The Galaxy Z Flip is the second foldable screen device from Samsung to hit the market, following on from the Galaxy Fold we saw last year.
The Galaxy Z Flip in Mirror Purple. The smooth surfaces and compact form certainly catch the eye.
We were impressed by the technology of the Galaxy Fold, a two-in-one smartphone/tablet that satisfies a niche, and despite its shortcomings is a remarkable piece of engineering.
The smaller Galaxy Z Flip takes that same technology and folds it down into a considerably smaller, pocketable square.
When fully open, the Z Flip looks just like a regular smartphone.
At first sight, the Z Flip is only faintly reminiscent of the clamshell phones that were all the rage over 15 years ago. The impression it gives is more of a portable makeup mirror, thanks to its translucent finish and smooth metal sides.
When folded, the Z Flip measures approximately 70mm and it is a lot lighter than the Galaxy Fold.
When unfolded, it easily passes for a "classic" slab-shaped smartphone - just one you can fold down and comfortably fit into even small pockets.
The hinge that allows this marvel of engineering looks identical to the one we saw on the Galaxy Fold.
The fingerprint sensor is located on the right of the device.
Folded or not, Samsung's AI assistant, Bixby, can be summoned by holding the power button.
It feels sturdy and well built, you just know it will withstand plenty of flip, but its robust design does have a downside. While the flip phones of old allowed you to just flick your phone open with one hand, this is impossible with the Z Flip.
The stiff mechanism, designed to protect the foldable screen, requires you to use both hands to unfold the device.
What's more, Samsung advises customers to take extra care to avoid exerting too much pressure on the screen, or storing the device together with coins and keys to prevent screen damage.
There is a tiny preview screen near the lenses, it displays the time, date and battery life as well as scrolling notifications text.
Display and performance
The Z Flip display is a 6.7-inch AMOLED that is slightly lower in resolution than the one seen on the Samsung S20.
Don't let this put you off, the display is still one of the best out there when it comes to videos and games. You may notice the crease in the middle at first, but it becomes virtually invisible when watching videos at full screen or playing games - it truly is a minor issue.
What is not a minor issue, however is the fragility of the display. Unlike the reinforced glass that you find on other traditional smartphones, the folding screen requires a different construction that is a lot less resistant to scratches and marks.
At a time when we have become used to scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, this requires a change of habit and an extra level of care.
The Z Flip is a gorgeous little device whichever way you look at it.
When folded, the Z flip looks like an expensive makeup mirror. It’s an easier fit in smaller pockets than a standard large-screen smartphone, and it won’t weigh down a handbag.
Next to the camera lenses, you'll notice a tiny window designed to show the clock, date and battery charge. It also shows notifications, but given the limited size, it’s not massively useful.
The plastic display is never going to be as tough as the Gorilla Glass found on other top-of-the-range devices but there is little to fault in the image quality.
Folding aside, the Galaxy Z Flip is a mid-to-high performance device that places itself slightly below the flagship S20 series.
The processing platform is not too dissimilar, but gamers and power users need to be aware that the latest S20 will deliver better value for money when it comes to performance.
The same story can be told about the camera. Mightily capable compared to mid-range devices, but not as good as the Galaxy S20 series.
The folding adds some interesting versatility to the camera.
The primary shooter is 12MP with optical image stabilisation, and is still one of the best phone cameras on the market.
As with the Galaxy S20, the Z Flip is equipped with an ultra-wide lens, which is an incredibly useful tool that can be used from panoramas to group photos.
The advantage of the folding is you can take selfies with the primary camera by resting the device half-folded on a surface while the notification window near the lenses will function as a preview screen. That certainly can't be done with regular phones without some sort of prop.
The "folding selfie" is a neat trick but results are somewhat disappointing considering this is a Samsung device. The camera can be quite aggressive when smoothing for "beauty effects", and even in regular photography, the sharpness doesn't match what we have seen on Samsung's flagship devices.
One significant omission on the camera front is the telephoto. Unlike the Galaxy S10/S20 or Note series, there is no lossless zoom available, usually a cost-cutting measure but that in this case appears to be more of restriction dictated by the lack of space.
Overall this is a good quality camera for a mid-range device but a bit of disappointment considering this is a £1,300 Samsung smartphone.
The battery, at 3,300mAh, is considerably smaller than the ones you will find on a Galaxy S-series. And while it doesn't make the Z Flip compete fairly with the best in the market, I was pleased to see it covering a full day of use with some to spare.
Wireless charging is supported but make sure the charging pad is resting on a level surface as the smooth lines of the Z Flip make it prone to slide off surfaces when you least expect it.
Value and verdict
As it retails at around £1,300 SIM-free, it would be easy to dismiss the Galaxy Z Flip as an expensive gimmick nobody should buy.
However, it runs the latest version of Android, it is fast, the camera is very good, and the battery lasts a full day.
Samsung introduced the Galaxy Z Flip as a "stand out device for those who live to stand out", and it’s certainly going to appeal to a certain type of smartphone user. It’s eye catching, it’s trendy, and it’s youthful.
And don't forget its scaled-down size is hugely attractive for people who bemoan the large sizes of today’s smartphones - if you sometimes find your current smartphone awkward to carry and use but still want that big screen experience, the Z Flip could be an exciting new option.
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