Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 5G review: Refining what #foldablelife really means
Overview, What's different, Features
Note: This review was first published on 30 August 2022.
With nearly 10 million foldable smartphones sold in 2021, Samsung would be crazy to rest on its laurels. People voted with their wallets on what they wanted for their next smartphone, and the clamshell-styled foldable Samsung helped scratch that itch for many. From another perspective, that's possibly 10 million people who didn't mind having a crease running across their handset's display.
The follow-up to this collective decision from both the brand and its customers is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 5G, which tells us #foldablelife isn't just a trend, but it's here to stay. Samsung has given it additional sprinkles to make it better than the last, although these changes aren't immediately visible at the start.
Galaxy Z Flip4 5G in a nutshell
In fact, the Flip4 is almost identical to the Flip3, save for the extremely minor size differences that can only be seen if you have both the old and new foldables side by side. It's the same clamshell-styled phone with a 6.7-inch Main Screen tucked within and a 1.9-inch Cover Screen for the shortcuts you could possibly need.
Besides the increase in battery life and charging speed (additional 400mAh and 10W), an upgrade to its processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1), and a slight increase in the main camera's pixel size for better light capture (1.8μm pixel size versus 1.4μm), the Galaxy Z Flip4 5G is a fraternal twin to the Flip3.
Functionally, the Galaxy Z Flip4 does nearly everything the Galaxy S22 series can – including its blazing fast and accurate fingerprint unlock feature (albeit this one has a side-mounted one). You’re not going to find it very different from its typical Samsung One UI layout, and operating the phone is just as straightforward as a single-slate device which most people are familiar with.
It's pretty clear that Galaxy Z Flip4 5G stands out a with foldable display, which confers extra practicality and novelty for users tired of conventional single-slate phones.
|Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 5G
So, what’s different now?
Since the foldable display is the main selling point of both Galaxy Z models, we’ll start by addressing that first. Two big concerns to buyers making the switch over to foldable displays are the crease’s visibility and panel’s durability.
Among the many refinements, Z Flip4’s crease visibility appears to be diminished compared to the preceding Z Flip phones. But, Samsung has been very quiet about how they made those improvements, so you and I won’t know for sure if it’s because of improved viewing angles, a change in materials, congruent software settings, or a little bit of everything.
What is clear, however, is that the reduction in visibility doesn’t change the fact that the crease is still noticeable. If you are waving, tilting, or using your phone in a manner that catches light striking the crease at just the right angles to see it, it’s there, and it’s even more obvious if the display isn’t powered on.
We still maintain that it will not negatively affect a typical user experience, just as it was for Flip3 and Fold3. Assuming you use your foldable phone like a normal one, you’d be watching, reading, or replying to your favourite things and people with sufficient display brightness, and that the concentration required would make the crease negligible.
That’s not to say that you should buy the Flip4 if you are clear about your crease appetite and have not accepted the crease as a part of the device. It’s still present; it’s the crux of the design, after all. We’re simply saying that it hardly comes up and is easily ignored during regular use, but your mileage may vary.
Durability, and where Samsung Care+ Screen Care comes in
We typically don’t have enough time with the device to experience any problems with the panel durability, which isn’t bad news since it can at least survive our review period. That said, how Samsung addresses and reassures foldable users gives us clues on how they protect buyers, assuming that cracked screens are outside of its control despite its best effort.
Besides saying that the Galaxy Z Flip4 is rated for 200,000 folds like its predecessor (which should give you a little more than five years of usage if you unfold 100 times a day), Samsung Singapore is also offering something called Samsung Care+ Screen Care, to help assure the remaining users who had a negative experience or are unsure about phones with foldable displays.
From what we understood over at Samsung’s official landing page here, it differs from regular Samsung Care+ in two ways. One would be the complimentary, one-time Screen Protective Film replacement for both Main and Cover Screens on Galaxy Z Flip4 (and Z Fold4).
The second, and more important feature is the one-time S$100 screen replacement. If you consider how the Galaxy S22 Ultra asks for S$399 and the older Flips and Folds ask anywhere between S$462 to S$799, S$100 for the first time you replace the foldable display is quite a steal. Even if you factor in the cost of Samsung Care+ Screen Care, you’re still saving some money compared to ponying up for the full price.
There are many ways to interpret this coverage. One could choose to see it as Samsung trying to provide extra assurance, and the reduced prices would mean they make barely any profit out of doing these replacements for you. That, and, in most cases, the majority of damage is merely the screen protector giving way, and not the display itself.
Another perspective is that Samsung isn’t yet confident enough to say that foldables aren’t problematic. After all, why should customers pay if they open the clamshell and find a line staring back at them one day? We can’t expect the average user to know if it’s a display or screen film problem.
We think Samsung Care+ Screen Care shows Samsung somewhat recognises that any promise of durability is only a best-effort practice, and the coverage is helpful no matter how careful you are with the phone. But, a better bargain would be to assure users that they are not on the hook for paying more if they get a cracked line running across the seam. If you’re using your phone normally as intended (opening and closing the clasp), then such damage should be covered for the 200,000 times it’s rated for. If it’s just screen film damage, then Samsung should perhaps consider improving the quality of its film to minimise the problem altogether. After all, the Galaxy Z phones don’t come cheaply as Galaxy A stuff, and the world’s watching.
Cover Screen gets more personal
A new model that looks similar to its predecessor would give us certain expectations on improvements below the hood. The Cover Screen would be one such area. And, it seems like Samsung heard user feedback to make the 1.9-inch display do a little more.
For the Galaxy Z Flip4, you can customise it with a 15-second long video under 100MB to get an animated wallpaper. We tested that by downloading a short clip off TikTok onto our PC, transferring it over to our phone, and chucking it onto the Cover Screen. Note that you’ll need to edit your clip in a separate app before using it; the Cover Screen settings only allow you to reposition the clip in your Cover Screen frame.
If you’re holding on to the Flip3, the workaround for an animated wallpaper is to use GIF format files, as we did in our previous review. Flip4 retains GIF, JPG, and other static image file formats like before too. We think Cover Screen’s wallpaper should’ve had video support from the very start, but it’s nice that Samsung’s patched it in.
For selfie lovers, Quick Shot (AKA using Cover Screen as a viewfinder for main camera selfies) now has Portrait Mode, which essentially just adds a creamy layer of bokeh to your background. It’s another nice-to-have feature that should’ve been available earlier, but we’re not complaining. You’re still getting photography and videography via Quick Shot like before too. Below is an example of using Quick Shot with the default Photo option, versus using Quick Shot with Portrait.
Another important addition is how you can start video recording with a folded Flip4, and continue in half-opened format (Flex Mode) with zero stoppage to the recording. Fully opening it would trigger the pinhole camera to continue your recording instead.
New widgets you can access on the Flip4 are Voice Recorder, Calendar, Direct Dial, and SmartThings Scenes. These add on to the six widgets previously available on Flip3, and the old widgets did not receive any changes or improvements on Flip4.
The new widgets are rudimentary when it comes to getting things done. Direct Dial, for example, lets you earmark three phone contacts for quick calling, but you’ll still need to fully unfurl your phone to start a call after choosing the contact. SmartThings Scene lets you trigger a smart appliance’s routine (which you’ll have to configure ahead of time).
We were hoping the new and old widgets could’ve done more stuff, but it looks like Samsung is interested in adding different functions instead of improving them further. Also, we hoped for the Flip4 to have a bigger Cover Screen than before, but that didn’t happen either. That said, we’re still pleased with its additional functionality, with Portrait Mode in Quick Shot being the nicest addition Flip4 has.
Any other differences from the Flip3?
Short of the stuff mentioned above, an improved protective glass finish (Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+), an expected processor upgrade, and increased battery life (which we’ll mention in their respective sections), you’re honestly not going to see a huge difference from the Galaxy Z Flip4 5G’s predecessor.
While it’s a clear upgrade if you’re in dire need of its tiny improvements, the differences do not redefine (yet again) how a phone should work for you. The Flip4 still retains the following from its predecessor:
- Ultra Thin Glass protecting the Main Screen
- 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex Main Screen with 1080p resolution and 120Hz refresh rate.
- It’s still IPX8 water resistant.
- It still uses Armor Aluminum for its hinge.
- You can still use Flex Mode to prop up the device and still have a Cover Screen that serves notifications and alerts.
In fact, it still looks the same despite the slight changes to its dimensions and bezels, if you don’t really consider wider colourway choices as an upgrade. Even the main camera's improvements aren't anything to write home about, as evidently from the samples below.