Wow. I’ve just finished using the Samsung announced on Tuesday in San Francisco, and I can already say this phone is something special. I know, I know, I say that about all the foldable phones I use for the first time. Each is unique, and seems to build off the last. But the $1,380 (£1,300) Galaxy Z Flip has two important distinctions that blow me away — and that signal that the $1,499 is in trouble., the foldable flip phone
They both come down to the screen’s sturdiness and flexibility. The Z Flip has the world’s first foldable glass screen and the top of the phone can stand up on its own at most angles. It doesn’t hurt that the Z Flip’s screen doesn’t creak when you open it. I tried that out on three different demo units.
Compared to the Razr, the Z Flip also costs $119 less and packs in more features — like two 12-megapixel cameras and a 10-megapixel interior camera, rather than the Razr’s single 16-megapixel lens.
Thein Mirror Purple (yasss), Mirror Black and in select countries, Mirror Gold. That glass body really is mirrored, too — those fingerprints build up fast. It’ll cost $1,380 in the US and £1,300 in the UK. Australian pricing is TBA, but the UK price converts to about AU$2,500.
Read on for what it’s like to use the Galaxy Z Flip, how the hinge works and all the pros and cons I noticed in my 40 minutes using the clamshell foldable so far (10 minutes in one demo room and 30 in another).
Z Flip’s glass screen could be killer
What’s it like to use a foldable glass screen, instead of a plastic display?
It might be too soon to tell, but I immediately noticed that the screen crease looked less pronounced than I’ve ever seen it. I could still see light reflecting off of it at the bend, and could feel a slight dip when I ran my fingertip deliberately over the midline. It’s certainly more subtle than on the Galaxy Fold.
I tapped the glass too, and listened, but didn’t hear that telltale clink. Must be because it’s ultrathin. Navigation felt smooth in my brief time with the device, and so did the surface.
Since the very first first peep about foldable phones, glass has been the holy grail of foldable screens: Thin enough to fold without breaking, but providing a more effective shield to the delicate OLED display beneath than a sheet of plastic.
The hope is that an ultrathin foldable glass will also deflect scratches and water damage. The question we still have to answer is if and how it will break when you inevitably drop it.
A big deal: The screen stands up on its own
In addition to foldable glass, the Z Flip’s second distinction is the fact that the hinge is sturdy enough for the screen to stand upright on its own without slowly closing or opening.
I pushed and pulled the upper portion of the screen at every angle from the base, and it wasn’t until the very bottom or very top of that arc that the phone either opened fully or else snapped shut, assisted by magnets at the corners.
A self-supporting screen has been high on my list since the first foldable phone prototypes we’ve seen, especially if you can view an image or video on the top portion while typing or doing something else on the bottom. On a taller, narrower design like the Z Flip, you’ll get the convenience of watching a video hands-free, though the clip itself will feel pocket-size compared to the 7.3-inch Galaxy Fold, which you’d watch totally unfolded.
Samsung has also partnered with Google (specifically YouTube) to make its app split into two portions when the Z Flip bends. The idea is to watch YouTube videos on the upper screen while reading comments on the bottom. I wasn’t able to test this, because YouTube needs an update for that to work, but I was able to see the effect on the camera app. A row of controls appears on the bottom and the image retreats on the top.
We’ll need more apps to take advantage of the capability to see how well it works in the real world.
How long will the Z Flip screen really last?
Samsung says the Galaxy Z Flip’s screen will last 200,000 flips without damage, or about what you’d get after five years of use. This figure speaks to the wear and tear on the screen and hinge resulting from opening and closing the device repeatedly.
That’s the same rated number of uses as the Galaxy Fold, which CNET tested last October on a machine called the FoldBot. That test, which was meant to be an approximation and not a scientific final word, Motorola challenges the FoldBot’s results.). Meanwhile, we stopped the test on the when the same machine could no longer fold it. (We note the results aren’t exactly comparable, and
All of this is to say that we don’t know yet how long it will really last in the real world, or even more importantly, what kind of environmental damage from water, moisture, dust, sand and ordinary objects like fingernails and keys the screen and hinge mechanism can sustain. We do know that Samsung has included fibers inside the hinge area that will work like nose hairs to help trap or filter out dust and debris.
Little danger of repeating Galaxy Fold mistakes
The Z Flip’s glass screen is expected to bypass the Galaxy Fold’s biggest early vulnerabilities, like damage due to pressure. But the Z Flip also avoids confusion because there’s no gap between the thick plastic bezel and the screen for a fingernail to slide into (or any dust).
Samsung also carried over the plastic T-caps (as I call them) that fit into the sides of the hinge. The purpose of these is to reinforce the area, which could be more susceptible to gunk getting caught underneath the display and causing bulges or internal damage. This is a carry-over from the.
What the outer screen is good for
Probably 95% of the time, you’ll use the Z Flip open. That’s because the cover display is a mere 1.1 inches at the diagonal. That doesn’t give you much room for anything but the smallest notification icons that roll out ticker messages when you tap them. You’ll see things like a Wi-Fi icon, missed call and other notifications, and the alarm.
You can also use it as a viewfinder for taking a selfie, or tap a button on the inside for someone else to see their face before you snap the shot. But it just seems too small, squat and wide to really be effective.
I thought the Motorola Razr’s 2.7-inch outer display was tiny, but at least it lets you select canned message responses and use voice commands. The Galaxy Fold, meanwhile, has a 4.6-inch cover display that lets you do everything that Android can do, but which is too small to comfortably type on. I never thought I’d miss it.
Camera, battery life, fingerprint reader
Forty minutes isn’t a long time to try out a device, so I didn’t get much chance to take photos and analyze them. But I do like that the Z Flip has two main cameras. I wind up using wide-angle mode more than I ever expected. It’s especially useful for making selfies look more natural, and for bringing backgrounds into the scene.
Battery life is also something I’ll keep a close eye on. The Z Flip has two battery cells that work in tandem to give a 3,300-mAh total capacity. That’s less than flagship regular phones, but typical for the foldable phones we’ve seen so far. The Flip is small enough that the capacity could last a whole day, but dual batteries are known for being less efficient than a single cell.
I’m also curious how easy the fingerprint reader will be to use. It’s integrated into the power button on the Z Flip’s right side and has a flat surface, just like on the Galaxy Fold. You double press it to launch the camera, as you would on other Android phones (the Z Flip uses Android 10). When it’s closed, the fingerprint reader is on the top of the screen sandwich, with a whole other side of the screen just below it. It feels a little weird, and I wonder if it’ll get in the way at all when using the phone, or is this is just one more feature to get used to.
Galaxy Z Flip specs
There’s a lot more of the Galaxy Z Flip to explore, especially as it compares to the Motorola Razr foldable flip phone. CNET will review the device as soon as we can.
Galaxy Z Flip versus Motorola Razr
|Samsung Galaxy Z Flip||Motorola Razr|
|Display size, resolution||Internal: 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED; 2,636×1,080-pixels / External: 1.1-inch Super AMOLED; 300×112-pixels||Internal: 6.2-inch, foldable pOLED; 2,142x876p pixels (21:9) / External: 2.7-inch glass OLED, 800×600-pixels (4:3)|
|Pixel density||425ppi (internal) / 303ppi (external)||373ppi (internal screen)|
|Dimensions (Inches)||Folded: 2.99 x 3.44 x 0.62 ~ 0.68 in / Unfolded: 2.99 x 6.59 x 0.27 ~0.28 in||Unfolded: 6.8 x 2.8 x 0.28 in / Folded: 3.7 x 2.8 x 0.55 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||Folded: 73.6 x 87.4 x 15.4 ~17.3 mm / Unfolded: 73.6 x 167.3 x 6.9 ~ 7.2 mm||Unfolded: 172 x 7 2 x 6.9mm / Folded: 94 x 72 x 14mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.46 oz; 183g||7.2 oz; 205g|
|Mobile software||Android 10||Android 9 Pie|
|Camera||12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra wide-angle)||16-megapixel external (f/1.7, dual pixel AF), 5-megapixel internal|
|Front-facing camera||10-megapixel||Same as main 16-megapixel external|
|Video capture||4K (HDR 10 Plus)||4K|
|Processor||64-bit octa-core||Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 (2.2GHz, octa-core)|
|Battery||3,300 mAh||2,510 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Right side||Below screen|
|Special features||Foldable display; wireless PowerShare; wireless charging; fast charging||Foldable display, eSIM, Motorola gestures, splashproof|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$1,380||$1,499|
|Price (GBP)||£1,300||Converts to £1,170|
|Price (AUD)||UK price converts to AU$2,500||Converts to AU$2,185|
Originally published earlier this week.