I have seen them from the corner of my eyes, stuck to the ears of the swish set. My wife has “seen” them too, but has rather ogled or stared. We are not alone because 85-90 per cent of the foldable phone market globally belongs to Samsung at the moment with the Galaxy Z Flip ruling shopping lists, followed by the Z Fold.
If last year was about getting the word out among the fashionable that a new form factor was in town, this year, with the Galaxy Z Flip4, the idea is to tell the world that the phone is aiming for perfection. For the past 10-odd days, the Flip4 has been in my hands, in my pocket, allowing me to experience what the fashionable sets are talking about. And these are more like first impressions than a review, which will be before you in a few days time.
First things first. At the moment, Samsung is the king of foldable smartphone parties with a few other brands making some headway in China. This also means that the company had the chance to perfect the hardware this year and up the software game rather than offer changes that would be as contrasting as day and night.
We are looking at some excellent updates that go beyond the slight change in dimensions, making the Flip slightly slimmer. I am all in for the not-so-slight changes when it comes to looks. Making it more eye-grabbing are the shinier side rails and the finish, which is absolutely stunning. But, at the same time, it is not as slippery as before. Flip is supposed to be a quirky device and Samsung doesn’t let us down. If the phone were to slip off the table — and it did once — chances of getting scratches (or something worse) is minuscule because of Armor Aluminum protection as well as Gorilla Glass Victus+.
The main screen is reasonably manageable at 6.7 inches, fully open but the focus is on the display, which appears to have a better placement because of the new adhesive that is being used. There seems to be a new layer structure to make the phone even more durable.
The outer screen now displays portrait camera mode
The Flip phone is meant to be quirky and playful, which is the alley Samsung takes with the new version. And a part of the quirkiness has to do with the software. There are things that you may not have seen on smartphones. Take the Flex mode for example. Folding the phone half way and resting it on the table can take the phone into this weirdly cool zone where I can use the lower part of the screen as trackpad. And apps don’t need to be optimised for this, as Flex mode can force them to do pretty much. The cover screen is still 1.9 inches with 512x260 resolution but there are some updates.
This is where I need to talk about the Flex mode in more details. Flex mode basically involves keeping the phone open at different angles and allowing the screen to do several tricks. For example, I can use the phone as a “tripod” while taking shots; it’s particularly helpful while vlogging. Or, hold the phone like a camcorder to take very stead videos.
Far more interesting is the way I can use a couple of apps simultaneously, like YouTube on one part of the screen and, at the same time, Gmail on the lower half. It’s about flexibility. Consider another scenario — watching a video on YouTube without having to hold the phone in your hand.
As for the cover screen, it can be used to check notifications, turn on a few smartphone toggles, and even take photos (including portrait shots and videos).
By the way, you get an AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate but that won’t be something new if you are a Flip user.
You can watch videos while working on your mails on the bottom half of the screen
Camera and processor
Though the camera hardware may appear similar to last year’s, I am enjoying the way Samsung is processing photos, bringing it closer to life and the larger pixels are making a big difference to night shots, even when it’s pitch dark. Video too has become very stable and just perfect for use across social media. So the dual 12MP cameras on the back have enough chops while the 10MP selfie snapper is worthy of taking videoconference calls.
Ensuring everything works smoothly is the processor — Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 compared to last year’s Snapdragon 888. The upsides are better battery management and less heating.
The battery has received a slight boost by way of size but the processor is helping to make it last longer with better app optimisation.
Even though these are just first impressions, I expect the Galaxy Z Flip4 to help Samsung make deeper inroads into the fashion and lifestyle markets, influencing those around them. This may turn out to be one of the biggest aspirational pushes for a new form factor in smartphones.