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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review: Third time is a flipping charm

Saurabh Singh
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Technically, the Galaxy Z Flip is Samsung's third foldable. If you're stressing out about how that is, well, the Galaxy Fold that came before the Galaxy Z Flip had two versions – a fundamentally broken one and a seemingly improved one that came thereafter. A lot has been said and written about the Galaxy Fold and how it was possibly launched in a hurry, to one up Huawei's Mate X, another foldable that was taken off the shelves similarly albeit under very different circumstances, one that also involved its current state of affairs with the US government. We'll never know since Huawei never gave out the original Mate X for review, so let's just give it the benefit of doubt here.

The reason why I am digging out the past – which is technically not that long ago in this case – is because the way the first-generation of foldables (have) turned out, it's kind of surprising – although not entirely – that brands like Samsung are 'already' out with the second wave of devices, regardless of all the negative press. Now I am not saying the Galaxy Fold was bad, in fact, I have spent some time with it and I could see myself using it far more than how I had imagined things initially. For me, the Galaxy Fold has changed everything. It has convinced me that foldables are the future. The Galaxy Fold can wow you on a level no other current-generation smartphone/tablet/hybrid can, but does that mean you should spend Rs 1.65 lakh on it? Well, no.

It's surprising how Samsung got back on its feet so fast and came out with the Galaxy Z Flip, a foldable that when you compare with the Galaxy Fold, would seem like chalk and cheese. In all the departments, including durability. It's like someone at Samsung flipped a switch or something, and bang, there was the Galaxy Z Flip, flipping around in hallmark Samsung-style 'funky' promo videos. And before you knew it, it was on the shelves – ready to buy. But while the velocity at which all of this happened may be surreal, there's absolutely no doubt that only Samsung could have pulled it off, what with its years of experience bending glass.

So how good is the Galaxy Z Flip? Well quite good actually. So should you buy it? The answer to that is still a little complicated. Let me explain.

Galaxy Z Flip – design, display

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The Galaxy Z Flip is very different from the Galaxy Fold. It's a foldable alright, but you can say, it's far more conservative in approach. While the Galaxy Fold is designed to fit a big screen tablet in the body of a smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip does just the opposite. It's a smartphone that's designed to fold into an even smaller smartphone – something that can then fit comfortably in your pocket, something that you can't do on the Galaxy Fold unless you have deep pockets (literally and figuratively). On the flip side, this means while the Galaxy Fold gives you access to two very different form factors, the Galaxy Z Flip is just a smartphone and a smartphone alone it is. No more, no less.

Where it falls in terms of expanding your horizons, the Galaxy Z Flip more than compensates for through nostalgia. There's still something very satisfying about making a call on a flip phone – and flipping it off ends your call, I'll just leave the rest to your imagination. Samsung is targeting the younger lot here, so chances are we're looking at a crowd who hasn't possibly been exposed to a clamshell phone in their lifetime. The Galaxy Z Flip could be a great way of catching up, at least that's what Samsung would be hoping.. I'd say, it's still very cool and all, and leave it there.

Like the Galaxy Fold, the Galaxy Z Flip also has a spine or hinge in the middle but there is no partition on the inside – Samsung calls it a Hideaway hinge. The hinge now in its second-generation has been refined, according to Samsung, with minute bristles thrown in to keep dust and debri from entering. While its proper use case can't be really judged on the basis of a few days of usage, I can tell you Samsung has really improved upon that hinge – from the first-generation version seen inside the Galaxy Fold.

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It's solid and very confident. Samsung had to make it that way to enable  the Galaxy Z Flip's USP feature – Flex mode. Basically, you can prop the phone on a surface and run two apps simultaneously, for instance, the camera viewfinder on the upper end and gallery app on the lower. The angle of the fold can be adjusted as per your need. While not many apps support the Galaxy Z Flip's twin view experience, the ones that do, work well. But do I see people propping this thing up randomly, as if it were second nature, beyond a certain honeymoon period? Not really. But at least you get the option.

Samsung's flexible OLED or Infinity Flex has also seemingly received a makeover in the Galaxy Z Flip. There's still a 'protective' film of plastic at the top that you're advised against peeling off or even so much as scratching with your finger, but Samsung is now using Ultra Thin Glass or UTG below it to give the impression that it's all a lot sturdier. How it holds up with time is something only time will tell, but here's what that UTG does – it reduces some friction so the all-round 'touch' experience on the Galaxy Z Flip is a wee bit 'smoother' as opposed to the Galaxy Fold. It still attracts a lot of dust and fingerprints though.

I like that Samsung is using a uniform plastic bezel all around that flexible display – as opposed to the Galaxy Fold where the bezels are frankly all over the place. Not only does it bode well for looks, it also helps protect that display from all that folding and unfolding you're going to do with it. There is a visible crease where the Galaxy Z Flip folds though, so that's something that you'll have to get used to – the way you get used to punchhole cutouts. Speaking of which, the Galaxy Z Flip has a Galaxy S20-like punchhole in the centre – it houses a 10MP camera that shoots well-to-do selfies in good light, but is nothing to write home about as the intensity of light goes down or if you switch to indoor lighting.

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What I really like about the Galaxy Z Flip, apart from the fact that it's such a solid mish mash of the past and future, is that you can use it as a regular smartphone all day. Without even folding it. Its 6.7-Inch 1080p+ AMOLED display with 21.5:9 aspect ratio fits just right in the hands, without being too overbearing, and not to mention, it's a pleasure to watch content on. It could have done with some more brightness, but all in all, the display here is quite good – something that Samsung does better than any other brand out there.

What i don't like is the 1.1-inch secondary cover display. It's too small to convince me into using it – even though Samsung has given it some dedicated functionality including quick selfie capture.

Apart from that plastic screen, the rest of the Galaxy Z Flip is all-glass and metal. It's a beautiful piece of hardware like a high-end Galaxy S20, screaming premium from every nook and cranny. It's got a side-mounted fingerprint scanner that's fast and reliable and USB Type-C for charging and audio out – there's no headphone jack. The Galaxy Z Flip supports wireless charging but there's no water and dust resistance.

Galaxy Z Flip – performance, cameras, battery life

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The Galaxy Z Flip has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor paired with 8GB RAM and 256GB non-expandable storage. Software inside is Android 10-based One UI 2.1. Samsung usually sticks to Exynos-based processors when it comes to its premium flagships in India. So, everytime it decides to bring a Qualcomm-based high-end phone, you're bound to notice and for good reason. Both synthetic benchmarks and real-world stats give Qualcomm the edge when it comes to desirability.

The same is true about the Snapdragon 855+-based Galaxy Z Flip. The Snapdragon 855+ is not the latest and greatest mobile processor in the market right now, but that's alright. It's more than enough to handle everything you throw at it without breaking a sweat and without taking much toll on battery life. This means that the Galaxy Z Flip offers good performance across the board and it's fairly efficient at heat management. And, battery life is good too, even though its 3,300mAh capacity may seem lacking on paper. The Galaxy Z Flip is easily a one-day phone for even the most demanding user. Plus, it supports 15W fast charging, fast wireless charging and it can also wirelessly charge other Qi-compatible devices.

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Samsung has come a long way since its TouchWiz days when it comes to software. One UI is the best piece of software that it has ever made and it also works like a charm in the Galaxy Z Flip as well. It's well optimized and offers a slew of features, some useful, some gimmicky, but overall a step in the right direction.

But if there's one thing that holds the Galaxy Z Flip back, it's the cameras. At a time when Samsung is essentially launching cameras that can also make phone calls, the Galaxy Z Flip has to make do with older hardware in this regard. With dual 12MP cameras (wide+ultrawide-angle), the Galaxy Z Flip is closer to the Galaxy S9 from 2018, which plays spoilsport in 2020. It's not a bad camera phone, but it pales in comparison to Samsung's own work. So that's a bummer. The 12MP camera can capture some well-detailed photos in good light but there's almost always some oversharpening happening in post. The ultrawide-angle camera meanwhile tends to capture generally softer photos. Low light photos taken with the Galaxy Z Flip main camera are just about usable – while ultrawide-angle shots in such cases are a forgettable affair.

Galaxy Z Flip – should you buy?

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Foldables have just arrived and just like any other 'breakthrough' technology, it isn't easy manufacturing it at scale. From a technical point of view to the cost involved. Which is why you don't see every brand making foldables today. Samsung is one of the few ones, and the reason why it's doing that, is because it can.

There's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is a beautiful piece of hardware, but its real beauty lies in its pricing. Remember, this is only Samsung’s third foldable and already we’ve come down from 1.65 lakh to a relatively more accessible 1.10 lakh which is around Galaxy S20 Ultra territory. That's both a good thing and bad.

Good that foldables are becoming relatively more affordable relatively quickly and bad that you got to pick sides. So what would it be? Would you play it safe and buy the more conventional Galaxy S20 Ultra or take the plunge and go for the 'flipping' genius that is the Galaxy Z Flip?

The Galaxy Z Flip is the first solid attempt at a foldable, and even though it's not as flashy or groundbreaking as the Galaxy Fold, it's a giant step for foldables because it can make you believe in them. I have been a believer since the time I first got a hold of the Galaxy Fold. The Galaxy Z Flip has only made that belief stronger. It's not perfect, the Galaxy Z Flip, but if you're looking to get a foldable today, this is what you should get. Period.