There are two ways to look at Samsung’s latest flip device, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, no pun intended.
One is that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, and the other is that, what else can the Korean chaebol add to the third iteration of hardware introduced in 2020, to make it stand out? Considering that flip phones, which have made somewhat of a comeback, are still niche, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 5G plays it safe and introduces minor upgrades to last year’s model, but offers little else in winning non-foldable device users over.
That said, it might also be a tad ambitious to continually expect big leaps in mobile technology every year, and the Flip 4 does its job in illustrating Samsung’s commitment to this format, and cementing its lead in this niche space. All those minor bugbears from battery life and poor NFC sensitivity have been somewhat fixed with the latest iteration, so if you’ve held out on getting the previous Flip model, this new one is worth a second look, though it offers little for owners of last year’s model looking for an upgrade.
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, users will be getting the best hardware in the market once again… like what they got last year. This year’s Flip 4, with a 120hz AMOLED 2640 x 1080 pixel screen, 8GB of RAM, and water resistance, follows the same hardware specifications as last year, showing that no matter how you unfold it, there are few hardware improvements between the Flip 3 and Flip 4.
Another lack of change is with the pricing, since Samsung understands that the upgrades have been generally minor around the Flip 4. Launching at the same S$1,398 price as the Flip 3, the real changes, though minor, are with the battery (an increase from 3300 mAh to 3700 mAh), a larger camera sensor (from 1.12μm pixels to 1.8μm pixels), and the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. If it were only slightly cheaper, the current deal would be even sweeter.
With the hardware side pretty much settled, it’s the aesthetics with the Flip 4 which continue to turn heads, especially with the Bora Purple colourway which was provided to us. There are more customisable colours outside of the default offerings (Bora Purple, Graphite, Pink Gold, Blue), as owners can mix and match the front and rear panels, as well as choose the colour of the phone’s frame. Both the colour and build of the Flip 4 work in tandem to turn heads the moment it’s taken out from the pocket or purse.
When unfolded, the Flip 4 measures 71.9 x 165.2 x 6.9mm which is a comfortable size to grasp. For most content consumed online, it would seem that the width of the screen is smaller than the content being uploaded onto platforms like TikTok and IG Reels. When text is placed on the extreme ends of the screen leading to it be trimmed off slightly which can be rather glaring especially if you’re an avid user of vertical video platforms. Folded, the Flip 4 measures 71.9 x 84.9 x 17.1mm which slips nicely into the pocket or purse.
While grasp is great, the grip is another. As the Flip 3 was encased in a glass shell, it created a good amount of friction when held in hand or in the pocket at the expense of visible smudges. However, Flip 4 users will now be getting a matte-finished hazed glass exterior, which actually makes it more slippery to the touch. It’s not a dealbreaker per se, but those with butterfingers might want to be extra careful with their new purchase. The matte finish does well to highlight the colour of the Flip 4, and it looks great all around with the shiny chrome finish around the edges.
Samsung has improved the flip mechanism here and it’s apparent. A stiffer operation might feel counterintuitive, but the Flip 4 closes and shuts like a vice trap – quick and decisive, and it does not feel cheap. In comparison to 2021’s Flip 3, one feels the mechanism as the phone closes which is best described as two piece of paper sliding under each other. In comparison, the Flip 4 has no audible or tactile sensation when the phone is closed. While we had concerns about how the flip mechanism would hold up over time, it’s been close to a year of daily use with the Flip 3, and it unfolds without a hitch, so we expect the same performance here. Sadly, it’s still hard to open the phone with just one hand.
With the Flip 4 closed, users will be greeted with the 1.9-inch, 260 x 512 pixel cover screen where you’re able to make calls, operate widgets, and check on notifications all without having to open the phone. The main improvement here is being able to add a key contact widget of up to three numbers and dial them directly with the phone closed.
In addition, the selfie camera UI has been improved somewhat in being able to take both landscape and portrait shots. In the previous Flip 3, only landscape shots were captured but with the new portrait framing, it’s actually harder to see largely due to the size of the cover screen. Samsung has tried their best to ensure that users will be able to operate most of the phone (with the exception of scrolling social media) without having to flip open the phone.
Outside of these few areas though, the Flip 4 looks and feels pretty much the same, not providing users with any reason to make the flip to a foldable, or to upgrade. It was rather apparent that the battery life for last year’s Flip 3 was not the best, and a move to 3,700 mAh isn’t something worth shouting out loud about, even if the Flip 4 was able to go the distance giving us 10 hours of battery life after a day of emails, text, and web surfing. Compared to the Flip 3, this is an additional 2 hours of battery life in a similar use case scenario. In addition, the phone runs much cooler than before and while it gets warm when playing games and watching videos, the heat is much more manageable than the Flip 3.
Camera-wise, the only hardware change is in the size of the camera sensor. It’s slightly bigger now at 1.8μm and keeps the same 12MP f1.8 wide and F2.2 ultra-wide-angle cameras on the cover screen and a 10MP F.24 selfie camera when unfolded. It’s not a big jump if you’re looking for the best phone camera out there but Samsung is committed to bringing all the improvements found in their Samsung Galaxy S22, especially in the realm of night photography into the Flip 4.
All of these upgrades are admittedly minor, and it probably has to do with the lack of competition that Samsung has in this space. Huawei has a contender with the P50 Pocket but the lack of Google services make it challenging for the average user to jump on board with ease. As a whole, the biggest hardware changes we’ve seen up to this point would be in the areas of a larger battery and a new processor. Outside of these, the camera and over aesthetics largely remain the same. Even the much-praised cover screen doesn’t get that major improved functionality and it does make us wonder if existing Z Flip 3 users will get the improvements as they mostly fall within the realm of software. If one were to put both phones side by side, you’d be hard pressed to notice any distinguishable differences but in day-to-day use, the Flip 4 is superior right from the get-go.
If you’ve made it this far and wondering if it even makes sense to get the Galaxy Z Flip 4 or even get a discounted Flip 3, know that despite some limitations, the Flip 4 is definitely the right model to take a chance on. After all, seeing as to how the Flip 3 has held up over time when it comes to the open/close mechanism, the Flip 4 would perform well if all things remain constant. Ultimately, the new phone is ideal for new users but there’s little need for Flip 3 users to be green with envy about.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
While the changes are relatively minor when it comes to external appearances, the major improvements for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 come from under the hood. With a much-needed battery improvement, this is the phone ideal for anyone who’s looking to make an aesthetic change to grab hold of.
Aesthetics - 9/10
Build Quality - 8.5/10
Performance - 7/10
Value - 7.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10
Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There’s nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!