Foldables, we’re about 4 years into them, and whether you like them or not, it’s pretty clear that, at least in the western world, Samsung is the leader here. What started s a “what if” is now on its fourth generation, with ever-increasing sales and proof that yes, people do want this form factor, so why does my title not?
- It folds!
- Great display
- Stellar performance
- Useful software tweaks
- Lovely colourways
- Battery life underwhelming
- Charging speed sucks
- Main camera only okay
- Fingerprint scanner
- Jump to… Overview
- Jump to… Spec Sheet
- Jump to… Performance & Use
- Jump to… Camera & Samples
- Jump to… Software
- Jump to… Battery
- Jump to… Final Thoughts
I’ve been incredibly excited to try the Z Flip 4 out for an extended period of time after seeing it a few months ago before launch. It took a little longer than I’d hoped to get to me, but I’m very happy that it is here. There are multiple types of foldable but the Z Flip 4 is the “simplest” form, it is normal size phone that gets smaller for stowing after use. It’s a 6.7” 1080p screen with a kinda wild 22:9, taller than even the cinema aspect ratio Xperia 1 IV that I reviewed recently. This foldable OLED screen continues Samsung’s trend of using Ultra-thin glass to increase the strength and the feel of the panel, but it also continues Samsung’s trend of using an incredibly narrow radius curve, leading to a visible and textural gutter bisecting the screen, this also does not allow the phone to fully close, and the small gap lets all the pocket lint you have ever captured appear on the screen with a static pull like no other. The good news is that whilst you’re actively using the phone the gutter disappears, it’ll show up when the light hits it or when you occasionally go over the halfway point in the screen, but for normal use, I found it less of an issue than you’d think.
With that screen unfolded there is a 10mp selfie camera, that’s truly it. The proximity sensor is below (as in, behind) the screen and the earpiece speaker is hidden in the bezel. Speaking of the bezel, it is actually raised, it is effectively a rubber bumper around the entire screen that stops the screen from slapping against itself but also if some debris does make it in the gap, there is hopefully enough distance to not puncture anything. Initially one might think that the raised bumper would make navigation gestures more difficult, but surprisingly not, the rubber has very low friction for your fingers to glide across.
With the device still open on the right-hand side of the frame the upper portion has the volume rocker and the combination fingerprint scanner and power button, and the lower half of the frame has nothing. Moving to the left-hand side there is the NanoSIM card tray on the upper frame with nothing on the lower half. On the top of the device is a secondary microphone for noise cancellation, and lastly, we move to the bottom. The bottom of the Z Flip 4 has the USB-C port centrally positioned, with the speaker grille on the far right and the main microphone on the far left.
Closing the phone we get to look at the exterior of the phone, in this absolutely Bora Purple colourway that I asked for (it is the best colour, do not @ me), the “back” which in this case would be the lower half of the phone when open, is entirely empty, just a clean sheet of Gorilla Glass Victus+. The Front of the device when closed has a large Gorilla Glass Victus+ sheet punctured only by the LED flash, and then a glossy section of Gorilla Glass Victus+ with the 1.9” cover display as well as the dual 12MP cameras, a main and an ultrawide.
- 6.7” Foldable dynamic AMOLED 2X
- 1200 nits peak brightness
- 1.9” Super AMOLED cover display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen1
- 1x Cortex X2 @3.19Ghz
- 3x Cortex A710 @2.75Ghz
- 4x Cortex A510 @1.8Ghz
- Adreno 730
- TSMC N4
- 8GB LPDDR5
- 128/256/512GB UFS3.1 storage
- 3700mAh battery
- 25w Wired charging
- 15w Wireless charging
- 4.5w reverse wireless charging
- 12MP main camera
- 24mm equivalent
- 1/1.76” sensor size
- 12MP ultrawide camera
- 123 degree field of view
- 10MP selfie camera
- 26mm effective focal length
For a more exhaustive look at the specifications head on over to the Z Flip 4 page on GSMArena
Performance & Use
As I’ve explained in previous reviews, performance is not just application processor performance, it’s no longer just about how quickly can it open apps or swipe between home screens, and with a foldable there are even a few more performance aspects to consider.
We’ll start with the application processor performance because it is quick and easy, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is fast, it is very fast, but so were the 888 and the 870 etc. but unlike the 8 Gen 1, the 8+ Gen 1 is also relatively tame with its thermals and power draw. Let me be clear, the 8+ Gen 1 still draws a considerable amount of power, but unlike the 8 Gen 1 you are unlikely to need to put the phone down due to it becoming uncomfortable, and the phone is unlikely to shut itself down for safety. There was no reasonable way I could slow the 8+ Gen 1 down, everything I did on this just worked, it was buttery smooth and I don’t think I saw the interface drop under 60fps once.
Another aspect of performance I want to talk about is the radio performance, which surprisingly really hasn’t been amazing on the Z Flip 4, and Mobile performance has been slightly sub-par, worse than the 8 Gen 1 phones I have in my collection and worse than the MediaTek devices in my collection. This is incredibly surprising as Qualcomm modems are generally class-leading, they are instrumental in creating many of the standards that we use on these devices, which is why I was surprised that in areas I usually get 5G, I was struggling to get usable LTE-A on the Flip 4. I’m hoping this is a software niggle that can be fixed in the future, but as it stands currently, radio performance is not something I’m impressed with here.
Lastly of the negative performance bits, this fingerprint scanner. I’ve been very vocal about my distaste for side-mounted fingerprint scanners as a left-handed person, but long story short, a front or a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is equally useable by people with left or right-dominant hands, however, a side-mounted scanner disproportionately favours right-hand dominant people in this case. Not only this, but the amount of data captured by a vertical fingerprint scanner, capturing a vertical sliver of your thumb is more than a horizontal sliver of your index finger, less data means that it is more likely to fail even with successive training, and lastly on this topic, for the Z Flip specifically, it is on the upper half of the phone, the Z flip, when open is a tall phone making it even harder to reach for people that struggled to reach anyway because it is on the wrong side for them. I usually have fingerprint locks on all apps that allow it, but with the Z flip, and anything that has a side scanner I tend not to because they’re a pain to use. Plus, this sensor even when used with my right thumb seems a tad slow and more likely to fail because of a misread than others, so overall, just a bad scanner and experience.
Moving on to more positive things though, the screen and the hinge. The foldable OLED screen here is honestly quite stunning, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone, Samsung is a worldwide leader in OLED and has been for years now, the brightness has a peak of 1200 nits and is incredibly easy to use outside. The off-axis viewing is practically identical to looking at it head-on, and I don’t know how, but the screen looks so perfectly laminated that it feels like I’m touching the pixels, which I only thought was possible on rigid glass displays, yes, as I noted earlier you can see the gutter off-axis, and Samsung is the worst offender for this, it is the only manufacturer that refuses to switch to a wide waterdrop notch and the benefits it brings.
Next is the hinge, an incredibly important part of a foldable, some have rubbish hinges (I’m looking at you first gen Xiaomi Mix Fold and Royole Flex Pai) and some are just beautifully made (Huawei Mate X2) and the Z Flip 4 is in that second category. It is incredibly rigid, there is no wiggle or slop in the hinge, every movement is intentional and it is clear they’ve spent literal years refining this, however, I’m not a huge fan of the very stiff hinge, in fact, I personally prefer the older hinges of the Motorola RAZR which was sprung loaded. I understand why the Z Flip 4’s hinge is tight, it is to allow for flex mode, however in the month I’ve used this I’ve used Flex mode a handful of times, however, I have to deal with the stiff hinge, especially one-handed, every time I want to open the device, and given how useless I personally find the cover screen on the Z Flip 4, I’m opening it quite often.
One of my favourite parts of using the Z Flip 4 is closing it, and I know that sounds backhanded, but hear me out. When you use a device, and you turn the screen off, it is still there and easy to use, flipping the phone shut gives a sense of finality to the action, you’ve done your task, you close it and you’re done, it’s hard to describe but it makes it easier to put away and do something else, not because you don’t want to use the phone, it is great, but because the temptation to use the device is gone. We subconsciously pick up our phone and just use it because it is there and it is easy, putting one extra step in between the two stops that, it is remarkably effective.
Camera & Samples
The Camera is slightly more hit-and-miss for me, the camera on the Z Flip 4 is a lot better than on previous iterations, but at the end of the day they are two 12MP cameras, and the main one is not very large in today’s day and age. The problem I’m running into is that if you use either of the lenses out of their comfort zone they start to fall apart.
The main camera is a 12MP unit with a sensor size of 1/1.76”, and whilst that is bigger than older ones, and with only 12MP each pixel is slightly larger leading to slightly better low-light images, the fact is, it is still only 12 megapixels, if you need to zoom at all you are going to have a bad time, this is something I found when I took the Z Flip 4 as my only device to Sonoma California, Zoom is practically useless, whereas, on most 50mp sensors at the same size, they might struggle in low light compared to this, but a 2x crop or more is entirely usable.
Using the main camera in the standard mode though is a treat, the colours are lovely, and the focus is rapid and mostly on point, though on a couple of occasions, especially closer up, it tends to rack back and forth a little, and I think the minimum focus distance is a bit greater than I’d like.
The Ultrawide camera refreshingly is not dog crap, I know, I’m surprised too. Lately, on many phones a lot of effort goes into making the main sensor great because it is the main sensor, it is the one you use the most, but then they put next to no effort into the ultrawide, a lot of the time it is an 8MP tiny sensor, they don’t match the colours or viewports, it feels like they’re two completely separate phones, Samsung does this a lot better here, the viewport alignment and the colours aren’t perfect but at least the photos were taken on the main and the ultrawide look like they’re taken on the same phone.
Next up is the selfie camera, and whilst the hardware isn’t anything to write home about here, the software is where this shines. No, I’m not talking about AR emoji’s or beauty modes, I’m talking about the fact that Samsung has put the hard work in to get Instagram, Tiktok and Snapchat to make the video and photos coming into those apps to look good, whereas most of the companies will do the absolute bare minimum and allow these apps to peek in at the highest level to get a feed. On the hardware side, you can get some nice colours out of this and the auto exposure is quite well adjusted as well, kudos Samsung, Kudos.
Next is video, I’ve spoken ad nauseam about how roughly video can be on Android, with two companies being able to record video on android that doesn’t look like dog food, those are Samsung and Google. Now whilst I’m usually speaking about Samsung’s uber flagships in that sense, the Z flip 4 is no slouch, it has a top spec chipset, it has a good sensor and all the cumulative knowledge of Samsung’s 12 years of Galaxy phones, the end result is actually decent video in 4K60, 4K30 and 1080p60, and surprisingly good video in the super stabilised mode.
Samsung’s OneUI has not been my favourite UI, but I am more than happy to admit that it is currently one of the most polished user interfaces available on Android, they have tweaked most everywhere visually and in some cases, wherein it moves parts of the top UI down closer to your thumb, I enjoy it, even if it does look a bit wasteful. My Z Flip 4, as of writing this is running Android 12 with the November 1st security patch and OneUI Version 4.1.1.
Android is a very stable platform now on Android 12 (and 13 if you’re lucky enough) so what you’re looking for is manufacturer value adds, and Samsung actually has a fair few here. Starting with the flexible specific features, Flex Mode/Flex View is something that Samsung has implemented to make use of the folding displays to make it more convenient or add new features. What does this look like? Well if you open up youtube and fold it to halfway open or closed the video migrates to the top part of the fold with the other ancillary information to the bottom of the screen meaning only the important information is in your view. If you are in the camera and fold it the viewport switches to the top and all the camera controls move to the bottom, allowing you to use the Flip 4 as its own tripod of sorts. This also works in chat apps, my most common use of flex view is having the phone on my desk, and someone video calls me I open the phone halfway, aim it at my face and can carry on doing what I’m doing, no need to get a stand or anything, and Whatsapp does the same as the main camera app, it moves your video feed to the top and all the controls to the bottom out of the way.
This is one of the things that makes it harder to buy non-Samsung foldables (I mean if you live in an area where those are for sale) Samsung has been at it the longest and put the most effort into figuring out how to make a novelty useful and I’d 100% say they figured it out.
This is honestly going to be the most disappointing part of this review because it is middling to just barely okay. I was hoping that the 3700mAh battery would make this an easy all-day device with plenty left in the tank at the end of the day, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, most days, even light ones, I routinely ended up sub-20 % near battery power saver mode, which sucks.
What makes the battery problem on the Z Flip 4 so much worse is the absolutely ridiculous charging setup here. Samsung officially says the Z Flip 4 can charge at 25w wired and 15w wireless, however, in the near month that I have been using and charging the Z Flip 4, I have not once seen the device charge at over 19w even using a PPS enabled USB-PD power supply. And even so, even if it was pegged at 25w from start to finish, 25w is far too slow for a £999 device and especially a £999 device in 2022.
Samsung chooses to display “super fast charging” on the cover screen and a rough count down until it is fully charged, nowhere near the phrase “super fast charging” should there be a timer that shows over an hour, it is just utterly ridiculous. I’m not asking Samsung to implement the crazy 180w Thunder Charge like on the recent Infinix phone I have, which goes from 0-100% in 9 minutes, but 33w USB-PD that actually goes there, maybe 45w if we’re being cheeky. My OnePlus Nord 2 is 18 months old or so at this point, it has 65w charging, even when not on the OnePlus charger it charges at 20w or so and with a bigger battery than the Z Flip 4 it charges faster, sort it out Samsung.
Overall my experience with the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is mixed, objectively it is a good phone in many areas, but subjectively, it is not what I want in a foldable. The display is stunning, the performance is stellar, the cameras are, for the most part great, and honestly, £999 isn’t outrageous for this. But the battery life, plus the egregious charging speed, the poor radio performance, as well as the fact that for me it is too narrow and the fingerprint scanner is in the wrong place, make it a no go for me, objectively good, subjectively bad.
What I want to note though, is that if you take away the fact that this phone folds, this is, at most a £500 phone I think, in the Galaxy A70 series, and the fact it folds alone is not enough to charge that amount extra on top, at least not for me.