — Mirror Gold. Pray you live in one of the limited areas where Mirror Gold is available — it's easily the sharpest of the Galaxy Z Flip's looks.
Galaxy Z Flip display
Samsung has turned to a full-HD+ display for the Galaxy Z Flip, with a resolution of 2636 x 1080 pixels. That's fewer than the quad-HD+ panels inside the Galaxy S20 series, but certainly more than the Razr's 6.2-inch, HD+ screen.
If you had hoped that Samsung figured out a way to get rid of the crease that marred the Galaxy Fold experience, you're going to be disappointed. There is a crease where the top and bottom halves of the Z Flip's extended screen meet, and it's not that difficult to spot. It's probably something most users will get used to over time, but when you're playing $1,380 for a phone, every little flaw sticks out. At least it's not as noticeable as the Razr's gigantic crease.
That internal display is not the only screen on the Galaxy Z Flip. On the phone's exterior, you'll find a 1.1-inch Super AMOLED panel that's just big enough to notify you of incoming calls, texts and alarms; it can also display the date and time, so you're not flipping open the phone just to see what time it is.
I had my doubts about the utility of this screen and I'm not sure I'm a fan of its placement just to the left of the phone's dual exterior cameras. But it serves other functions as well. Samsung says you can use it as a mini-view finder to shoot selfies with the Z Flip closed. Just press the power button twice to summon up the view finder and then hit one of the volume buttons to snap the shot. You only see a sliver of your face, but it's still an ingenious way to save you from opening up the phone just for a self-portrait.
Galaxy Z Flip camera
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip features two cameras on the exterior of its top half — a dual 12-megapixel arrangement that pairs a standard wide lens (ƒ/1.8) with an ultra-wide shooter (ƒ/2.2). There is also a 10-MP front-facing camera set centrally inside the display, Infinity-O style, just like on the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 10.
We'll have to test the Galaxy Z Flip's cameras to see how they perform. Again, this is an area where the Motorola Razr fell down. But there's one camera feature we've played around with this far that really takes advantage of the Galaxy Z Flip's design.
The Z Flip's hinge lets you open the phone at different angles, just like you would a laptop. And when you've got the phone open at a 90-degree angle, the base of the Z Flip not only acts as a handy tripod, but you can enable something Samsung has dubbed Flex Mode.
In Flex Mode, the top half of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's screen serves as a viewing area while all your actions are on the bottom of the screen. In the case of taking a photo, the top half is your viewfinder while all the camera's controls are accessible on the bottom of the display. It's a helpful way of keeping the action close to where your fingers are while give you a clear view at what you're shooting.
Using the base of the phone as a tripod should also be able to steady the Galaxy Z Flip to take pictures in low light. The phone's camera offers a Night mode and can take Night Hyperlapse videos — again, features we'll want to test for the full review.
Galaxy Z Flip performance
Samsung may have skipped the latest, greatest Android processor in the Galaxy Z Flip in neglecting to give it Qualcomm's brand new Snapdragon 865. However, at least the company is using the next best chip available.
That would be the Snapdragon 855 Plus, which debuted late last year in a small number of phones, including the OnePlus 7T and Asus' ROG Phone 2. Because it's the 855 and not the 865, the Z Flip cannot connect to 5G networks — though it should still be generally very snappy, with 8GB of RAM. Additionally, a standard 256GB of storage should provide plenty of space for apps, media and games.
We've already collected some early benchmarks during our time with the Z Flip. Samsung's latest foldable achieved a Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 2,685 points, along with a 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme score of 6,091 points. The OnePlus 7T fared only slightly better than the Z Flip, notching a 2,759 score in Geekbench 5. Meanwhile, Samsung's Galaxy Note 10, with its inferior standard 855 silicon (sans-Plus, that is) only delivered 5,374 in 3DMark's graphics test — roughly 700 points worse than the new Z Flip.
Of course, you can expect the upcoming generation of 865-powered Android phones to top the Z Flip by a considerable margin, but even so — this foldable is no slouch.
Galaxy Z Flip battery life
Inside the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is a 3,300-mAh battery, which is a respectable size for a foldable. Our first battery life test doesn't look great, as the Z Flip lasted only 6 hours and 22 minutes when surfing the web over 4G continuously. The phones with the best battery life last 11 to 12 hours.
For reference, the Razr uses a tiny 2,510-mAh power pack that allowed Motorola's handset to last only 6 hours and 4 minutes.
The Galaxy Fold was able to last 10 hours — about average for a smartphone — but its 4,380 mAh battery is much larger than what you get with the Galaxy Z Flip.
Like other recent Samsung flagships, the Galaxy Z Flip supports Wireless PowerShare, meaning you'll be able to wirelessly charge other Qi-compatible devices with this phone. The Galaxy Z Flip also supports fast charging.
Look forward to the results from Tom's Guide's custom battery test in the coming days to see where the Z Flip finishes among the competition.
Galaxy Z Flip software
The Galaxy Z Flip's camera app won't be the only app ready to take advantage of Flex Mode. Samsung says other apps have been optimized for the device, including third-party apps like Google Duo and YouTube. (You'll get a free subscription to YouTube Premium with your Galaxy Z Flip, in fact.) We hope to get a full list of just how many apps work with Flex Mode from Samsung.
Thanks to Android 10 and its support for foldable devices, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip offers multitasking through a Multi-Active Window feature. You'll be able to select the apps you want to use on different parts of the screen, though that feature only works with select apps. Again, we're waiting on Samsung to tell us which ones. You're restricted to two apps at once, which makes sense given the dimensions of the Z Flip's display.
We need to spend some more quality time with the Galaxy Z Flip before we know for certain whether the second time is the charm for Samsung and foldable phones. Based on the early hands-on time with the device, though, and the design decisions Samsung has made, the Z Flip comes across as a much more accessible device than the Galaxy Fold — easier to carry around and integrate into your life.
If the battery holds up and the cameras deliver as Samsung promises, foldable phones may have their first true success story.