Hands-on with the Galaxy Z Flip, Samsung's second foldable phone

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, when unfolded to its full 6.7-inch screen size, is only slightly longer than the typical smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, when unfolded to its full 6.7-inch screen size, is only slightly longer than the typical smartphone.PHOTO: SAMSUNGMOBILEPRESS.COM

There is a new foldable phone in town: the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip.

Announced at Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco on Tuesday (Feb 11), the Galaxy Z Flip is the second foldable phone from the South Korean smartphone maker after last September's Galaxy Fold.

But while the Galaxy Fold's display unfolded to a tablet-like 7.3-inch size, the Z Flip, when unfolded to its full 6.7-inch screen size, is only slightly longer than the typical smartphone. And when folded, its compact clamshell design fits in a shirt pocket.

The Z Flip is not the first foldable clamshell phone. The new Motorola Razr unveiled last November sports a similar design. However, The Straits Times understands that it will not be launched in Singapore.

But while the Razr and Galaxy Fold phone both used plastic organic light-emitting displays (Oled), the Z Flip uses an ultra-thin bendable glass screen. Perhaps because of its glass nature, the crease in the middle of the screen appears less obvious.

However, this glass screen is covered by a protective plastic layer, which I managed to dent by pressing hard with my fingernail.

That aside, the Z Flip has a vastly improved folding mechanism that feels a lot smoother than the Fold's. Samsung has also added nylon fibers in the gaps of the hinge to reduce the amount of dirt and dust from getting in and damaging the display. Samsung says the new foldable screen is good for 200,000 folds, like the Galaxy Fold.

The hinge itself is fairly stiff and is difficult to open with one hand. You cannot flip the phone open nonchalantly, like you would with a clamshell flip phone of the past. But it also means you can open the Z Flip halfway like a laptop and set it on a table to watch videos or make videos calls.

The Z Flip has a tiny 1.1-inch cover display that shows the time and notifications. This display is barely large enough to display short notifications - you will have to tap it and unfold the phone to respond to them.

 

Next to this screen are the two 12-megapixel cameras, a wide-angle camera and an ultra-wide camera. These rear cameras can be used to take selfie photos - with the cover display helping you to frame the shot. You will have to turn on the cover display preview function in the camera app first. Then rotate the phone around to face the rear cameras. The cover display will show a truncated view of the rear camera's viewfinder.

In select apps, the phone interface will automatically split into two 4-inch halves. Samsung calls this Flex mode. The idea here is to use the upper half of the screen to view videos or photos while the bottom half is used to navigate or read other content. In the Gallery app for instance, the top half of the screen shows the photos while the bottom half works like a touchpad for navigation.

During my hands-on, only the default apps such as Camera and Gallery supported this feature but Samsung says YouTube and Netflix will support Flex mode when the Z Flip is available.

In terms of its hardware, the Z Flip uses last year's flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor. It has 8GB of system memory and 256GB of internal storage. It uses a side-mounted fingerprint sensor instead of an in-display version. Facial recognition is also supported.

The battery is split into two because of the form factor, but the total capacity is a modest 3,300mAh. Wireless charging is supported, though there is no water or dust resistance.

Singapore is the first market in Southeast Asia to launch the Galaxy Z Flip, which will be 4G long term evolution (LTE) only.

It will be available in Singapore this Friday (Feb 14) at 8am from the online stores of M1, Singtel, StarHub and Samsung at a recommended retail price of $1,998. It will come in two colours - purple and black.