Smartphones will curve, fold and flip. It doesn’t matter whether we believe it. It’s quite clear that Samsung does. In their fourth iterations, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4 are just suffering from what every other smartphone today does — saturation. Which in turn is a sign that Samsung is where it wants to be, at least for the time being.
It’s unlikely that Samsung expects anyone to drop an earlier version of the Fold or Flip to buy one of the newer versions right now, so it’s content watching the market slowly adopt these devices as it works out the kinks — the largest of which is that these devices are still either incomplete or too expensive.
Also read: Why we continue to love foldable phones
There are minor changes this time. For instance, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 makes it easier to use split-screen modes, adding finger gestures and new settings. Similarly, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 has a larger screen on the outside, making the phone almost exactly as useful as a smartwatch when it’s in the folded position.
There’s a lot more to do still. One can’t help but wish that the Galaxy Flip will one day flip into a pocketable device just as easily that the Moto Flips and Razrs of yore used to, and the Galaxy Fold should unfold as seamlessly as a book does, or at least as close to that as an electronic device can get. I’m sure Samsung is working on that, even if the company hasn’t said it is, or whether it is even possible. As things stand, however, I still need both hands to flip or fold these devices.
The Flip 4 also feels slightly better to hold this time, with a polished aluminium frame that, I dare say, makes the phone feel sturdier. You still have to open it to actually do anything on the device, and at that point, it works and feels like any regular smartphone with a six-something inch display.
As far as using these phones is concerned, it’s really the Z Fold 4 that feels like ‘the future’ of smartphones. Looking at a spreadsheet on that large 7.4-inch (unfolded) display is indeed refreshing. Old-school Galaxy Note users will certainly be able to get some use of this extra screen real-estate with Samsung’s S-Pen stylus.
On the Fold 4, you can use apps in split screen mode, meaning you can copy data from an e-mail on to a document without having to switch between the two apps repeatedly, and so on. The phones are still waiting for Google to do better with tablet support for Android, and for Android developers to really take interest in adapting apps to a tablet form-factor properly.
The fact that not many apps are fond of the tablet form factor is apparent in apps like Instagram, which opens as a vertical app, taking up only the middle part of the large inside screen on the Fold 4. It looks bad, and kills the overall experience. The screen on the outside of the device is as useful as it was on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but it still takes some getting used to, especially when typing messages etc.
The outside screen on both these devices need some work, but the Z Fold’s version actually makes it a standalone phone, while the Z Flip’s doesn’t. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 allows users to reply to some texts with pre-set messages, like ‘on my way’ etc, but that’s about it. Like I said before, it's exactly as useful as a smartwatch’s display.
Should you buy them?
As things stand, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 are devices that any first adopter will be happy with. One unfolds into a large tablet, while the other flips to disappear into your pocket. One is perfect for the busy executive on the go, while the other is perfect for the tiny pockets on womens’ trousers. They both fulfil the minimum requirements that foldable smartphones of their kind should.
The question now is whether they can change what we think about smartphones completely. And there lies the doubt, but not in Samsung, in us. As much as I can say that these devices are incomplete, and need something more, I can’t quite tell what that something is. Will a snapping ‘flip’ on the Z Flip make it perfect? I don’t know. Will an absolutely seamless fold on the Z Fold? I don’t know either.
What I know, however, is that Samsung has done as much as any hardware can do. Apple’s iPhones, or any smartphone for that matter, are as useful as they are because of the apps developers build for them. So the ball’s now in their court, and we just have to wait and find out where things go from here.