When Samsung released its Galaxy Z Flip, a phone with a screen that folds in half, the big question was whether the technology was really ready for use outside a lab. I spent the last four months with it to find out.
Samsung’s second attempt at a smartphone with a folding screen, the Galaxy Z Flip promised one thing above all: a big, tall display that fits in a pocket.
I found it extremely impressive when I reviewed it in February. The display was stunning, the hinge mechanism felt smooth and solid, and it worked like a regular phone when open. But the one thing I couldn’t tell at the time was whether the folding screen would last.
Having bought one and used it solidly for four months, folding and unfolding it more than 70 times a day (as recorded by the digital wellness tools), I can conclusively say yes, Samsung nailed it. The screen looks and works just as great today as it did fresh out of the box. There are no uniformity issues, no weird ripples or indeed marks of any kind, other than the original central crease where it folds.
The screen is made from multiple layers of plastic and ultra-thin glass and is therefore softer than the hard, scratch-resistant glass on standard phones. But because the phone folds closed like a book, the screen is protected and has remained scratch-free.
The phone wasn’t used in a case and hasn’t been babied. The back of the phone is made from traditional scratch-resistant glass and shows light scratch marks, just like any regular phone might.
It got rained on several times and I even – heaven forbid – dropped it once from pocket height to a carpeted floor with no ill effects. I’ve let the passion of sport, when such things were still allowed, provoke me into mashing the screen a little too hard on occasion without damage. I sat on it a couple of times, and more than 20 other people have fiddled with it.
Despite the open USB-C socket showing the usual signs of pocket fluff and dust buildup, the screen collected very little in the way of detritus. But I definitely notice the plastic top layer is less fingerprint-repelling than traditional smartphone glass. It isn’t really an issue in use, but I find myself cleaning it with my T-shirt more than I do other phones.
The hinge works just like it did when new. It’s smooth, stable and able to hold the phone open at any angle while still shutting with a pleasing snap. There have been no signs of dust or grit getting inside the hinge and affecting it or the screen. You can hear the little brush fibres inside sweeping the spine if you press your ear up to the hinge when you close it.
Samsung rates the Z Flip for 200,000 folds, so I have well over 180,000 more to go before it fails. It’s clear that while other makers also have folding screen technology, Samsung is well ahead in making it a practical and durable reality.
Durability worries cast aside, generally using the phone is still as much a joy four months later, even after the novelty has worn off a little. The crease is still just as visible, but I don’t see it unless I look for it. I have even found myself stroking it with my thumb as a fidget.
I can open the phone with one hand, but rarely do. Snapping the phone shut to end calls is very satisfying. The notification panel on the outside is enough to show me there’s something important waiting or the time, but I wish it was slightly longer so scrolling text was easier to read.
The fingerprint scanner works well most of the time, but I’ve noticed its slim shape is more affected by the changes in my prints caused by abrasive work such as DIY than larger circular sensors. The camera is pretty good, but I frequently find the lack of a telephoto zoom inhibiting. The battery life is good enough for a day but not much more than that.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Flip is the one phone I can’t put down. It is the most interesting and exciting smartphone I’ve used in all my years of reviewing hundreds of the things, and more than just an expensive proof of concept. Having lasted far better than I expected, it bodes very well for the next generation of foldable devices due this year and next.