Before you buy a Black Friday smartphone, go fold one in half

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 taking selfie of Android figurine
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Why is nobody buying folding phones? The latest innovation in smartphones only makes up 1% of the market, according to Korean electronics industry site The Elec, reporting on Samsung. Compared to flagship phones like the Galaxy S22, or best-selling bargain phones like the Galaxy A13, folding phones are a blip on the market’s radar. That makes no sense, considering how cool they are. 

If you’re considering buying a new phone during the Black Friday deals season, are you going to hold it in your hand first? Normally, I’d say you don’t need to get hands-on with a phone before you buy one. That’s what we’re here for, to put our hands on all of them and then tell you which are the best phones to buy. Unfortunately, some of you are ignoring my advice, so now I’m telling you to get out there and fold a phone.

A partially folded Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 next to a partially folded Huawei Mate Xs 2, both standing on a bare pine table

A Galaxy Z Fold 4 and a foldable Huawei Mate Xs 2 (Image credit: Future)

Go to your local Best Buy or your favorite wireless carrier store and insist on folding a phone in half. I strongly recommend folding the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, but the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is also a delightful phone to fold. Don’t just look at pictures of the phone, and don’t let someone else fold it for you. Go to the store, grab the phone, and fold it.

Try to make sure the screen is on, because only then will you get the full effect. That effect is not so much magic as it is the feeling of living through a paradox – I have a big phone. The phone is glass. The phone works. I fold the phone. It does not break. The phone works.

Don't believe what I say, believe what you feel

I can say “You won’t believe it!” but the experience is so much more than that. It will feel impossible in your hands. Your arms will resist putting force on the phone to close it shut. You have trained your muscles that this will break a phone. Then you go ahead and do it anyway. You break the phone. 

The phone doesn’t break. It’s solid and stiff. Samsung folding phones don’t fly open or closed with a flick of the wrist, the way old-school flip phones used to. You need to apply pressure, and they can hold their shape at any angle.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands on Bora Purple w Z Fold 4

Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 (Image credit: Future / Alex Walker-Todd)

That means you can use a Galaxy Z Flip 4 partially closed, for no good reason, just because you like the way that looks. Actually, for long thread social feeds like Twitter, dividing my screen into a top and bottom helps me focus on what I’m reading up top, while still keeping the larger view.

It’s just more enjoyable to use the phone that way, but you won’t believe me if I tell you. You have to see it. You have to go and try it. You need to go and fold a phone.

Of course, folding may not be your thing

There’s an obvious risk to phone makers when I tell you to go and hold the phones and fold the phones. Some phones feel better than others. If you’re a US reader, there’s a better-than-average chance you’re holding an iPhone. The iPhone feels better.

The iPhone is incomparable in the hand. Apple leaves no gaps in its phones. There are no offensive creases. You can swirl the phone over and over in your hand and your palm will never snag on a sharpened edge. The same is not true for almost any other device maker. 

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 has a crease. There’s no hiding it, but somehow it never bothers me. I’m not saying that in the way I say the iPhone 14 notch doesn’t bother me, meaning it totally bothers me but I get over it. 

Apple iPhone 14 Plus notch

The Apple 14 Plus notch (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Not only am I never bothered by the Galaxy Z Flip 4 crease, but it also adds some character to the phone as I slide my finger over the surface. I hope future phones don’t have the crease, but it’s not getting in my way, not in the least.

Only Samsung would bother to keep folding phones

Until I got to borrow the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 from AT&T, I never used a folding phone. I never wanted to buy one, or check one out in person. The original folding phones were amusing and useful, but not practical for everyone. I ignored them, like most buyers, thus even as the fourth generation of Samsung foldables hit the market, the foldable market is only one percent of all smartphones. 

That’s tiny. That’s so incredibly small I wonder why Samsung still bothers. Samsung devotes half of its phone launch cycle to foldable phones. The entire Galaxy Note family, a device that spawned a flotilla of loyal followers, has been merged with the flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra, and Fold and Flip devices get the entire latter-half of the year. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (Image credit: Future)

Samsung isn’t wrong to give foldables so much attention. Until we get to wear phones on our faces, the foldable is the next step in smartphone evolution. If folding phones don’t sound exciting, may I suggest that hearing about them isn’t a convincing argument. Even seeing them is not quite believing. You need to go and fold one.

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.