Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip is its most important phone, right now

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
(Image credit: Peter Hoffmann)

Within each phone maker’s portfolio, one phone rules them all. The flagship – the standard-bearer for the company’s direction and technology. Maybe not the best-seller, but the flagship is the phone on which a company stakes its reputation. 

At Apple, it’s the iPhone 13, and its best iteration – the iPhone 13 Pro Max. You wouldn’t say the iPhone 13 mini or the iPhone SE was the most iconic device from Cupertino, would you? Similarly, you wouldn’t say the Pixel 6a is Google’s ultra phone. That honor goes to the Google Pixel 6, and soon, the upcoming Google Pixel 7.

Is Samsung’s flagship flat or foldable?

So, which phone is Samsung’s flagship, and why does it matter? Samsung might tell you that its flagship phone is the Galaxy S series, and the pinnacle Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. That isn’t the phone of which Samsung sells the most units. 

The best-selling Samsung phone in the world last year was the far cheaper Samsung Galaxy A12. The Galaxy S series sets trends, and you can see its influence on the cheaper phones, but being the flagship isn’t about sales.

The flagship is what best represents the company, not necessarily the best thing the company makes. Toyota’s flagship car is the Toyota Avalon, but it sells more Corollas, and its most advanced car certainly bears a Lexus mark. 

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 will likely include everything Samsung can possibly put in a phone – the best everything. It will also probably cost $1800. It will be a Lexus, not a Toyota. A flagship needs to be affordable to a double-digit percentage of the market, so a flagship phone should cost around $1000, based on the current market.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is the company’s most important phone

Samsung’s true flagship phone this year will be the (likely named) Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Samsung needs to get behind that message and make sure it pushes the new Flip device to straospheric marketing levels.

It heads in the same innovative direction that has long made Samsung a phone leader, but it makes the proper sacrifices to be a flagship phone, not an aspirational luxury device.

Samsung hasn’t bothered to achieve bleeding-edge specs on its screens. You won’t find 4K-resolution displays on Samsung phones. There are no screens that refresh at rates up to 144Hz. Instead, Samsung has long used the screen to define its design, and base on the upcoming leaks, that seems to be the case again.

We may think the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 makes sacrifices, but that’s not accurate. The phone doesn't seem likely to try to compete with its flat siblings in many respects. The battery will potentially be smaller. The processor will likely be a step beneath next Spring’s flagship. 

Still, for anyone that's used one of the Galaxy Z Flip devices so far, the experience of carrying and flipping open the compact device more than makes up for these shortcomings. 

In the overall experience of owning the phone, you will appreciate the benefit of the design much more than you’ll regret any potential deficit in performance - and that's worth remembering when you're planning your next foray into the world of the very best phones

Why does it matter which phone is the flagship?

It matters because the flagship gets the most attention, and therefore the continued innovation. The flagship phone gets upgrades and software updates longer. It gets security updates faster. 

There are more accessories designed and sold for the flagship phone. There is a real, tangible benefit to defining one phone or another as the star of the show. 

Phone makers always introduce new features with new flagship phones, and sometimes those features make their way back to previous generations, too. Apple makes sure nearly every older model gets the same OS features with each major iOS update. 

Google recently brought the upgraded Magic Eraser experience from its newest Pixel 6a to the older Pixel 6 phones. Samsung has a more spotty track record in this regard, but we can hope.

It also matters because Samsung defines the phone market. It brings daring innovations to the widest audience and takes risks with its designs and features. Samsung throwing its weight behind a compact foldable phone as its flagship device of the year would show that the Z Flip 4, and its folding screen, isn’t just a gimmick. It’s the true Samsung flagship, worthy of devotion.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.