Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip series is not the South Korean tech giant’s absolute apex flagship smartphone line. It isn’t even number two. By almost any smartphone evaluation metrics—camera prowess, display brilliance, or raw processing power—the Flip series falls behind Samsung’s Galaxy S and Fold lines. But that hasn’t mattered in the past year, as the Galaxy Z Flip 3 became Samsung’s breakout hit.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately (six countries in 40 days) and I have seen more Galaxy Z Flip 3s out in the wild than I have any other foldable phones ever—combined. This real world anecdotal experience, plus rave reviews from last year, along with sales data and conversations with industry analysts paint a clear conclusion that Samsung’s clamshell foldable line has broken through in ways most foldables still have not.
The new 2022 update, the Z Flip 4, isn’t a huge jump over the Flip 3—you can count all the major improvements on one hand—but it’s enough iterative improvements to keep the momentum going, and ensure the Flip 4 keep gaining market share over “normal” phones.
The Flip 4 looks almost identical to the Flip 3—which isn’t a bad thing, as last year’s phone was universally hailed as a good looking device. The Flip 4 is still a 6.7-inch smartphone that folds in half into a compact square with a form similar to the clamshell cell phones of the late 90s and early 2000s.
You still have a two-tone finish, with more color options than last year including the ability to customize color choices. Overall dimensions (84.9 x 71.9 x 15.9-17.1 mm) and weight (187g) are similar to last year’s, too. The glass body uses the newer Corning Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, which should mean it’s a bit stronger than last year’s. Otherwise, if you’ve held the Flip 3, the Flip 4 will feel almost exactly the same.
In terms of meaningful improvements, the Flip 4 only really trumps the Flip 3 in three areas the processor powering the Flip 4 is the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1; the main camera has a larger image sensor, which helps light in take and produces a shallower depth of field for close up photos of people or objects; and the battery size is larger at 3,700 mAh.
All three changes matter. The Flip 3’s battery life was mediocre, the camera’s good but not great. The new, more efficient Qualcomm silicon plus bigger battery does indeed add a couple more hours of endurance. The Flip 4 still won’t last a long day of heavy use for me, but it can at least get close. And on lighter usage weekdays, battery life is fine.
As for the cameras, I wouldn’t say the Flip 4’s cameras are great, but they’re very good. The main camera captures lively, sharp images during the day, and at night, doesn’t have to rely on night mode as much. The ultra-wide is solid, too, Samsung’s image process does a good job minimizing noise and distortion.
Just like previous Flips, however, it’s the versatility that makes the Flip 4 fun to use. Because its hinge can stay in place at various angles (like a laptop), this allows the Flip 4 to double as its own tripod, able to shoot photos or videos at a much wider range of angle without needing a hand. The Flip 4 is one of my favorite devices to take video calls, because I can place it on any surface and do the call hands-free. And its small size is much easier to pull out on a train table, or cramped coffee shop bar table than a laptop.
The Flip 4’s main 6.7-inch internal folding screen looks great if you stare it at straight ahead, but any off-angle viewing will be distracting because there’s a noticeable crease at the folding point. But still, most of the time, the 1080 x 2640 screen looks great, with excellent color reproduction. Animations are fast and fluid, too.
When the Flip is folded, you can interact with the phone via the 1.9-inch outside screen, whose rectangular shape and small size makes it mostly ideal for performing basic tasks like checking calendar events and controlling music. You can read notifications on the screen, but just limited information. This is still a phone you have to unfold to get most things done.
This is one area where Samsung can improve. Motorola makes a similar clamshell foldable, and it has a much larger and usable outside screen that can display apps in full (albeit the app looks cramped). Do keep in mind, however, the Flip 4 beats Motorola’s foldable in virtually all other areas, so Motorola needs to learn a lot more from Samsung than vice versa.
The Flip 4 runs on the most powerful chip in the Android space, so it absolutely performs like a champ. Apps launch immediately, you can cycle through a half dozen apps without skipping a beat, and the Flip 4’s light weight and slim build make the phone very pleasant to hold and use.
Haptics and speakers are also excellent for a smaller device. I often place the Flip 4 on a table, tilt the screen up, and use it as a mini video playing machine or with Twitter open so I can keep track of news without needing to reach over to pick up the phone. Battery life, as mentioned, is good but not great. If you’re a heavy user you will still need to charge it mid-afternoon to ensure it can go late into the night. But for the most part, this is acceptable battery life for a phone of this size.
The Flip 4 has major mainstream appeal
Ultimately, I liked my time with the Flip 4. I particularly liked being able to take hands-free group photos with friends, and the extra pocket space I had because the Flip 4 is so compact. If you’ve been considering your first foldable, the Flip 4 is a worthy consideration, considering its price of entry ($999) isn’t prohibitively expensive, and these phones have been around long enough that the average consumer don’t have to worry about supposed fragility anymore. However, if you already own the Flip 3, then there’s no need to upgrade unless you have expendable income.
As I’ve said from my very first Flip review: this clamshell form factor isn’t for me. I am a full believer that foldables should go larger and become more than a phone. The Galaxy Z Flip 4, to me, is still mostly a “normal” phone that folds in half to become something tiny. I am a believer of the Galaxy Z Fold series more, because that is a phone that becomes a mini tablet.
But I seem to be in the minority, because as I said, I have seen far more Galaxy Z Flips lately than I do Folds. The Flip is Samsung’s mobile division’s MVP.
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