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Hands-on review: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

It’s sometime in the mid-to-late 2000’s, and I’m using my very first cell phone, a Motorola Razr. 

And while I’m downloading my polyphonic ringtones and dramatically slapping my phone shut every chance I get, the smartphone revolution is beginning to take off – and unbeknownst to me, my Razr’s days are numbered, along with every other flip phone’s.

Now it's 2020, and here I am reviewing a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. What’s that thing they say about history?

We are amidst the flip phone renaissance, and although it didn’t begin with the Z Flip, Samsung’s newest offering makes a serious claim that it is at the top of the pile (so far).

But is it worth all of NZ$2,400?
 

The Good

I had the Z Flip for a week, and I confess when I first got my hands on it, it was exciting. The phone looked sleek when it was folded, and once opened it turned into a long, vivid screen. I marvelled a bit at the ‘folding glass’ technology – the crease in the middle, in my experience, is only visible if you really look for it.

When I went out for my government-mandated lockdown-walk, its size while folded really did present a stark difference to my iPhone X – while thicker, the surface area was much smaller, and it had no trouble fitting into whatever pocket I presented it with.

The gigantic screen looked great when playing videos, providing much more of a genuine video experience than my shorter iPhone. The accessibility features were also much more intuitive and user-friendly than iPhone - every accessibility issue I had with such a large screen had a solution.

The specs were solid, with a Snapdragon 855+ processor, 8GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, decent battery life and super-fast charging all included in the base model.

It also comes with a free plastic case, which is a first in all my years of purchasing smartphones.

I really like the Flip, and the fun I had playing around with it after 10+ years of using iPhone had me seriously considering abandoning Apple and migrating to my very first Android. But.
 

The Bad

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip does indeed have flaws, the most glaring of which, for me, is the dysfunctionality of the phone’s very selling point: its flip function.

Firstly, it's hard to actually flip open – I always needed two hands, which, in a lot of everyday circumstances, is actually quite annoying. This meant that most of the time I left the phone unfolded with the screen asleep when I wasn’t using it.

Another selling point for Samsung is the phone’s ability for users to view and interact with two apps simultaneously, one on each half of the screen, with the famous crease dissecting the two. However, I never used this feature except to fulfil my obligation for this review and found it awkward to hold and use the phone while it was half flipped.

Another gripe I had was with the tiny cover screen, visible when the phone is folded, which shows the time, as well as a small music menu when swiped left, and a small list of apps from which you have received notifications.

I had immense trouble swiping on this screen, however, simply because of its small size. Notifications were relegated to logos of the apps they came from, which showed only a small amount of text if you tapped on them.

As someone who receives dozens of news alert notifications a day, I was simply unable to view notifications as I needed to when the phone was folded – another reason for me to leave the phone unfolded when idle.

The camera, at 12 megapixels, was good, but nothing to write home about, and I had enough trouble with the facial recognition not recognizing my face that I quickly put that to rest – the fingerprint sensor on the sleep button, however, worked well.

Verdict

There are many things to love about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip - its sleek design, portability, decent specs and top-notch accessibility features are winners. 

But $2,400 is a lot of money, and the foldable screen - the primary selling point - missed the mark by being too hard to open on-the-go, and there is serious room for improvement in the cover screen.

We may be amidst the flip phone renaissance, but I'm still waiting for the pièce de résistance.