Nothing quite stirs the emotions like nostalgia. The feeling of being transported back to yesteryear and how things used to be is one that brings joy to many. It’s no different within the technology industry. Products and ideas come and go in the blink of an eye, so when a company decides to resurrect an old design that once proved popular, we sit up and take notice.
That’s certainly the case with the flip phone. Once under the ownership of teenagers and young professionals everywhere, being able to flip your phone open to take a call and then snap it shut to hang up was oh so cool. So when Samsung said it was bringing back the flip design in the form of the Galaxy Z Flip, we were hooked on the prospect.
We’ve spent a fair amount of time with Galaxy Z Flip, using it as a daily device to see just how well it can replace the now common brick-like phones that fill our pockets. There’s certainly plenty to shout about, but as with many devices, there are some things we think could do with improvement.
Display: 6.7-inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED, 425ppi; 1.1-inch Super AMOLED, 303ppi
Camera: Dual rear-facing camera; 12MP Ultra Wide Lens, 12MP Wide-Angle lens. 10MP Front-Facing
Processor & RAM: 2.95GHz Octa-core; 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
Colours: Mirror Black, Mirror Purple, Mirror Gold
1. It’s Ever So Shiny
When we took our Galaxy Z Flip out of the box we were immediately startled by how shiny the Mirror Black finish was. It certainly lives up to its name, but it is a fingerprint magnet first and foremost. The sheen does, however, give it an incredibly premium look and coupled with the metal build, a premium feeling too. This is a phone you want to be seen with.
2. Flip It Real Good
Naturally, after caressing its glossy exterior, the next thing we had to do was flip it open (and post the opening ceremony to our Instagram story, obviously). Immediately you’re hit right in the nostalgic feels, although it’s not as easy to open with one hand as its ancestors.
We found we were using two hands more often than not, partly because we didn’t want to risk dropping the damn thing, but also because one hand couldn’t quite muster the strength.
3. The Screen
Other than the flip action, the main talking point about the Galaxy Z Flip is the screen. For the tech-heads, what you’re getting is something Samsung likes to call “Infinity Flex”. In real-world language, it’s a plastic OLED display with an ultra-thin glass layer over the top.
You can feel the hinge where it bends too, and at certain angles in certain lights, you can see it, but it’s something Samsung couldn’t avoid. In general use, you can’t see it at all and it doesn’t affect the experience, you’re just reminded it’s there when you have to scroll up and down a page.
As for the quality of the display, if you’re familiar with Samsung then the Z Flip offers much of the same experience. It’s vibrant and punchy, but without being too over-saturated. Chuck on an animated Disney Pixar movie for example and you’ll immediately see what we mean.
What we’re trying to say is this is a very good display indeed.
4. First, Lemme Take A Selfie
Besides its screen technology, Samsung has always excelled in the camera department on its flagship devices. The Galaxy Z Flip is no different, and because of the flip, it has a nifty trick up its sleeve. With traditional brick-like phones, you need to use the front-facing camera to take a selfie. While that may be an option on the Z Flip too when the screen is open, you can use the rear camera to take one too.
When the screen is shut, you can double press the side action button to bring up a view on the small 1.1-inch display (more on that later) to take a picture of your own mug using the dual-camera setup on the back…or the front, as the case may be.
5. That Second Screen
So, that tiny 1.1-inch display on the front. It’s there to show the time, notifications, and music playback controls. To wake it up, double-tap it, and then scroll left to view notification icons or right to view music controls. You can tap on individual notifications to view some basic information, such as the user who’s liked an Instagram post, but to do anything else you need to open the phone up.
We would’ve liked to have seen a larger display on the top half of the phone, if only just to be able to show us a larger image for taking selfies, or a few more lines of text from notifications. It seems as though Samsung has chosen the size to match the size of the camera unit, which works on a design perspective, but on a practical basis, it doesn’t add much to the experience.
6. Some Default Settings Will Need Changing
As we said in our intro, being able to flip a phone open to receive a call made you feel like King Dick. That same feeling can be invoked with the Galaxy Z Flip, but you’ll need to dive into the settings to switch the feature on. By default, when you open the phone and hold it to your ear, you continue to get the ringtone…only louder. Don’t worry, you can still snap it down to shut up whoever’s on the other end right out of the box.
Oh, and you’ll also do well to install the Google Keyboard and Google Messages apps. Samsung’s pre-installed ones are pretty rubbish.
7. Android Is The Star Of The Show
This should come as common knowledge, but just in case, the Galaxy Z Flip runs on the latest version of Google’s Android operating system: Android 10. In fact, pretty much anything that isn’t Apple will run on Android.
On a personal note, it’s because of this that I can’t imagine I’d ever buy the Galaxy Z Flip, but that’s only because I’m far too invested in the Apple ecosystem. My colleagues have made the move to Android to great effect, but for myself, it will never happen. I’m very much of the mindset that it’s the software that can make or break a phone. The Z Flip could have the absolute best features ever, but because it’s Android, I won’t have it.
My first few days using the Z Flip were a re-learning curve of sorts, as I haven’t always been so loyal to the fruit-based tech company. I’ve owned Android devices before, but I was definitely out of my depth and had to turn to Google for several how-to articles.
Once I was relatively up to speed, I was happy to use the Android system. I have to say it’s fast and responsive, but again, because I’m too Apple-minded, I felt some features such as the layout of the settings menu to be pretty annoying. This may be pretty trivial for some, but I like knowing exactly where to find something, and I just find Apple’s iOS system more intuitive.
Don’t let my personal vendetta against Android affect your decision making. You may feel you’re ready to jump ship to Android, or if you’re already part of the Android Army then you’ll have no issues using the Z Flip whatsoever.
8. It’s Not So Bad In Your Pocket After All
We’ll hold our hands up to this one. A while ago, we published an article suggesting flip phones, when shut, would cause an unsightly bulge in your pants (the bad kind).
Perhaps that was a little too judgemental, as having spent some time with the Galaxy Z Flip we can now begrudgingly say that while it does still protrude more than most other slimline phones, the unavoidable bulge is not as much of a burden as we first assumed.
We’d still take a regular brick phone any day of the week, but the Samsung’s smooth shiny surfaces make sliding it in and out an absolute breeze.
9. Face Detection Could Be Better
The majority of flagship phones these days omit the once all-too-common fingerprint scanners in favour of facial recognition to unlock the device. Fingerprint scanning is still available, but you’re encouraged to use your face instead. Coming from an iPhone, we’re used to our phone being unlocked in super quick time, even at angles and while wearing sunglasses and hats.
We found the system on the Samsung to be lagging behind a little, especially in low light. From our experience, low light conditions don’t pose much of a problem for the iPhone, but with the Samsung, it either took quite a long time for the phone to recognise our mug before unlocking, or it wouldn’t recognise it at all, meaning we had to enter the backup passcode.
10. It’s Undeniably Cool
We could have put this point at the end, but we thought we’d get it out the way now. Don’t even try and argue with us when we claim the Galaxy Z Flip a cool phone. You want people to see you with it. Not only because it’s a flip, but because not many people will have one. You can stand out from the crowd.
We loved laying in bed, with the screen slightly angled, scrolling through news feeds. The screen is tall when fully extended, but being able to angle it towards your face looks awesome when you see the page scroll round the bend.
11. The Battery Is Pretty Average
Battery life can often be a dealbreaker when choosing a new phone and with the Galaxy Z Flip, you’re not going to get the absolute best. It offers good performance there’s no doubt about that, and we found ourselves able to get through a whole day before needing to charge overnight, but we only used it mildly.
If you’re someone who wants to watch TV shows or movies throughout the day or spends hours on end swiping through TikTok videos, you’re going to find you’ll need to be plugging it in way before bedtime.
We did, however, find it charged pretty quickly via USB-C (this is the only physical port on the Z Flip, so you’ll need to invest in wireless Bluetooth headphones for music) and if you want, you can turn the phone into a wireless charging pad to wirelessly charge any other Qi-enabled devices you may have.
12. There’s A Thom Browne Edition
Which is even cooler.
13. Just One More Mention About The Camera
The overall performance of the rear camera is pretty damn good. It’s not the absolute best camera Samsung produces, but the shots it takes are typical of the South Korean company. They’re vibrant, full of colour and packed with detail.
There are extra options such as Pro mode which lets you fine-tune all manner of settings including ISO and aperture, and the view updates live, so whatever changes you make are instantly reflected on the screen. Super slow-mo video records one second of video at 960 frames per second (although technically on the Z Flip it’s recorded at 480fps and digitally enhanced to 960fps)
The flip action isn’t just for show either, but it gives the Z Flip some extra features that other phones can replicate. Chief among them is it can act as a tripod when taking photos. Open the camera app, bend the screen and you’ll notice the screen instantly transforms to put the field of view in the top half and camera controls on the bottom.
The bottom half then acts as a solid base to help you take pictures without the risk of motion blur.
14. It’s A Phone For Movie Lovers
One of the best things we found when using the Galaxy Z Flip is that it’s great for watching movies and TV shows. Why? Because when you rotate the screen, it’s dimensions lend itself to displaying a 21:9 aspect ratio, meaning you can say goodbye to the black bars that envelop videos on other devices.
Coupled with the Z Flip’s gorgeous display and you can happily while away the hours engrossed in the latest binge-worthy series (we found The Mandalorian on Disney+ to be particularly stunning).
15. It’s Expensive
It’s not always nice to end on a bit of a bum note, but there’s no ignoring the fact the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is a pricey phone. It costs $2199 here in Australia. That’s $200 more than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, the company’s other flagship device that gives you more in the camera department for starters, and 5G connectivity if you’re on a network that supports it.
Whether you think that’s a fair price to pay will come down entirely to personal preference. It is a little steep, but you’ll be getting one of this year’s must-have pieces of tech in return.