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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review

We've had more time with Samsung's Galaxy Z flip this weekend

What is a hands on review?
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip in its half folded position
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the flip-phone-style foldable smartphone with a 6.7-inch display that collapses in half. Its novelty will turn heads, but so will its price. We're still testing it, but we can already say we like its durable thin glass better than the plastic Galaxy Fold screen, and its overall execution is significantly better than the new Moto Razr.

For

  • Neat folding concept
  • Cool splitscreen UI
  • Premium feel

Against

  • Quite expensive
  • Cover Display is tiny

We got more time with the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, the flip phone with a 6.7-inch screen that folds in half. Our first 24 hours with it have been positive, albeit limited, and good news, unlike the Galaxy Fold, this Samsung foldable is decidedly durable.

The actual problem this time has been buying the Z Flip – it's sold out throughout the world despite being quite expensive. It costs more than the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus, and it's about the same price as the Galaxy S20 Ultra in most regions.

Is it worth the high price? We're here to answer that in our ongoing Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review, and we've noticed five things in the past few hours.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

First, the novelty of this foldable flip phone turns heads – everyone wanted to know what this phone was when we walked around with it. 

People would stop us in the streets whenever we folded or unfolded it. They'd do a double-take and think, "Wait, that's different." When is the last time that's happened when upgrading to the new iPhone? It has certainly been a while.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)
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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

Second, the Galaxy Z Flip actually benefits from the new Moto Razr having come out in the same month. We've found Motorola's foldable flip phone to be disappointing, despite offering tons of nostalgia. Samsung one-ups it in every category with better specs (especially a better battery capacity). The Razr has been setup to be point of comparison, not a viable form of competition.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)
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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

Third, the small 1.1-inch Cover Display on the front doesn't offer a lot of room, but it packs in the basic essentials when it comes to notifications and quick information, like the time and battery percentage. When someone calls, their name shows up here.

Inside on the unfolded screen, we dug the Flex UI, which allows for multitasking with two apps and, in some cases, enables the controls of one app to be laid out across the Full HD+ screen. For example, taking a selfie puts the camera preview on the top screen, while all of the controls are on the bottom of the display. And the phone works great half-folded for video calls, acting as an impromptu tripod on a table.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

Fourth, we've found the camera quality and the chipset to be nearly the best, but not the best. That title will likely go to the S20 series, which pack more robust internals and better camera sensors, and those three S20 phones start to launch on March 6. It's going to be a tough call for a lot of people with big enough budgets to afford either.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

Fifth, we found the Z Flip is ready to bend over frontwards, offering a daringly fresh concept next to today's traditional-looking smartphones. Samsung says it's the 'full screen that fits in your pocket' and we can confirm just that.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

The design of the Galaxy Z Flip makes it infinitely easier to hold and pocket than regular smartphones, a win for those of us with smaller hands and tight jacket pockets.

We're about to dive even deeper into the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, but we'll continue to test this novel smartphone through the week, then come back with a final review score soon. Stay tuned.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip release date and price

  • Launches today in the US and UK: Friday, February 14
  • High launch price: $1,380 / £1,300 (around AU$2,050)

Like all foldable phones, Samsung's latest comes with a high asking price of $1,380 / £1,300 (around AU$2,050). 

It'll be available in the US and UK on February 14, which is this coming Friday. Those in Australia have yet to hear how much it'll cost or when it'll be out, but you can pre-register internet on the official Samsung website.

In the US, we're seeing it available through AT&T and Sprint, as well as Best Buy and Samsung's own website, where it's available to purchase unlocked.

Design, display and battery

Yes, due to its small footprint, the Z Flip is lighter on specs compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but it's not short on novelty – that it has in spades. Just don't expect the latest 7nm chipset, Samsung's newest cameras or largest battery capacity. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

The obvious difference between this phone and Samsung's first folding phone, the Galaxy Fold, is that the inside is a bendable screen that stretches from top to bottom. We've also seen a similar sort of design from the new Moto Razr.

The candybar-style of the Galaxy Z Flip, when unfolded, makes it distinct from the mini-tablet-like Galaxy Fold. The Z Flip has a 6.7-inch Full HD+ screen and 12.9:9 aspect ratio, which feels extremely tall in the hand.

You can see how the phone folds out in the video below:

You could easily mistake the opened Z Flip for a typical Android flagship phone if you don't pay attention to the faint crease across the middle of the display; collapse that hinge down, however, and the phone's footprint gets much smaller. 

There's a tiny 1.1-inch AMOLED 'Cover Display' on the outside, with enough space to show an incoming call from a contact – if their name is short enough – in the form of a scrolling name or phone number. That said, our 10-digit number proved too long for the entire Cover Display when we tested it out.

Notifications, battery life and the time can also be shown on this small screen, and it does more than just display static information. You can scroll through the various sets of data on the display, plus there's a way to tap a notification on the Cover Display and then open up the phone to see the app in full.

It's something called contextual continuity, and it's a similar feature to how apps were capable of running on the outside display and instantaneously loading on the main display of the Galaxy Fold when you unfolded the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

We also like the fact that when it goes black, the Cover Display can be lit back up with a simple double tap like any other Samsung screen. We're wondering how useful all of this scrunched-up information will be compared to the larger cover displays of the Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr, but we're ready to give it a whirl in a full review.

There are two main things that we feel Samsung gets right about its new foldable: first, it uses thin glass to cover the inner screen. The Moto Razr, Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X all using vulnerable plastic screens, and we're interested in seeing how this design stands up.

Second, the Z Flip has a 3,300mAh battery compared to Motorola's 2,510mAh capacity, and we've heard of poor results from the latter. Samsung is able to pull this off with a dual battery design, much like it does on the larger Fold. 

There's even wireless charging on this device, which is something that is notably missing from the Motorola Razr. We don't currently know how long the Galaxy Z Flip will last from a single charge, but we'll be sure to test it thoroughly in our upcoming review.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

About that thin glass

The Galaxy Z Flip display is made of Samsung’s ‘Ultra Thin Glass’, which one-ups what we've seen from other foldables, including the Motorola Razr with its plastic OLED.

Samsung's glass-based approach felt smooth to swipe across, with a frictionless feel. The slickness is akin to Corning Gorilla Glass, which is typically found on non-folding phones. You can easily forget that you’re using a new display technology.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

More important, the Ultra-Thin Glass felt pretty durable, and when we tapped on the screen, even fairly hard. We didn’t feel like the device was in any risk of breaking, which wasn't the case on the original Galaxy Fold.

Of course, we weren’t hitting the screen as hard as a drop would hurt it – this wasn't an official drop test. But we’re still pretty confident that this is a durable foldable phone.

One potential issue with the Ultra Thin Glass, however, is that there’s a crease on the screen side where the hinge is located. The crease doesn't seem as dramatic as on the Galaxy Fold, but, then again, it's across a smaller screen and this is a brand new phone unit that hasn't been folded many times. 

Either way, you'll likely learn to ignore the crease if it's anything like the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

(Image credit: Future)

The phone is available in the Mirror Black that you can see throughout this hands-on as well as Mirror Purple and Mirror Gold. Only certain markets, carriers and stores get different colors though, so you may be restricted in choice.

Specs and functionality

When it comes to cameras, there's only two shooters on the rear of the Galaxy Z Flip. This isn't going to compete with the Galaxy S20 Ultra anytime soon. There's a 12MP F2.2 Ultra Wide camera that works with a 12MP F1.8 wide-angle shooter.

There's a small cutout in the display for selfies when you have the phone unfolded and that's achieved through a 10MP front-facing shooter. We were unable to test these out properly in our first time with the phone, but we'll be sure to put them all through their paces at the time of our full review.

In the US and UK, the Galaxy Z Flip is using 2019's Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset and it's not currently clear if it's different in other markets. That chipset should offer suitable amounts of power, but isn't as impressive as the tech used inside the S20 range.

 There's only one variant of the Galaxy Z Flip that comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. There's no microSD slot here though, so you won't be able to expand that any further.

Early verdict

The Galaxy Z Flip doesn't necessarily represent a pivot in Samsung's foldable phone strategy – it feels more like another experiment to see which design sticks with consumers. Who knows, both the Fold and Flip styles may co-exist.

In launching after the Moto Razr, the Z Flip gets a lot of things right that Motorola got wrong, including stuffing in a bigger battery and thin glass, not plastic, to protect the 6.7-inch inner display. That's not enough reason for everyone to pay so much money for a phone that's just as pricey as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which has better camera and specs. You have to be looking for something new and chic.

If anything, the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is evidence that the future of foldable phones hasn't been decided; it's a bold idea – and one that's rather flexible, if you will.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.