The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is one of the few phones I’ve been truly excited to review, but after using it for two weeks, I’d say that I’m left with mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s super cool holding a piece of the future, and it’s refreshing to review a phone so different from anything I’ve ever tested. On the other, the Galaxy Z Flip is too expensive for a phone with questionable long-term durability and last year’s specs. Should you get a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip? No, you probably shouldn’t, but I can’t blame you if you do even if it’s just for the sake of standing out – kind of how I’d probably buy a Ferrari if I could afford it, despite the terrible fuel efficiency and tiny trunk space. This phone is a guaranteed conversation starter and a remarkable feat of engineering, while the compact size when it’s closed would be appreciated by many.
Still, if a compact Android phone is what you’re looking for, keep in mind that the Samsung Galaxy S10e costs $800 less while having identical cameras, battery life, and fingerprint reader as the Flip. Oh, and you don’t have to flip it open every time you want to read a text or check the weather.
Design: futuristic but frustrating
By the way, fun fact: did you know that it’s common for women’s jeans to have front pockets that are fake or too small to be practical? When folded, the Galaxy Z Flip becomes super compact and fits easily into small pockets, without sticking out – a prime reason why this form factor will appeal to women.
But while the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip looks stunning, I can’t say that I find its design very practical. For starters, having to unfold the Galaxy Z Flip all the time gets annoying quickly. It’s a two-hand action. Technically, you can open it with one hand, but that means grinding your nail against that fragile screen every time. Perhaps a spring-loaded, button-activated mechanism would have been nice having.
The folding mechanism has been working well so far. Samsung notes that nylon fibers have been strategically added in the gaps to prevent dust from entering. But the phone does not have an IP rating so it’s not resistant to water damage.
Additionally, I’ve noticed that the Galaxy Z Flip does not close completely shut. As a result, dust and pocket lint gathers between the display’s two halves. The raised plastic border around the display makes it difficult to clean – another minor annoyance.
Then there’s the problem with weight distribution. The phone is very tall and feels top-heavy which makes every-day use less comfortable, especially with a single hand.
The fingerprint reader appears to be identical to the one on the Samsung Galaxy S10e. It is embedded in the power button mounted on the right side. It works, but it is neither reliable nor comfortable to use.
Another issue I’ve noticed is that the vibration motor is kind of weak. I’ve missed multiple phone calls and many notifications simply because I didn’t feel the phone vibrating in my pocket.
Display: foldable yet fragile
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has a 6.7-inch foldable AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2636 by 1080 pixels. It looks great overall, as do all of Samsung’s premium displays nowadays, but the crease in the middle can be mildly distracting. It is noticeable during the day, when there’s plenty of ambient light to expose it. In the evening, however, the crease becomes less visible – to the point that I completely ignore it.
What’s a much more serious issue is that the display on the Galaxy Z Flip is anything but durable. There’s a layer of super-thin glass in the display assembly, but it’s covered by a layer of plastic for protection, so plastic is what your fingers actually touch. Over the past two weeks, the display’s surface has accumulated four small dents, likely caused by fingernails, and one vertical scratch from when I tried to open the phone with a single hand. That’s worrying when I’ve been treating the phone with care at all times. Welcome to the future!
There’s a bunch of other issues I’ve noticed. For instance, touch sensitivity could have been better. Every once in a while, my taps would not register even though I’d most definitely tapped the screen. The screen is also quite reflective, which makes it more challenging to use in bright environments.
There’s a small, 1-inch color display on the outside of the Galaxy Z Flip, discretely positioned next to the main dual camera. It tells the time, date, and the battery level. Since it’s a touchscreen, you can also use it to pause or skip songs, snooze or dismiss alarms, or check on pending notifications. Additionally, the screen may act as a viewfinder for taking selfies with the phone closed.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip comes with a dual main camera – not a big deal in 2020 but understandable given how thin the phone is. The setup is comprised of a 12MP main camera and a 12MP super wide-angle cam. There’s also a 10MP selfie camera in the main screen, available when the phone is unfolded. On the software side, there’s Samsung’s new Single Take feature, as well as a proper Night Mode, Super Steady stabilization, and manual controls for both photos and video.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has a main camera (left) backed by a secondary ultra wide camera (right)
And here’s another trick: the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip becomes its own stand when folded halfway in an L shape. Place it on the table, set a timer, and take a picture of the entire party without having to hold the phone!
Here’s a bunch of Samsung Galaxy Z Flip photo samples to explore. Keep in mind that they’ve been mostly taken using the camera’s default settings, with Samsung’s Scene Optimizer feature activated. Selfies have a beauty mode enabled by default and it is set to a strength setting of 2 out of 8.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip does not have a headphone jack, but it does come with a pair of wired USB-C earphones in the box. They sound pretty good, especially for a pair that you get for free. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a pair of free Galaxy Buds+ when we purchased the Z Flip from Samsung.
There’s a single speaker on the bottom of the Z Flip. Overall, the sound is of average quality for a phone: good enough for podcasts but not great for music listening. One thing I’ve noticed is that the minimum volume level is still quite loud, so listening to YouTube videos in bed without disturbing others in the room can be an issue.
Performance and software
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip comes with last year’s Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of non-expandable storage. That’s not ideal given the price of the phone — all Galaxy S20 models have the newer Snapdragon 865 chip — but it’s a decent hardware configuration even by today’s standards.
Unexpectedly, the Galaxy Z Flip performs well… most of the time. There are some minor hiccups here and there like brief lags or dropped frames – you know, the stuff typical for Samsung’s feature-rich interface.
Speaking of which, Samsung’s One UI 2.0 runs on top of Android 10 here, so you get tons of goodies like gesture navigation, dark mode with scheduling option, Link to Windows, and Samsung’s new Quick Share feature for sending large files quickly and more conveniently to compatible Samsung devices. The software experience is practically identical to what you’d find on the Galaxy S20 or S10, so if you’re already a Galaxy user, you’d feel right at home with the Z Flip.
Thanks to the capable hardware, the Galaxy Z Flip can run the latest games, but the experience with some can be underwhelming. For example, the buttons in Minecraft are placed too close to the edge of the screen, and the protective border makes them more difficult to press. The button for closing a chest practically doesn’t work. But PUBG is playable overall, and the crease in the middle of the screen wasn’t much of an issue.
Battery life: not as bad as I expected
I can’t call the Galaxy Z Flip a 2-day phone, but I’ve had no troubles getting through a moderately busy day. It is normal for me to go to bed with about 35% battery left in the tank. Perhaps not having an always-on display helps here. The phone supports wireless charging if you’re into that.