Samsung Galaxy Flip 4 review: company needs new ideas to stay on top

Upgrades in the latest incarnation of the world's best-selling foldable smartphone are mostly aesthetic

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Samsung Electronics has been enjoying the view from the top in the foldable smartphone market for years, and now aims to extend its reign with one of its two new devices, the Galaxy Z Flip 4.

Despite its name, the Flip 4 is only the third iteration of the Flip, as Samsung skipped a ‘2’ last year to align it with the Fold 3.

And while it is the “smaller” and “lesser” of the two new foldables, data shows that the Flip is outperforming the Fold.

The device accounted for 51 per cent of foldable sales in the first quarter of 2022, the third straight quarter it has led the market, industry tracker Digital Supply Chain says.

The National takes a look at the new device, and checks out why it is the number one foldable phone in the world, and if it should do more to stay on top.

How does the Flip 4 differ from Flip 3?

At first glance, you may not notice the physical differences between the Flip 4 and the Flip 3. After all, it retains the general design of the series.

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FLIP 4

Display: Main – 6.7" FHD Dynamic Amoled 2X, 2640 x 1080, 22:9, 425ppi, HDR10+, up to 120Hz; cover – 1.9" Super Amoled, 512 x 260, 302ppi

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 4nm, octa-core; Adreno 730 GPU

Memory: 8GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: Android 12, One UI 4.1.1

Main camera: Dual 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) + 12MP wide (f/1.8), OIS, portrait, super slo-mo, hyperlapse

Video: 4K@30/60fps, full-HD@30/60fps, HD@30fps; slo-mo@240/960fps; HDR10+

Front camera: 10MP (f/2.4)

Battery: 3700mAh, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, 'all-day' life

Connectivity: 5G; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC (Samsung Pay)

I/O: USB-C

Cards: Nano-SIM + eSIM; no microSD slot

Colours: Bora purple, graphite, pink gold, blue; Bespoke Edition in select countries

In the box: Flip 4, USB-C-to-USB-C cable

Price: Dh3,799 / Dh3,999 / Dh4,449

But look closely and there are some subtle and not-so-subtle changes. Most noticeable is the hinge, which is smaller.

The edges, if you pay close attention, have also been toned down and straightened, compared with previous versions' rounder finish. Bezels have also been trimmed down.

This combination gives the Flip 4’s aesthetics a cleaner and more refined look.

One thing that is not visible, yet very important, is that the Flip 4 is rated IPX8, meaning you can submerge it in water up to 1.5 metres for as long as 30 minutes.

But bear in mind that it is not for saltwater (definitely) and not recommended for pools, nor is it dustproof.

Among the device’s strengths is that it is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+, which is by far the strongest in the market. Its aluminium frame has also been reinforced.

The Flip 4’s aspect ratio — the proportional relationship between height and width — is 22:9, same as its predecessors.

For perspective, it is a little taller and slimmer compared to the Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G and the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Both displays remain the same, with the main inner screen at 17 centimetres and the cover display at 4.8cm. But the latter is now also covered with Victus+.

How does the Flip 4 feel and perform?

Given its 22:9 aspect ratio, first-time users of the Flip 4 would probably be treated to a “new” experience, but not necessarily a mind-boggling one. Its slim profile is a bit reminiscent of the classic Nokia 6210 from 2000.

As such, gripping the device is easier but it can be slippery. However, it’s not as slippery as phones with a matte finish, but moist hands can add to the risk.

Samsung improved its processor to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which does its job to smooth out operations with its new 4-nanometre process.

Memory stays put at 8GB, but the company added a maximum capacity of 512GB, in a sign of intention to take the device further into the mainstream.

If you “flip” over to the outer screen, you will see that there are useful functions such as, by default, viewing notifications, playing music, setting alarms, voice recording, a timer and a calendar.

You can customise there and add widgets, including for contacts that in turn allow you to make and receive calls.

Samsung says that the Flip 4 (and the Fold 4) can withstand more than 200,000 folds “before failing”, which equates to about five years at 100 folds a day.

You can, technically, fold or unfold it by just flipping it with one hand, but that would require much force and would, theoretically, put more stress on the hinge.

When you partially fold the Flip 4, it will enter into Flex Mode, which splits the screen. The top shows the app content, while the lower part turns into a control panel, letting you use it without having to hold it.

But this mode has seemingly redundant controls, which include screen-shooting, brightness and volume control, and a trackpad.

A keyboard will pop up for messaging or emails, but you get the point: Flex mode decreases your viewing area by half, and it lets the Flip 4 mimic a very small laptop.

The best use for it is while taking selfies, since it will allow you just to plop the device somewhere so you can set a timer and ready yourself for a shot.

There is also an extra brightness option — best for when under heavy sunlight — but that will sap the battery.

Cameras stay put

There are no veritable upgrades on this front — surprise — but the Flip 4's cameras are up to the task with clean, crisp shots. However, night or low-light shots tend to be grainy.

Check out our gallery of sample shots:

Meanwhile, using the cover display to take photos is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you’re guaranteed maximum quality since you’ll be using the main dual-camera system, and on the other, you are limited to that 4.8cm screen, meaning you won’t get a full view of what you’re taking.

Keep in mind, however, that this will not result in a photo that’s the same size as the cover display, since it will still use the snapper’s full resolution, meaning you will still get the same result as if taking a regular shot.

So don’t worry if the display shows that subjects are not within the frame, because you'll most probably get everything in.

How long does the Flip 4 battery last?

Samsung has not given an exact figure other than saying that the device can last “all day”.

Over the course of our test, it held up well, with heavy use resulting in about 20 per cent of power left by nightfall.

In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, it lost 10 per cent, a nice improvement from the Flip 3’s 12 per cent.

The Flip 4 now supports fast charging at 25W, which Samsung says will charge it up to 50 per cent in 30 minutes.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 comes in four colours, with more options in its Bespoke Edition that is available online. Victor Besa / The National

Unfortunately, we did not have a 25W charger on standby, but we did have a 30W one, which is fine.

Chargers are backward compatible — but make sure you are on the same voltage — so in this case the Flip 4 will charge at 25W.

Using that and a supplied USB-C cable, the Flip 4 went up to 24 per cent in 15 minutes, before settling at 46 per cent after half an hour, which is not far off what has been advertised.

Meanwhile, wireless charging has been bumped up from 10W to 15W. Don’t expect this to be a dazzler: it inched up by only 5 per cent in 15 minutes.

The contact point is on the lower half of the phone, so you can wirelessly charge it while it is folded, which allows you to see the outer screen and use it in Flex mode.

The verdict

It is understandable why Samsung's Flip is leading the foldable smartphone race: the company nailed the right combination of design and functionality, without going overboard with impractical features.

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is right on track to continue its leading position.

Bit things are getting somewhat repetitive. There are no breakthrough new features, and doubling the max capacity just won't cut it.

The design changes are a refreshing start, but there's an obvious need to present something even fresher such as a camera system at par with the Galaxy S and Fold series, in what we expect to be the Flip 5 next year.

Samsung has done a good job in easing users into this emerging category. Now it is time for the company — and the industry at large — to come up with newer ideas, both in terms of design and features, to not just keep users interested, but also give them more incentive to switch.

Updated: August 19, 2022, 7:11 AM
SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FLIP 4

Display: Main – 6.7" FHD Dynamic Amoled 2X, 2640 x 1080, 22:9, 425ppi, HDR10+, up to 120Hz; cover – 1.9" Super Amoled, 512 x 260, 302ppi

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 4nm, octa-core; Adreno 730 GPU

Memory: 8GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: Android 12, One UI 4.1.1

Main camera: Dual 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) + 12MP wide (f/1.8), OIS, portrait, super slo-mo, hyperlapse

Video: 4K@30/60fps, full-HD@30/60fps, HD@30fps; slo-mo@240/960fps; HDR10+

Front camera: 10MP (f/2.4)

Battery: 3700mAh, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, 'all-day' life

Connectivity: 5G; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC (Samsung Pay)

I/O: USB-C

Cards: Nano-SIM + eSIM; no microSD slot

Colours: Bora purple, graphite, pink gold, blue; Bespoke Edition in select countries

In the box: Flip 4, USB-C-to-USB-C cable

Price: Dh3,799 / Dh3,999 / Dh4,449

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