Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on: A design that works

Samsung’s first foldable phone might have been the Galaxy Z Fold, but most of us want the Galaxy Z Flip. The company said so itself, announcing that 70 percent of its foldable customers have chosen the clamshell option. Compared to the Galaxy Z Fold series, the Z Flip phones are not as thick, not as big, and not as expensive. While Google’s Android team is still grappling with the larger-screen foldable devices, with the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Samsung has taken the smartphone interface as we know it and, well, folded it.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 isn’t a huge departure from what last year’s Z Flip 3 offered. Unlike the Fold series, which saw some design changes for 2022, it’s a bit harder to tell the differences here. However, Samsung has focused on making the most of the Flip series’ unique form factor.

Let’s start with the 1.9-inch AMOLED front display. It’s the same size as last year’s Z Flip 3, but Samsung has added more controls and widget customization, and the color theme can be paired with your Samsung wearable if you have one. You can still add your own photos to the screen, but you have more control over what else appears here.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on

Engadget/Mat Smith

In addition to widgets with weather and calendar information, there is a quick setting widget and speed dial options for your closest contacts. Unlike the last-gen Z Flip, you can now delete any widgets you don’t want, saving swipes. You can also access Samsung Wallet features to make contactless payments without having to open the device – something its predecessors lacked. You could answer incoming calls on the Z Flip 3, but now you can call and text without opening your phone. Is it just as useful? Not much, but at least it’s possible now. Hopefully software updates will add some of these features to older Z Flip devices.

The experience of using the outer display as a camera viewfinder has also been improved. You’re no longer limited to taking your selfies in a square format, and you can access the same selfie view you’d get from a typical smartphone – only with (probably better) cameras. There’s a decent portrait mode too, and you can shoot video straight from the outer display too. The screens rotate automatically as you manipulate camera angles, meaning you can hold them like a ’90s camcorder. It’s cute.

Flex mode has also been further improved. This includes interface upgrades for video streaming and calling beyond Google’s own Android apps like Meet. It should work with Instagram (both Reels and Stories), Facebook, Zoom, WhatsApp, and YouTube, among others.

There’s also a new floating touchpad for controlling apps not yet supported on the Z Flip 4 if you run them on half the display. It adds a pointer to navigate the app, the ability to tap through, and you can interact and scroll through content as well. While the Z Flip 4 doesn’t do the foldable multitasking – that’s the Z Fold 4’s intended purpose – you can split the screen in half in Flex mode and launch secondary apps with a two-finger swipe from the bottom. Of course, there’s still the usual separator line icon between the two apps if you want to swap app placement or maximize one of them.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on

Engadget/Mat Smith

With an even faster chip, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the Z Flip 4 handled everything I could do with it in my short time. Another notable upgrade is the battery capacity, which has increased from 3,300mAh on the Z Flip 3 to 3,700mAh. Given that battery life was one of our biggest complaints with last year’s Z Flip, hopefully we can expect a foldable device that runs a little longer. Samsung’s Super Fast Charging is now supported on the Z Flip4, which is said to charge the foldable to 50 percent in around 30 minutes.

Most other important specifications are unchanged. The main screen is a 6.7-inch FHD+ (2640 x 1080) AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz and three storage options (128GB, 256GB, 512GB), all of which come with 8GB of RAM. The screen is bright and vibrant, but if you’re hoping for a wrinkle-free life, that’s not the case just yet, even on these early demo devices.

Samsung says it’s improved the durability of its foldable devices, with upgraded super-thin glass over the main display and an improved panel strip that supports the display during your bumps, jabs and swipe gestures. Once again, the Z Flip 4 is also IPX8 waterproof. If you’re a Z Flip 3 owner, you might notice the thinner hinge.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on

Engadget/Mat Smith

With cameras, things get a little more complicated. On paper, the Z Flip 4 appears to have the same array as its predecessors (read: dual 12-megapixel sensors). However, these are improved cameras. The 12MP ultrawide camera features an f/2.2 lens, while the 12MP wide-angle camera features an f/1.8 lens and larger 1.8micron pixels. Samsung says these larger pixels translate to better low-light performance and sharper shots, and the company claims it will capture 65 percent more light. The new Z Flip also has improved stabilization and subject tracking for stills and video. During my brief tests, the cameras seemed more responsive and capable than when using the Z Flip 3’s camera. However, the Z Flip series has never been at the forefront of smartphone photography, and it likely won’t be.

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 starts at $1,000 with 128GB of storage. It will be launched in four color options: blue, rose gold, black and bora purple. (Bora means purple, so that’s… lilac purple.) If that’s not quite your taste, the Z Flip 4 also comes bundled with a bespoke customization service that offers 75 different color combinations. This includes five different body colors and three different frame colors. You can pre-order the device from Samsung, Amazon and other retailers starting today, with a launch scheduled for August 26. Stay tuned for our full review very soon.

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