The original 2007 iPhone was ground-breaking, but before the age of smartphones, the Motorola Razr was king, way back when I first reviewed it in 2004.
The Razr brought style to the mobile phone market with a dual-display and a flip to open form factor that made it one of the most desirable devices to own. In all, it sold 130 million units in its four-year-long reign.
It’s now 2020 and flip phones are no longer a thing — or are they? Both Motorola with their Moto Razr reboot and Samsung and the Galaxy Z Flip are both hoping to rekindle our love affair with the clamshell design all over again.
I’ve been using the Galaxy Z Flip for the last week and although it has a flipping form factor, that’s where it and the original Razr’s similarities end. The Z Flip uses a futuristic screen that folds inwards. It’s amazing how much people look on in shock as you fold the ‘glass’ display back on itself. It’s a pretty neat party trick, but there’s much more to this impressively cool phone than just its bending display.
One of the big concerns about bending displays and especially those that fold like the Z Flip is durability. Unfortunately, my time with the phone was too short to be able to say what it will be like in the long run.
However, the hinge mechanism is a remarkable piece of engineering that covers, brushes and protects the innards from getting dust and dirt — although, not surprisingly, the Z Flip isn’t water or dustproof. and Samsung have tested it for up to 200,000 folds, albeit in lab conditions. It does feel sturdy and robust with a solid and satisfying clap when you close the lid. Opening the Z Flip single-handed is a lot more difficult than I remember the Razr was to do. I definitely felt much safer using two hands, but with practice, it is possible.
Upon opening the Z Flip you are greeted with a gorgeous 6.7-inch display and that typifies Samsungs excellence in display technology. However, there’s a rather distinctive crease in the middle that spoils the experience a little more than I was expecting.
You can feel it every time you swipe and scroll or move your finger over it. With time I’m certain you’d get used to it and although it’s fairly visible, you don’t see it when watching videos. It’s one of those things you have to accept as a compromise from the current display technology.
Unfortunately, there’s only a mono speaker, so no stereo sound like that found on the excellent sounding Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Another major compromise is the screen itself which Samsung warns you about in a small leaflet and on the screen when you first turn it on. Advice like not to press hard on the screen with hard objects, even fingernails.
You can’t use any sort of screen protector on this display either despite the fact that the display settings has a ‘Touch Sensitivity’ option which says “increase the touch sensitivity of the screen for use with screen protectors”.
You do get a two-halves transparent cover in the box, which is a welcome inclusion. That all being said, the screen is well protected when the Z Flip is closed.
However, I found that I often forgot to close it, which is a big no-no. It will damage more easily than a normal screen and you just have to get into a good habit from day one and putting it into your pocket with keys or change while open would be disastrous.
There’s a tiny colour screen on the outside cover, which shows the time, battery percentage and a tiny notification dot. You have to double-tap to wake it and swipe for music controls and notification icons. In use, it’s fiddly and not something I could see myself using very often.
On the right edge of the phone, there’s a volume rocker and a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader, which is fast and reliable. You can also use face unlock which is less secure but works well.
Other specifications are impressive including 8GB of RAM, base storage of 256GB (UFS 3.0), and dual cameras on the back — 12MP wide-angle, 12MP ultra-wide angle and a 10MP front-facing camera.
The Z Flip isn’t 5G ready but does support e-SIM, Bluetooth 5 and supports wireless charging and Samsung’s wireless PowerShare feature. The Z Flip is powered by the Snapdragon 855 Plus and not the newer 865. It feels blazingly fast in use despite.
The performance from the dual 3,300 mAh battery in my short time of testing was good enough to get me through a day of medium use.
The rear cameras are excellent and it has but not as good as the Galaxy S20 Ultra I reviewed a few weeks ago. It does have a night mode which works with both the ultrawide and normal lens. Video capture supports up to 4K at 60 fps on both the rear and front-facing camera. I wasn’t overly impressed with the selfie camera but you can close the Z Flip, double press the power button which then displays the normal or ultrawide rear camera on the outside display. Press the volume button to take a selfie for much better results.
The Z Flip is a futuristic and fun phone to use but it’s not for the faint of heart.
The Galaxy Z Flip is available from Three and shop.samsung.com/ie; RRP is €1,520.