Theres a new folding phone in town. Another folding phone. The thing were not entirely sure people want yet. No matter! Samsung has just released its second smartphone with a flexible display. This one is called the Galaxy Z Flip, and it will have a base price of $1,380 when preorders start February 14.
On Tuesday, after waiting in a designated press room for an hour or so at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco, I got my hands on the thing.
A folding phone is, of course, a phone with a flexible display. The display itself bends and creases, so that the device can morph into something smaller. But when its open, its one long display. This may seem obvious, but for people of a certain age, a folding phone or flip phone was one that had a small screen up top and a keypad on its bottom half, connected by a hinge. You snapped it shut. I was there too. I share your memories.
Samsungs first folding phone, last years Galaxy Fold, had a disastrous start, with devices that broke after a few days. Even Galaxy Folds that worked finelike the loaner unit I used for about a monthforced a change in behavior that just didnt feel natural. Text messaging on a 7.3-inch touchscreen display was awkward. So was using the Folds 4.6-inch cover display. Also: Why? Why folding phones?
Samsung included a row of nylon fibers inside the phone’s hinge to protect against debris that could interfere with the flipping action.
Photograph: Samsung
Samsung is asking for a do-over with the Galaxy Z Flip. The phone is smaller, and it folds from the top down, rather than sideways. When its unfurled, the phone has a vertically long display that measures 6.7 inches on the diagonal. (Bizarrely, this also gives it a 21.9 by 9 aspect ratio.)
When its closed, the Galaxy Z Flip is infinitely more pocketable than a standard phone. It fit in my back pocket better than my iPhone 11. A friend who was monitoring the Samsung event sent me a photo of a makeup compact, and after that I couldnt unsee the similarities. The closed Galaxy Z Flip looks like a big, shiny, glass-coated, worth-a-months-rent makeup compact.
Rather than jam some kind of half-useful cover display on the closed Flip like it did with the Fold, Samsung opted for a tiny display window on the closed Flip. This mostly shows the time, but when you press the physical buttons on the side of the phone, it doubles as the worlds smallest viewscreen. This is so you can see yourself as you capture selfies, obviously.
When folded up, the phone is 0.68 inches (17.3 millimeters) thick.
Video: Samsung
The phones case is aluminum, and the outside is coated in glass. It screams premium. But heres the interesting part: The Z Flips flexible display is also made of glass, Samsung says. Every version of a folding device weve seen before this has had a flexible polymer display. Royoles FlexPai, Samsungs Galaxy Fold, Lenovos ThinkPad X1 Fold, Motorolas resurrected Razr (which, based on my brief experience with a loaner unit, had a hard-to-ignore crater where it creases)all of them use flexible plastic. Some glass makers like Corning and Japans ACG are believed to be working on ultrathin folding glass displays, but Samsung has actually leapfrogged those companies and brought one to market first.