Samsung’s years-long quest to inspire legions of smartphone users to adopt foldable Android phones has turned a major corner with a pair of powerful, if not redesigned updates – the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. And with partners offering so many wild deals that there’s an above-average chance your next Android smartphone will be foldable.
Samsung’s breakneck paced Unpacked event went through five devices and in a pretty specific order:
If you didn’t get the message before, you now know that Samsung is positioning the $999 / £999 / AU$1,499 Galaxy Z Flip 4 as a foldable for everyone, it’s half the price of the $1,799.99 Galaxy Z / £1,649 / AU$2,499 Fold 4 (In the US, AT&T is offering $1,000 in bill discounts if you trade in any old Galaxy phone for a Z Flip 4).
The Z Flip 4 follows the model of Samsung’s 2022 folding strategy: don’t redesign, but tweak, fix and improve in general to make these foldable devices more appealing to the mass market.
As our UK cellphone editor Alex Walker-Todd notes in his hands-on review of the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the new phone has a larger battery and a more compact form factor, which should bring it closer to the flip phones of our youngsters. (think Motorola StarTac) and make it look less like a blocky weirdness.
Of course, the Z Flip 4 is packing a lot more functionality than any flip we used early on, with cameras in and out and hands-free shooting controls. That it’s being pitched as the perfect device for Instagram and Facebook Reels is no accident. This isn’t a device for getting things done – it’s a highly customizable, general-purpose fashion phone that’s just as adept at slipping into your hectic social media life as it is slipping into your pocket.
While I thought Samsung would fast-forward to its next foldable, the mighty Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, after revealing the Z Flip 4 at its launch event, it chose to show us a new Z Flip 4 companion product: the quite attractive competitor AirPods Pro, the Samsung Buds 2 Pro.
I like the look of these Bluetooth headphones. Instead of an oversized or eccentric shape, we get something that looks like it was made for your ear’s tragus (that fleshy part in front of your ear).
I hope Apple soon ditches its AirPods stems, and I think the Buds 2 Pros’ 24-bit sound and improved active noise cancellation could give Apple a run for the audio money.
Also, at $230 / £219 / AU$349, the buds fit perfectly between the AirPods and AirPods Pro in terms of price.
“Now,” I thought, “we’ll get to Z Fold 4.”
I was wrong again. What I hadn’t realized is that Samsung wants Z Flip 4 customers to see the devices as part of a Galaxy gadget ecosystem, which can only be complete with the addition of its new Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
The Watch 5 is an attractive, round WearOS device that makes me think it’s probably time for Apple to offer a round display option on the Apple Watch.
It’s still a pretty chunky device, but from what I’ve seen it has a bright and naturally customizable display. New sapphire crystal display is welcome. Even if you’re not that active, Gorilla Glass watch crystals are far from scratch-proof.
Samsung has made the back bigger (more surface area in contact with the skin to get all those biometric and activity readings) and even added an infrared temperature sensor – and all that health, fitness and sleep tracking can be tracked on the new Z Flip 4.
Interestingly, while the Z Flip 4 is at the top of the price range of flagship Android devices, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 is coming in at a starting price of $279.99 / £269 / AU$499, well below the $279.99 / £269 / AU$499 starting price. Apple’s base Apple Watch Series 7, which starts at $399 / £369 / AU$599.
Here’s your Galaxy ecosystem. I think the Z Fold 4 is a different ecosystem#SamsungUnpacked pic.twitter.com/J5Wr07SklwAugust 10, 2022
This trio of devices – the Z Flip 4, Buds 2 Pro and Watch 5 – were touted as a group, which purposefully pushed Samsung’s other foldable phone into the pro space.
That’s smart, because as consumers are thinking about buying their first foldable devices, they probably need to think about what they need. Do you want a causal device that you primarily use for texting, browsing the web, email, and social media? Does your active life begin and end with a quick climb up the stairs? In that case, the Z Flip 4, Buds 2 Pro and Watch 5 might be the set for you.
However, if you’re the type of person who struggles to scroll through presentations on your smartphone’s screen, try out the latest first-person shooter on your Galaxy S21, or perhaps consume massive amounts of Netflix and Hulu, the Z Fold 4 can be right for you.
Samsung’s alignment of the Watch 5 Pro with the Z Fold 4 is a little less clear, as hyperactive people are likely to work less on their phone than those carrying the Z Flip 4. Samsung chose it, and I’m willing to buy it as the first touch of an evolving foldable device marketing strategy.
It probably only works because the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is so much more than the Z Flip 4. Instead of the Flip 4’s relatively small cover screen, the Fold 4’s 6.2-inch external display is almost full-sized – and then, of course, there’s the flexible 7.6-inch display inside.
This device screams flexibility and productivity in equal volumes. Just look at the new customizable taskbar at the bottom of the big screen. That’s tablet – hell, even a small PC – territory.
In my brief time with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, I’ve been impressed by how Samsung has dimmed and lightened the entire chassis. During the launch, Samsung revealed that it had taken some pretty radical steps to make the Z fold 4 thinner and lighter than its predecessor; some might even call them risky.
It replaced the hinge’s internal gear design with something much lighter and thinner, and also removed a thin sheet of metal from the back of the flexible display, adding a new reinforced yet lightweight mesh, and upgrading the ultra-thin folding glass.
All of this has the intended effect – it’s a noticeably lighter device – but the risk here is obvious. We now have an untested hinge and flexible screen system. That’s not to say they won’t be as strong as the Z Fold 3 components, and I know Samsung has lab-tested them to the extreme – but consumers are different animals.
There’s a lot to digest from Samsung Unpacked, but the message here is clear: Samsung’s commitment to foldable technology runs deep, and it now has a strong case for consumers to consider investing in its first flexible device: Come in, the water is fine. – and we know why you want the Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy Z Flip 4, which gadgets you should pair them with, and exactly what you’ll do with them.
It’s that kind of brand clarity that will put even more pressure on Apple to get into the folding game, before Samsung runs away from it all.