Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Hands-On: The Most Practical Foldable Phone Yet
March 1, 2020 Andrew Cheng

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the Korean company’s second foldable phone after the Galaxy Fold. But instead of the latter’s tablet-like form factor, the Z Flip goes for a more practical clamshell design, much like the new iteration of the iconic Motorola Razr.

While it’s not confirmed yet exactly when the Galaxy Z Flip will be launched in Malaysia – though it has already been registered with SIRIM – I managed to get my hands on a unit of the foldable phone. After spending a brief time with the device, it’s definitely one of the most polished phones of its kind.

But should you actually buy one once it’s launched in Malaysia? Well, maybe not, unless you’re willing to be extraordinarily careful with it.

Right off the bat, I absolutely love the clamshell design of the Galaxy Z Flip. It sits in the palm of my hand very comfortably when it’s folded, and the compact form factor makes it very pocketable, even if it’s quite thick. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, the Z Flip doesn’t have much of a gap when the screen is folded too.

While there’s still a little bit of gap when the screen is folded, it’s minimal enough to not be particularly worrying. On top of that, the hinge itself feels pretty darn robust when I unfold the Galaxy Z Flip. Unfortunately, because the hinge is quite stiff, it’s not easy to “flip” the display out like flip phones of the past.

But given the sheer cost of this foldable phone, you may not want to do that in the first place.

So how is it like to use the Galaxy Z Flip when it’s unfolded in all its glory? Surreal. When foldable displays were first introduced, this is the smartphone form factor that I personally envisioned. It’s incredible to finally see this become a reality, even if it’s not quite there yet.

See, when I open up the Galaxy Z Flip, there’s no distinct click or mechanism to let me know that the display is fully unfolded. Don’t get me wrong, the display still holds itself pretty well – it’s not like it feels flimsy – but there’s no obvious sign that the screen is really locked into place. It just…unfolds with no feedback whatsoever.

This is in stark contrast to, say, the Huawei Mate Xs, and even Samsung’s own Galaxy Fold; there’s a noticeable click whenever these two devices’ displays are fully unfolded. Granted, the Z Flip has a different design, but it just doesn’t feel very satisfying to unfold than the aforementioned foldables.

Besides that, the Galaxy Z Flip also has a rather noticeable crease in the middle of the flexible display. Does it affect the user experience? Well, not to me, at least. You can feel the crease with your fingers – and you can definitely spot it if you look carefully – but it’s not exactly super visible when you’re using the phone normally.

As for the display quality itself, the 6.7-inch 2636 x 1080 Dynamic AMOLED “Infinity Flex” Display looks fantastic; like any other flagship-tier Samsung devices. Of course, it’s not quite as impressive as the 120Hz, 1440p screens of the latest Galaxy S20 smartphones, but it’s still a very pleasant screen to look at.

That being said, I do have one gripe with the Galaxy Z Flip’s screen: it’s awfully tall. Unlike the Galaxy S20 phones’ 20:9 displays (which are already quite tall), the Z Flip’s screen sports an even taller 21.9:9 aspect ratio. With only one hand, it’s very difficult to reach for the top of the display. It feels quite peculiar to use such a tall phone too.

Speaking of which, the Galaxy Z Flip’s screen, even though it’s now covered with a thin glass, is still protected by a plastic layer on top. Basically, it’s not quite as scratch-resistant as the glass screen of conventional smartphones, and the soft nature of the plastic layer also means your fingernails will leave a mark on the display.

Just watch Zack Nelson’s durability test of the Z Flip to get a feel for the robustness of the foldable screen.

Nonetheless, let’s move on to other aspects of the Galaxy Z Flip, like performance. Under the hood of this foldable phone is a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ chipset. It may not be the latest Snapdragon 865 or Samsung’s own Exynos 990 SoC, but the 855+ is still a very capable chip. The phone feels fast, responsive, and I can switch between different apps effortlessly.

Battery life should be reasonably good with the Galaxy Z Flip too, thanks to its 3,300mAh battery. Storage and RAM capacities of this foldable phone are also quite generous at 256GB and 8GB respectively. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support expandable storage.

And then there’s the camera performance of the Galaxy Z Flip. which I really quite like. Sure, it doesn’t have the Galaxy S20 series’ sophisticated camera system, but the dual camera setup of this phone (12MP f/1.8 primary + 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle sensor) can take surprisingly good shots.

I managed to take a few daylight shots with the Galaxy Z Flip, and I’m quite impressed with the results. Detail preservation is reasonably good, it has a wide dynamic range, and the colours look flattering too, though some may be put-off by the saturation.

However, even though the Galaxy Z Flip has reasonably good camera performance, it is by no means in the same league as other flagship smartphones; not even when compared to the one-year-old Samsung Galaxy S10e, for example. For a phone at this price point, it should have better camera performance.

And that really is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip’s biggest shortcoming: price. Of course, as it’s not launched here in Malaysia yet – though it’s only a matter of time – we’ll have to take the price of the foldable phone in other markets as an estimate. In Singapore, for one, the Z Flip costs a whopping SG$1,998 (about RM6,040), though it goes for slightly less in the US for $1,380 (approximately RM5,815).

That puts the Galaxy Z Flip well within premium territory, which is expected for a foldable smartphone. While you’re getting flagship-tier performance for the money, you’ll have to contend with good, but not fantastic camera performance. More importantly, the Z Flip is a fragile piece of technology that you will carry around on a daily basis – can you live with that?

If you can, then the Galaxy Z Flip could be the foldable phone for you. It’s an engineering marvel, it’s eye-catching, and it’s a “modern-day” flip phone that most will find appealing. It’s not for everyone – especially given its steep asking price – but that doesn’t change the fact that the Galaxy Z Flip is a unique, head-turning smartphone.

I just wish it has a more durable screen.