The honeymoon phase is interesting regardless of what product you just acquired. Maybe it’s that new car smell, or the experience of making your new apartment look just right. With smartphones the experience is usually very similar, unless you wore up at midnight on February 14th and were fast enough to order the new kid in town.
This is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. Samsung’s second bet on a foldable future, and what the company dubs as a new spin into how a smartphone is designed.
I know many of you see this and think nostalgia, and remember that cellphone you used in the late 90s or early 2000s. Back then a compact solution that competed with the tanks of the time made sense, but the question is if having a clamshell is actually better in any way than to have a regular smartphone.
It’s hard to deny that Samsung made a very bold move at Tuesday’s Galaxy Unpacked. I mean, announce the Galaxy Z Flip first, with specs that actually don’t make this look like a mid-ranger, then price it slightly below the new Moto RAZR, and then to actually launch it at a time when Moto is still dealing with shipping issues.. Yeah that’s what I call aggressive.
If only they offered enough units of it, as I heard Best Buy stores barely received two units a piece, so of course it was gonna be sold out minutes later. While you wait for your device, let’ me run down what you’re gonna get.
The Unboxing experience is kind of weird because well, Samsung doesn’t go all out as with the Fold or even the Galaxy Note 10. It is a taller design with the Z on the cover and flip under it, and below we have some literature that tells us how the future changes shape, all while we have the device below with lots of care instructions in the protective sticker. I’m gonna owe you the whole ASMR experience of removing the plastic because coffee shops are notorious for copyright music, but special thanks to Michael Fisher for doing the honors while I held the camera.
The contents are really what makes this phone feel cheaped out. The old fast charging brick is here, since I don’t really think the Z Flip is capable of more wattage, which also means a USB A to USB Cable, along with the usual adapter. And if you thought that for #1380 you’d at least get a pair of the old Galaxy Buds, think again. Regular wires to USB-C sadly, even if these buds are tuned by AKG and sound really well. Now keep an eye for that top cover as the phone’s case is actually hidden in there with some literature. More on how it feels to actually use that in a sec.
As the coffee expedition continued we also went through the typical initial setup, which really hasn’t changed much. You start with the usual Bixby talk you’d wish you could switch off, accepting terms of service no human has ever read, and then Wi-Fi settings. The phone checks for updates and if you choose to restore from an old phone, it immediately goes in to Smart Switch if you confirm you have the phone at hand, and if not to Google’s restore if you don’t. I love this, as Michael restored from his Galaxy Fold, while I restored from my Galaxy Note 10+ in no time. I actually had the impression that the process was far slower wireless than wired, but nope, it’s really quick. Now once that restore is done you’re once again greeted by all the same warnings in the sticker, right before landing in the home screen. The cool thing is that once all that is done, restoring from a Galaxy will allow all your folders and apps to be placed just like you had them.
I think the best way to describe my initial impressions using the Z Flip is, well, it’s like if Samsung decided to turn the Galaxy S10e into a foldable. This is both good and bad, as the S10e was one of the most beloved Galaxies of 2019, and also, the one with less features.
While extended it literally looks like a taller S10e with the rounded borders for the flat screen, and the rounded curves at the back. You even have the same side-mounted power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner, and that you can also use for gestures to call on the notification shade. This is really handy given the tall form factor, but that’s so long as you’re right handed. The fact that this phone folds only takes that compact pocketability to a whole new level. Sure, the thickness when closed brings in a thicker than average bump, but it’s not like if a tall Galaxy Note 10 feels any better when stowed away.
One thing I will recommend is either grab the optional leather case, or use this phone without one. The case in the box is just bad. It only intensifies the amount of lint this phone picks up in minutes. The “mirror” finish on either color makes this quite the fingerprint magnet, and the case makes this worse instead of better.
The other to consider is that, well, the whole idea of flip phones back in the day was that added convenience of being able to quickly flip your phone open for interaction. The Z Flip is not that at all. Samsung intentionally built this hinge with additional stops for you to be able to set the phone on a table and interact with apps like the camera, but then that means that you need to flip this phone really hard to get it to open.
That flipping hasn’t proven to be in this device’s convenience if you read the instructions that come in the box. It doesn’t recommend that you press your fingers to it, and yet you need use your finger and a gesture to push the screen to open. Otherwise it’s a two-handed process that is, if anything, less convenient than a flat slab.
The good thing is that, this is not like the times of the Galaxy Fold. If you think of it, this device has the best display on a foldable because it’s now finally glass instead of plastic (or is it?). Samsung hasn’t provided details on any sort of rating or what makes this possible, but it does feel sturdy. I actually have this satisfying feeling each time I type on it, for reasons I still can’t explain.
This is a 6.7-inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED at 21.9:9 aspect ratio that has a few pros and cons. It is quite vibrant in direct sunlight and colors are fantastic. Obviously yes, it folds, but the content consumption experience is not my favorite. For starters viewing angles aren’t really its best feature, which only get worse if you use polarized lenses in direct sunlight. And then there’s the case where there are no stereo speakers, and no headphone jack. The speaker is loud though so long as you don’t cover it (audio test).. And I do find my initial tests with phone calls to be very loud and crisp.
And then specs are a blend of flagship specs of 2019, and a few things that date even prior. I mean the processor, RAM and battery size are standards from last year. The storage size and speed from this year. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and network are also older standards, and the fact that this phone is not water resistant at all are things to consider, and yet if I were to compare it to other current foldables, you can’t deny that this is the most powerful device in this form factor at the moment.
You can totally tell in the way this phone handles OneUI 2.0. It’s based on Android 10, and even if it looks like its predecessor, it feels faster and more fluid than before. Samsung has also made some UI updates in order to improve your experience multi-tasking, which to a certain degree come from the Galaxy Fold, like the short cuts from the side for a quicker multi-window. And there’s also the new Flex Mode that allows you to place the phone on a table and take selfies, standard photos, or do video calls. Thing is, that’s it. There’s kind of no other functionality here, aside from Samsung’s Native apps. In absolutely everything else, what you already know about OneUI 2 is what you’re going to see here.
And if you were expecting to do lots of interaction with that outer display, well, you’re gonna have to make peace with the fact that you can’t really do much with a 1-inch display. Raise the phone to get the time, swipe to see the icons of notifications, but then everything else requires you to open the phone.
I have the feeling that Samsung decided to sacrifice this functionality to build-in a larger dual battery module. Yes, it’s only been 24 hours of testing, and so far I can’t say it’s bad, but I’ll need more time to tell you if it’s good.
Now, another way to say this phone is sooooo S10e is because of the cameras. Like the e, there’s are only two cameras here, a standard and an ultra-wide, and one punch hole selfie camera. Looks can be deceiving, though as the specs mimic more the Galaxy S20, than last year’s S10e.
As a result, photos are what I’d like to call, very Galaxy. Samsung has done a good job at toning down its saturation and delivering some very warm and colorful results that are not too over saturated as before. You do have the versatility of an ultra-wide but distortion on it is not very pleasing, even if you activate the mode to correct it.
Live Focus portraits remain very good and with the versatility of allowing you to switch to different effects or completely off, and the Night photography that I took rendered some really good results for the most part. I mean the mode does work on the ultra wide but the results were not as good as the primary.
Given the form factor you can use this primary camera to take selfies, which is a plus. That said the internal selfie camera is not bad for the most part. I tried it a few times in that flex mode that I find genius, and again in very Galaxy fashion, skin tones are slightly beautified if that’s your thing.
Thing is, look at this selfie video stabilization. Alright, I’m in shock. This is from that punch hole camera, which is now capable of recording at 4K at 60 frames per second. Even the color is not blown out over the bright sun. I’m seriously very impressed.
Stabilization is even better than on the primary camera, which is not to say that it’s bad. Sadly if you want to go 4K you have to switch off the super steady video, though you also get the benefit of switching focal lengths. I seriously can’t believe how much better this camera is at video than even the S10+, but I’ll need more time to test to assure you of that.
I think the best way to narrow down my initial conclusions with the Galaxy Z Flip is that it’s a very pleasant surprise. I mean, the design is quite futuristic, we finally get glass on a curved display, and the overall experience of using this phone is actually good for the most part.
The thing is, the value proposition of foldables is something that’s still hard to justify today. In the past, phones folded to become smaller, which gave users a more portable alternative to the tanks of the time. It made sense for miniaturization to be more expensive.
Having a tablet adopt the size of a phone is a great reason for a foldable, but then what would be the purpose for a clamshell that’s not that much more portable than a standard smartphone, and then is specked like a $700 phone, while costing double the money.
It’s a tough sell, but stay tuned for our full review to see if it’s actually worth your money. Let us know what you think about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip in the comments down below and while you’re at it follow us on social media.