Samsung's foldable Galaxy Z Flip feels like the start of a revolution

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Samsung has debuted its second-generation foldable phone in the Galaxy Z Flip. Priced at a hefty $1,380, the Flip is the follow up to the troubled Galaxy Fold, Samsung's first folding phone that was recalled due to dirt accumulating below the display.

I got to use the Z Flip for the better part of a day, and beyond its initial wow factor, the phone truly feels like the first successful foldable smartphone ready for consumers' hands.

What it's like to use the Z Flip

I crave attention, which is why I do internet TV "stuff" for Yahoo Finance, and why I feel the world needs my opinion on gadgets. So, naturally, one of the first things I did when I fired up the Flip was show it to everyone within a 20-foot radius.

Nearly everyone who saw the phone was excited to see how it worked and what it was like to open and close it. And if you're old enough to have used a traditional flip phone, the Z Flip will hit you right in the nostalgia part of your brain. It also drew plenty of comparisons to a makeup compact when half open.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip has a fantastic design and styling that makes it the first truly appealing foldable smartphone. (Image: Howley)

When fully open, the Z Flip is a bit taller than Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 11 Pro Max. The Z Flip's 6.7-inch display is also larger, though slightly thinner, than the Pro's 6.5-inch panel. As with most premium Samsung smartphones, the Z Flip sports a Super AMOLED (active matrix of organic light-emitting diodes) screen, that packs gorgeous colors and deep blacks.

Netflix movies, photos, and web pages look great on the Z Flip's display. There's still a noticeable crease in the panel's fold, but that's to be expected with such a device. When viewed head-on, though, the crease largely disappears, so it shouldn't interfere with watching videos or browsing the web.

Flipping it open, snapping it shut

The Z Flip's hinge mechanism is able to stay open when half folded, letting you place the phone on a desk or table and use the bottom half as a kind of stand, while you browse content. Samsung is marketing this as a means to take photos without having to use a separate stand, or make video calls via Google's (GOOG, GOOGL) Duo software without having to hold your phone.

That largely makes sense, but you're not going to be able to watch something like Netflix on the top part of the screen.

The Z Flip doesn't feel oversized when folded, making it ideal for slimmer pockets. (Image: Howley)

As for opening and closing the Z Flip, don't expect to be able to pull it out of your pocket and whip the screen up. The hinge will keep you from being able to do that, and it's likely a smart move on Samsung's part considering you don't want to accidentally toss your expensive new phone.

You can, however, slap this bad boy shut as you would a traditional flip phone. Samsung even built in special bumpers to keep the Z Flip's screen from slamming against itself when you snap it shut. I loved slapping my old flip phone shut, and closing the Z Flip is just as satisfying.

It's worth noting that the Z Flip's ultra-thin glass display and hinge are virtually silent when you open and close the phone. Motorola's new Razr foldable, on the other hand, has a distinct creaking noise when you open and close it.

When closed the Z Flip is no larger than a makeup compact. (Image: Howley)

Samsung has clearly learned its lessons from the Galaxy Fold when it comes to the hinge too. The Z Flip now sports an internal sweep that keeps dust and dirt from getting lodged under the display. The Fold didn't have such a mechanism, which allowed debris to find its way under the panel, damaging it.

Z Flip tricks

Samsung has a few tricks up its sleeve with the Z Flip. There are a few gimmicky elements to the Z Flip. For instance, the front of the phone has a super-small screen that displays the time and lets you know if you've got any notifications.

You can also double-press the power button when the Z Flip is closed to launch its camera and use that small front screen as a kind of viewfinder. It's not exactly useful, though, as you can't see what your entire photo will look like.

The small display on the Z Flip is primarily used for showing the time and notifications, but you can also turn it into a quick viewfinder for selfies. (Image: Howley)

With the phone open, you can also use the camera app and activate the front screen, letting it function as a viewfinder for whoever you're taking photos of. The screen, though, is so small that details are hard to see.

Z Flip also gives you the ability to multitask, splitting the screen in half via its top and bottom. Only a certain set of apps work, such as Chrome, Facebook, Spotify, and others, but Instagram and Netflix, for instance, don't as of yet.

Cutting edge, but fragile

Like the Galaxy Fold, the Z Flip is a surprisingly fragile smartphone. You can't, for instance, put a screen protector on the ultra-thin glass display, as doing so may damage it. Samsung also advises against pressing too hard on the screen or the front camera lens.

The Z Flip, unlike most smartphones, isn't waterproof. What's more, you'll need to take extra care not to damage its display. (Image: Howley)

What's more, the company says you shouldn't put cards, coins, or keys between the two halves of the screen when you fold it, as they can damage the panel.

Perhaps the biggest issue consumers may have with the Z Flip is the fact that it's not waterproof. Most people are now used to their phones being waterproof, so having a phone without such protection feels like a step backwards.

The future of phones

The Galaxy Z Flip truly feels like the future of smartphones. The screen is incredibly advanced, the styling is modern and attractive, and its size, when folded, is mercifully small. Going from a full-size smartphone to a device that can shrink down to roughly half its size is sure to be a draw for many consumers who pine for the day of less bulky phones.

Samsung doesn't try to overload or overdo it with unnecessary functionality as it tends to with other devices, and instead lets the foldable screen and design speak for themselves. At $1,380, the Galaxy Z Flip is certainly expensive, and its lack of waterproofing is a let down, but if you're a true early adopter, this foldable will be hard to resist.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at danielphowley@protonmail.com or dhowley@yahoofinance.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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