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

Not much has changed for Samsung’s most popular foldable.

Engadget / Mat Smith

Samsung’s first foldable phone might have been the Galaxy Z Fold, but most of us want the Galaxy Z Flip. The company said as much itself, announcing that 70 percent of its foldable customers picked 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 getting to grips with the bigger-screened foldables, when it comes to the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Samsung took the smartphone interface as we know it, and, well, folded it.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 isn’t a major departure from what last year’s Z Flip 3 offered. Unlike the Fold series, which has seen a few design changes for 2022, it’s a little trickier to discern 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 the one on 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 there’s more control over what else shows up here.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on
Engadget / Mat Smith

In addition to widgets offering weather and calendar information, there’s a quick settings widget and quick-dial options for your closest contacts. Unlike the last-gen Z Flip, you can now delete whichever widgets you don’t want, saving on swipes. You can also access Samsung wallet functions to make contactless payments without flipping the device open — something that was missing from its predecessors. On the Z Flip 3, you could answer incoming calls, but now you can call and text without opening your phone. Is it as useful? Not hugely, but it’s at least 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 constrained to shooting your selfies in a square-ish format, and you can tap through to the same selfie view you’d get from shooting it on a typical smartphone – just with (probably better) cameras. There’s also a decent portrait mode, and you can record video directly from the outer display, too. The screens will auto-rotate as you manipulate camera angles, which means you can kinda hold it like a ‘90s camcorder. It’s cute.

Flex mode has been improved further, too. 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 to control apps not yet supported on the Z Flip 4, when you’re running them on half of the display. It adds a pointer to navigate the app, as well as the ability to tap through, and you can interact and scroll through content too. While the Z Flip 4 isn’t the multitasking foldable – that's the Z Fold 4’s purview – you can split the screen in half in Flex Mode, launching secondary apps with a two-finger swipe from the bottom. Of course, there’s still the usual dividing line icon between the two apps if you’re looking to swap around 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 was able to throw at it during my short time with it. Another notable upgrade is battery capacity, up 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 that runs a little longer. Samsung's Super Fast Charging is now supported on Z Flip4, which should charge the foldable up to 50 percent in around 30 minutes.

Most of the other significant specs are unchanged. The main screen is a 6.7-inch FHD+ (2,640 x 1,080) AMOLED screen capable of up to 120Hz refresh rates, with three storage options (128GB, 256GB, 512GB), all of which come with 8GB of RAM. The screen is bright and vivid, but if you’re hoping for a life without creases, it’s not here just yet, even on these early demo devices.

Samsung says it has enhanced the durability of its foldables, with improved super thin glass across the main display and an enhanced panel strip that supports the display during your pokes, prods and swipes. Yet again, the Z Flip 4 is IPX8 waterproof as well. If you're a Z Flip 3 owner, you might notice the thinner hinge.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on
Engadget / Mat Smith

When it comes to cameras, it gets a little more complicated. On paper, the Z Flip 4 appears to have the same array as its predecessors (read: two 12-megapixel sensors). However, these are improved cameras. The 12-megapixel ultrawide camera has an f/2.2 lens, while the 12MP wide camera has an f/1.8 lens and bigger 1.8-micron pixels. Samsung says these bigger 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 has also improved stabilization and subject tracking for stills and video. During my brief testing, the cameras seemed more responsive and capable than when I used the Z Flip 3’s camera. That said, the Z Flip series was never at the cutting edge of smartphone photography, which is likely to continue.

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 will start at $1,000 with 128GB of storage. It’ll launch in four color options: Blue, Pink Gold, Black and Bora Purple. (Bora means purple, so that’s... Purple Purple.) If those aren’t quite to your tastes, the Z Flip 4 will also arrive alongside a Bespoke customization service offering 75 different color permutations. That includes five different body colors and three different frame colors. You’ll be able to preorder the device starting today from Samsung, Amazon and other retailers, with a launch set for August 26th. Stay tuned for our full review very soon.

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