Samsung’s Z Fold4 and Z Flip4 are foldable phones for the tech-savvy

Samsung’s fourth generation of foldable phones launches on Friday, bringing with it a slew of improvements that could up the ante and justify their relatively high starting prices.

The Android (GOOG, GOOGL) powered Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 and Galaxy Z Fold4 start at $999, the same price as high-end phones like the Galaxy S22+ and $1,799 respectively, and feature upgraded software and cameras, not to mention larger batteries. In addition, the Fold4 gains improved multitasking capabilities with a new PC-like taskbar feature. Traditional smartphones offer basic multitasking capabilities, but not what the Fold4 can.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold4 (left) and Galaxy Z Flip4 (right) are the company's latest foldable devices.  (Image: Howley)

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4 (left) and Galaxy Z Flip4 (right) are the company’s latest foldable devices. (Image: Howley)

But foldable devices are still relatively niche devices compared to the more popular flat-screen smartphones. They also have their own unique trade-offs, most notably the Flip4, which you have to flip open to use as a full-featured phone.

If you’re the kind of person who loves cutting-edge technology, or in the case of the Fold4, a huge screen, these could be the phones for you. But if you’re looking to save some cash, or just want a phone that you don’t have to flip open, you might want to stick to Samsung’s flat-screen offerings.

Same looks, better software

You will have a hard time distinguishing Fold4 and Flip4 from Fold3 and Flip3. The Fold4 is built like a book, while the Flip4 is more like a makeup compact. The Fold4 has a 6.2-inch cover display that allows you to interact with most of the phone’s features.

The Z Fold4 offers a large cover display.  (Image: Howley)

The Z Fold4 offers a large cover display. (Image: Howley)

Open the Fold4 and you’re presented with a tablet-like 7.6-inch screen. In all, you can run three apps on the screen at once, with a larger app taking up one side of the screen and two smaller apps stacked on top of each other.

When you open an app, the Fold4’s taskbar will pop up, offering a bunch of apps at the bottom of the screen that you can drag onto the main part of the display. Your recently used apps also appear on the taskbar, making it easy to switch back and forth between them.

Of course, the unfolded screen can be a little tricky to use if you’re trying to reach for items in the center of the screen with your thumb and don’t have dinner plate-sized hands.

For its part, the Z Flip4 has a 1.9-inch coverage screen that you can use to view notifications, check things like the weather, control your music, and see your schedule. You can also use the small display to activate the Flip4’s cameras to take selfies. It works in a pinch, but it’s not the best choice if that’s what you want to get Perfect High angle selfie shot as the screen is tiny.

The Galaxy Z Flip4 can be used in flex mode or laid flat and used as a regular phone.  (Image: Howley)

The Galaxy Z Flip4 can be used in flex mode or laid flat and used as a regular phone. (Image: Howley)

The big software trick on the Flip4 is Flex mode, although the feature is also available on the Fold4. It allows you to fold your phone and split the display in half automatically. For example, when using the camera, the top half acts as a viewfinder, while the bottom half gives you controls like which camera mode you want and more.

But not all apps have the dedicated controls, and videos look too small for my liking.

cameras and battery

The Z Fold4 comes equipped with a triple-lens setup that offers ultra-wide, wide-angle, and telephoto lens options.

The telephoto lens has a 3x optical zoom, which means you’ll get clear shots when shooting distant subjects.

Where the Z Fold4 falls on its face is its under-display selfie camera. Samsung says it tried to improve image quality for shots taken with the camera, but woof. Images are rough and nowhere near as good as other high-end smartphones or even the Z Flip4.

The Z Fold4's huge display is great for watching videos, but it can be unwieldy.  (Image: Howley)

The Z Fold4’s huge display is great for watching videos, but it can be unwieldy. (Image: Howley)

For its part, the Flip4 offers a dual-lens rear camera setup with ultra-wide and wide-angle options.

Photos taken with the rear cameras of both phones look just as amazing as you would expect from Samsung phones. But at $999 you’d think the Z Flip4 would also get a triple camera setup.

As for battery life and performance, I managed to use both phones throughout my work day, taking photos and playing games…er, I mean work without ever worrying that they’d finish it before I got to at night reach my bedside charger.

There was no slowdown thanks to the phones’ Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 chips propelling them through everything from video and multitasking to gaming.

are they for you

Samsung has come a long way since its first foldable devices, making them not only more rugged and waterproof but also offering more features. But they still aren’t for everyone.

The Z Flip4 is fun thanks to its unique looks, but having to unfold the phone to take full advantage of it can be a hassle. As for the Z Fold4, while I loved having a massive screen open, I often felt oversized and unwieldy.

For the average consumer, these phones are interesting but difficult to recommend. But if you’ve got the cash to burn and you’re looking for something that offers a unique take on the smartphone formula, these handsets are worth a look.

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