Thursday, December 7, 2023

Using the Galaxy Z Flip 4 showed I bought the wrong foldable this year


I have an unopened, still sealed Galaxy Z Fold 4 smartphone sitting in the house, which I pre-ordered to replace my Galaxy Z Fold 3.


  • Waiting to use the Z Fold 4
  • Folding down, not out
  • Unopened, but not unloved

Why is it still unopened, unused, and seemingly unloved? Recently I have spent some weeks using Samsung’s other folding smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip 4, and have come to the realization I may have bought the wrong folding phone this year. Here’s why.

Waiting to use the Z Fold 4

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I really enjoyed using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 last year, and it felt natural to upgrade to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. I like to revisit the latest folding phones throughout the year, so having the top model immediately at hand is always helpful. When it arrived, I was reviewing the Z Fold 4 using a sample sent by Samsung, so my newly delivered personal phone was put aside until I needed it. Little did I know that I still wouldn’t have opened it many weeks later.

The reason is that I had the opportunity to use the Galaxy Z Flip 4, a phone I had only used for a short time at the launch. I liked it a lot at the time, but I didn’t really think about it much afterward, as my mind was already on the big-screen Galaxy Z Fold 4. I jumped at the chance to revisit the Flip 4 due to my previous limited exposure and went into it with enthusiasm, but never expected it to be anything much more than a folding version of the Galaxy S22+.

Now that I’ve used the Z Flip 4 on and off over the past month, it has absolutely blown me away with its superb mix of design prowess, massive power, fun cameras, and — most importantly — its pure portability. My vaguely dismissive assumption it would offer little else over one of its non-folding Galaxy brethren was absolutely wrong. It’s a lot more than that, proving to be fun and unexpectedly relatable in a way that the more grown-up, sensible, Galaxy Z Fold 4 isn’t.

Folding down, not out

Many of the words I used above aren’t often used to describe a smartphone or the experience it provides, but they’re genuinely applicable to the Galaxy Z Flip 4. We expect any modern phone, especially one that costs $1,000, to have plenty of power and take great photos — which the Galaxy Z Flip 4 delivers. It performed really well when it took on the iPhone 14 Pro in a camera test too. I’ve enjoyed its ability so much, and have smiled every time I unfolded it, that I even chose to use it over other Android phones on a weekend away.

It was at this point when I could have unwrapped the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but I didn’t, and the reason is the Z Flip 4’s wonderful portability. Folded down, the Z Flip 4 stows away in my pocket, my bag, or even the smallest cubby holes in my car without a problem. It wasn’t until I used it every day that I realized just how compact and portable the phone really is, and how transformative it can be. If any “normal” phone frustrates you when stowing it away, the Z Flip 4 is the solution.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The fluid motion engineered into the hinge makes the phone feel incredibly well-made, very durable, and very natural. But it’s also just fun to use. The Z Fold 4 feels very similar, but there’s something nostalgic and enjoyable about opening and closing a flip phone. While there’s no actual history behind the Z Flip 4 like there is with the Motorola Razr 2022, it’s still highly relatable. Sure, you could leave the screen open all the time, but where’s the fun in that? A lot of the Z Flip 4’s magic comes from opening and closing it each time.

Closing it doesn’t mean you miss out on functionality, either. The cover screen has been updated for the Z Flip 4, and it’s superb, especially when keeping track of notifications. A small orange indicator appears on the cover screen when you have a new message, and it’s surprisingly noticeable at a glance. A swipe on the outer screen shows enough detail to know if you should open the phone and address the message or not. It means the Z Flip 4 can be kept folded without impacting the phone’s usefulness.

Unopened, but not unloved

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a phone you can pick up and use, just like any other, but with the considerable added bonus of it folding down to half the overall size and then put away. Even after a few weeks, this still hasn’t lost the fun factor, and I’ve connected with the Z Flip 4 as a device far more than most other phones. I even love the purple color. It’s a phone I have returned to a few times and then missed when forced to remove my SIM card again. Most amazingly of all, it has kept me from opening up my brand-new Z Fold 4’s box.

A lot of my appreciation is quite hard to describe, as it requires you to touch, feel, and use the phone. It’s this that I think caused me to look past the Z Flip 4 and gravitate towards the Z Fold 4. I was familiar with the big foldable but less so with the small one, and wrongly thought it would offer “less” and represent worse value. This isn’t accurate. The Z Flip 4 has more to give than any fixed-screen Android phone available at a similar price and is a genuinely special ownership experience. The fact that it’s still incredibly capable as a smartphone actually makes it a very good value.

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Does all this mean the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the worse phone, or that I’m backtracking on my Galaxy Z Fold 4 review where I said the big foldable is ready for the mainstream, and to be your next phone? No, not at all. It’s superb, and I know when (if?) I get it out of the box, I’ll love it all over again. The Z Fold 4 is just a different beast from the Z Flip 4, and while Samsung has worked hard to make it a viable everyday device (which I maintain that it is), the Z Flip 4 may be even better.

I urge you, if you’re undecided between the two foldables, to go and personally try them out for as long as possible. Both are excellent, but one may end up suiting your lifestyle better than the other, and it may well not be the one you’re expecting. For my lifestyle at the moment, having now used both the Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 for a considerable amount of time, it’s obvious to me that the flip phone would have been the better purchase. I really did buy the wrong folding phone this year.

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