Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has been out for quite some time. By now, you’ve probably read the reviews and also heard the ‘to buy or not to buy’ verdicts. And if that’s the case, you’ve most definitely made up your find if you are willing to fork out a staggering $1,380 for a phone which folds in half.
I’ve had the Galaxy Z Flip for over a month now, and for me, it has been a perfectly serviceable device. But let’s clear the air here – the foldable form factor is just an attention-grabbing feature that adds a few hundred dollars to the price. At least, that’s what my impression has been so far. The Snapdragon 855+ is still blazing fast, there is enough RAM and storage, and the cameras are fine by 2019 high-end smartphone standards.
But here is the big question – what about Flex Mode? Samsung made a big deal about it during the launch presentation and noted that Flex Mode will truly transform the way a phone (read: foldable phone) is used. The demonstration was impressive, and Samsung really tried to sell it as the more practical reason for buying its foldable phone. But I am not inclined to believe that after using the phone. Here’s why:
What is Flex Mode?
Flex Mode is just a fancy name to tell you that the Galaxy Z Flip can adjust the UI of an app to take advantage of the foldable form factor. Mostly, it is about bending the phone at about 90 to 130-degree angle and using it to get some ergonomic benefit while running certain apps. This can be done with either two apps or a single app. But unfortunately, that’s just about it.
When is Flex Mode useful?
To be honest, there are only a handful of apps that can take advantage of Flex Mode. The first one is the native camera app. If you fold the phone at an angle while the camera app is on, the interface gets divided into two halves. The top half becomes the viewfinder, while the shutter button, camera modes, and lens control appear on the lower half.
Talking selfies while bending the phone’s two halves at a 90-degree angle (or something close to that) is actually quite comfortable, and I prefer it over doing so on a glass slab phone. You can freely adjust the angle of the upper half, and with it, the selfie camera’s view. So, rather than tilting your phone to capture a scene, you can just adjust the angle of the upper half of the display and you’re good to go.
Be it finding the perfect selfie angle or capturing the best background in vlogs, the Flex Mode on Galaxy Z Flip makes the process way more convenient. Also, the natural grip on the phone’s lower half makes it easy to tap the shutter button without having to stretch your thumb or using the other hand. Or, you can just keep the phone still on any surface, activate the timer and click the perfect photo by making the necessary adjustments while looking at the upper half as a viewfinder.
On the flip (pun intended) side though, the Galaxy Z Flip is extremely slippery and easily slides off any surface that is even remotely angled or smooth. Also, the squarish viewfinder – which is essentially the upper half of the display – might not be a true aspect ratio representation of a selfie photo when it comes to framing the shot. However, if you look forward to taking advantage of the foldable form factor for clicking selfies in third-party apps, you are out of luck.
On a similar note, you can make Duo video calls by placing the phone in front of you on a table or desk, and not having to hold it your hands. This really comes in handy when your hands are occupied. But the bad part is that the hands-free video calling experience is limited to the Google Duo app, and is not yet available for other popular apps like WhatsApp or Skype. This app compatibility issue severely limits a promising feature from truly revolutionizing the experience.
Samsung also showed a Flex Mode demo for the YouTube app on Galaxy Z Flip, but that is yet to arrive widely for users. All in all, Flex Mode holds a lot of promise, but we need more apps to play well with it and offer a unique experience before it can justify the Galaxy Z Flip’s sky-high price.
Samsung got lucky
Then there are scenarios where you want to use two apps in split-view. For example, running the calculator in the lower half while going through your shopping wishlist on the upper half to quickly calculate the net cost. Or, reading an article on the upper half in Chrome, and jotting down a note on the lower half nestled comfortably in your palms.
I can recount a few more scenarios here, but you get the point. However, this has nothing to do with Flex Mode. Instead, this is just your regular split-screen multitasking experience that benefits from having the foldable form factor at your disposal. You can accomplish the same on any other phone that costs half as much or even lesser, but without the oomph of a foldable phone.
Flex Mode is not there yet!
At the end of the day, Flex Mode turns out to be a feature that can stand out, but the severe lack of app compatibility makes it a huge letdown. Had there been more apps that could offer a unique Flex Mode experience, you could consider paying a $1,380 premium for that.
However, a phone that essentially offers the same hardware as last year’s Galaxy S10e, but costs over twice and comes with a ton of fragility issues is not worth that money. Not yet, at least. Not until Flex Mode truly matures in terms of app support and can persuade buyers to get the Galaxy Z Flip on merit, instead of something as advanced and capable as the Galaxy S20 Ultra or iPhone 11 Pro Max that falls in the same price bracket.