Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the first foldable phone I would buy.
Not that I’m going to — I’ve only been on an iPhone 13 Pro Max installment plan for a year and can’t quite justify spending $1800 on a second, unlocked phone — but Samsung’s largest foldable phone has now been refined. enough to have finally won I passed.
I’m less excited about the smaller Galaxy Z Flip 4, which costs less at $1,000 but comes with some major compromises. However, even that phone is a step up from its predecessor thanks to its much longer battery life.
In either case, however, using a foldable phone is a unique experience, with some things you may want to consider before making a purchase. If you’re considering embracing one of Samsung’s foldable phones instead of an iPhone 14 or a competing Android phone, here’s what you need to know.
The two phones have opposite advantages: With the Flip 4, you make the phone a bit less convenient to use for portability, because the clamshell design fits more comfortably in a pocket or handbag. The Fold 4 is even less comfortable to carry around than a normal phone, because you have a large screen everywhere.
You have to break them in: Don’t despair if the Flip 4 or Fold 4 hinge mechanisms seem too stiff when you take them out of the box. They seem to come off after a few days of regular use.
They are clumsy: Both Samsung foldables remind me of my first flip phone, whose hinge and retractable antenna I would compulsively play with. They remind us that we need more gadgets with support for absentminded futzing.
You get used to the fold: It’s more noticeable on the Flip 4, as vertical scrolling puts it in constant contact with your thumb. But after a while I started to expect it and maybe even developed a strange fondness for it.
Some apps blow it up: For example, why can’t I open the Kindle app in portrait mode on the Fold 4, fold the screen a bit and get separate columns of text on each half? As the biggest ambassador of foldable phones, Samsung should get more major app makers on board.
Videos the killer app: You don’t really need a bigger screen to check your email or scroll through social media. But if you’re watching live baseball or football on a portable screen that’s both larger and easier to hold than any regular smartphone, the Galaxy Fold 4 practically sells itself.
There is a learning curve: Opening separate apps on each half of the Fold 4 or Flip 4 screen is a nice feature. That includes placing a half-folded phone on the table for timed selfies, or letting people see themselves on the Fold 4’s cover screen while using the viewfinder on the other side. The challenge is to remember these things in the first place.
They get a little dirty: Between the pre-applied screen protector and the raised edges around the screen, you are likely to collect a fair amount of dust and other debris. Keep some canned air on hand for occasional cleaning.
Battery life is no longer a deal breaker: Last year’s Flip 3 and Fold 3 struggled to get through the day, even with the 120Hz refresh rate turned off on the latter. This year’s more efficient processors and the Flip 4’s bigger battery have made a huge difference, with neither phone letting me down, even on days of extra heavy use.
The Flip’s cover screen is still redundant: Double tapping and swiping on a small outer screen to view notifications or skip songs is almost always less efficient than just opening the phone. If that level of friction puts you off, the Flip 4 probably isn’t for you.
The cover of the Fold 4 is still too narrow: It’s more spacious than last year’s model, but typing is tricky and some apps have issues with the tall and narrow aspect ratio. You only want to use it if you can’t get both hands free.
The fingerprint reader is a compromise: Both phones have fingerprint readers along the right edge, rather than behind the phone or in the display. That can be a necessity given their foldable nature, but also an occasional annoyance. (It’s worse on the Flip 4, which has to stretch the reader more to reach over the center hinge.)
They are better without a case: Surprisingly, both the Fold 4 and Flip 4 have robust case ecosystems, but they cost more than standard phone cases, and they add bulk to devices that are quite bulky to begin with (especially for the Fold 4). Embracing the case-free lifestyle may be your best bet.
The Fold’s tablet screen grows with you: At first, the Fold 4’s unfolded screen can feel more cumbersome than a regular phone, as it’s harder to hold with one hand and your fingers have to cover more ground. But then you get used to rocking it with both hands and navigating with both thumbs, and everything clicks.
The cameras could be a little better: Basically, it’s unpleasant to have a $1,800 phone that doesn’t include Samsung’s best camera system (that credit belongs to the Galaxy S22 Ultra), or a $1,000 that’s a definite step behind one of the non- company’s foldable devices. Neither camera system is bad, but the compromise is most apparent when shooting photos with movement in less-than-ideal lighting.
The software is a bit different: On the Fold 4, Samsung has added a permanent app dock to the bottom of the screen so you can switch between apps with a single tap or quickly drag them into a split screen view. As a result, you might reconsider your docked apps; I moved my rarely used phone app and added productivity apps like Slack and Notion.
Apple lock in is real: This isn’t Samsung’s fault, but AirPlay and iMessage were the two things I missed the most while using the Flip 4 and Fold 4. I hate platform locking and could look past those drawbacks in favor of better ones. hardware, but I also wish Apple would get into the foldable phone game sooner or later.
I’m going to miss the Fold 4: Now that I’ve submitted this story, I’m sending both review units back to Samsung and will hate going back to a regular smartphone screen (albeit the largest Apple has to offer). On the plus side, I can’t wait to see what the foldable phone landscape looks like when I get my next smartphone upgrade.