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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Review. Galaxy z fold 1

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Review

For a smartphone, it doesn’t get much ritzier than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, short of slapping diamonds and gold onto the frame. The Galaxy Z Fold series has been a showcase for new display technologies coming from Samsung for a few years now, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 may have finally put just the right amount of polish into the package. But at a jaw-dropping 1,800 price, it costs twice as much as a lot of typical premium smartphones. So let’s see if it manages to double up on capabilities and quality to justify that.

Design and Features

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is unique among the phones you’ll usually find on store shelves. It’s one of very few phones that feature a folding display and part of an even smaller subset that pack an extra large folding display.

The phone’s design can almost let it fly under the radar. At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 looks like a somewhat typical smartphone with a 6.2-inch display, albeit one that’s got an unusual amount of bezel for a 2021 Samsung smartphone. Closer inspection reveals the folding nature of the phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 can unfold like a book to reveal a 7.6-inch display inside.

Despite the unique design, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 still boasts some of the fit and finish of Samsung Galaxy flagship phones. It’s wrapped in an elegant aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass Victus on the exterior, although a pre-applied screen protector scratches readily. The quirks of the design limit that elegance though, forcing the exterior display to cram in next to the space allotted for the hinge and requiring a screen protector and a crease to be ever present on the internal display. The hinge itself may have some stunning internal design to keep dust and water out – the phone even earns an IPX8 rating for protection against complete submersion in water – but the way the frame of the two sides connects to the hinge lacks style.

As much a Samsung product as ever, the two displays are at least brilliant. Both are pixel-dense Dynamic AMOLED 2X panels with adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz for exceptional smoothness and dazzling peak brightnesses. That latter detail is crucial, as it’s only when the internal display is brightly lit up that it can hide the otherwise glaring crease down the middle. Unfortunately, this flexible display sees colors shifting and dimming when viewed at off angles, so that rules out using it in a half-open position. The external display works in the half-open position, allowing for hands-free use akin to a 2-in-1 laptop’s tent mode.

The dimensions of the phone get awkward as a result of everything going on here. The phone is tall and thin while closed, and the front display is narrow (24.5:9 aspect ratio!) to the point of being hard to use. The internal display meanwhile is quite large and a close approximation to a square, providing the equivalent of two smartphone screens side by side, but it’s no less awkward to interact with than the external display with its unwieldy size. In both cases, the phone will regularly require two hands. I find I’m stretching to reach things just as often as I’m cramped for space, there isn’t quite a happy medium. At 271 grams, it’s a heavy phone, though not quite as heavy as one might expect for a device this big.

As a premium Samsung flagship, there aren’t many features this phone has skipped out on. It still offers wireless charging, albeit only at 10W speeds rather than the 15W some other Samsung phones can support. It has stereo speakers that pack some punch. Samsung skipped the under-display fingerprint sensor and went for a side-mounted option that works great (and more consistently than the one found on the Galaxy S20). There’s also a sneaky under-display selfie camera built into the interior display. It has a low-resolution array of pixels over it that provide it a modicum of stealth when you’re not looking directly at it, though in truth the design makes it almost stick out so much when you look right at it that I don’t know why Samsung even bothered.

samsung, galaxy, fold, review

Fans of Samsung’s Note lineup will love the inclusion of support for an S Pen on this phone, although it’s not nearly as integrated as in the Note series. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports a special S Pen Fold edition or S Pen Pro on its internal display only, and while it’s effective for scribbling onto that internal display, it doesn’t have all the same features (like a remote camera shutter) that made the S Pen such a powerful tool for the Note series. It is impressive enough that Samsung got the S Pen to work as well as it does given there’s a gap between the two Wacom digitizers where the display crease is. Try as I might, I couldn’t detect any odd behavior while writing over the crease even if I started my lines directly on it.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes running Android with Samsung’s One UI 3 specifically tailored for the Z Series, coming with some extra control to better take advantage of the phone’s multitasking potential and to keep the ship sailing smoothly when it needs to switch back and forth between the two different displays.

The phone’s not overloaded with bloatware, and doesn’t feel like it has strayed very far from the experiences I’ve had on Samsung’s other recent flagships. The new addition here is a taskbar that’s the home for split-screen apps. Apps dragged onto the screen from this taskbar while another app is open can launch in a multi-tasking window, and combinations of apps can be set up to automatically launch side by side. The taskbar will also show recent apps. And, if two apps at a time isn’t enough, the tablet mode supports three apps running side-by-side-by-side. Of course, even with a bigger display, some things get really cramped when you set them up to multitask.

Rearranging Windows for multitasking isn’t always intuitive, and it has some shortcomings, like these little GUI bars that sit near the top of a multitasking window no matter what, even if it’s covering up a portion of a video. Samsung also missed an opportunity to provide gamers with an on-screen gamepad, a feature LG nailed with the dual-screen case for some of its final phones. like the LG G8X ThinQ.

20,000 me Galaxy Z Fold 3. adbhud Phone #shorts

Gaming and performance

Samsung really only made one sacrifice when it came to the performance of this phone: battery. Like the rest of the Galaxy S lineup launched this year, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes powered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset and all the muscle it packs. The phone performs in line with the likes of the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra with snappy performance. The Z Fold 3 goes a little further in showing just how much power the Snapdragon 888 chipset offers as the phone is capable of running three apps simultaneously on the large screen, and it doesn’t show signs of struggling under that workload – the 12GB of RAM is proving useful here.

Gaming pushes the phone, but it still runs exceptionally well. I raced around at the highest graphical settings in Asphalt 9, and the only times the phone showed hitches were at the very start of each race as the map was still loading in. Once the race was on, the phone ran perfectly smoothly no matter what chaos was occurring on-screen

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 does get warm while under the load of gaming or multitasking. That heat seemed inevitable for this phone. The thin design doesn’t contribute as well to heat dissipation or extra cooling hardware inside, and the two separate batteries may see things heat up as well. The extra large display is also a bigger power draw, which would see the batteries heat up that much more. It wasn’t getting painfully hot, but it wasn’t comfortable either.

Battery life may not be as impressive as some of the other flagship phones on the market, but the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 actually surprised me. It has a 4,400mAh battery (split into two parts), which is only 10% bigger than the Galaxy S21’s 4,000mAh battery, but the phone has an extra large display to power. Yet, the phone still does a surprisingly good job of lasting through the day. Throughout my testing, I never had it peter out before the day was done, and that included days with lengthy gaming sessions, full two-hour movie viewings, and even a three-hour drive with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 serving as a stupendous GPS device.

Two busy days using the phone’s larger display extensively would be stretching it, but the smaller front-display can help keep battery use low.

Camera

Let’s get this out of the way, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn’t offering a camera experience on par with the Galaxy S21 Ultra even though it costs hundreds of dollars more. Most of the cameras on the Z Fold 3 are good, with the main sensor really turning up the heat, but the lack of the periscope zoom lens keeps the performance somewhat limited. That said, shooting photos with the internal screen as a massive viewfinder does make it really easy to preview photos.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 features the following cameras:

  • 12MP Ultrawide at f/2.2
  • 12MP Wide at f/1.8 with OIS
  • 12MP 2x Telephoto at f/2.4 with OIS
  • 10MP Front-facing (exterior) at f/2.2
  • 4MP Front-facing (interior) at f/1.8

Shooting with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a curious task. There are cameras everywhere. The small external screen has its own punchhole selfie camera while the large internal screen has an under-display camera, and then there are the three cameras on the back of the phone.

The external selfie camera is decent, capturing sharp details and realistic colors even in dimmer conditions. But, anyone looking for a great selfie can use the main cameras by opening the phone and continuing to use the external display as a viewfinder. It’s a tad clunky, but it nets much better photo results. The internal selfie camera is far worse, capturing less detail and offering color that’s more akin to a budget webcam’s. Given the only reason to use the internal camera is likely for a video chat while multitasking, the quality may be acceptable.

The rear camera system provides a wide, ultra-wide, and 2x zoom camera. Samsung has done a good job here of making the coloring appear consistent between the three different cameras, and there’s not a dramatic trade-off in image quality when switching from one sensor to the others. They take some quality shots, especially in good lighting conditions, though the main sensor is the only one that holds up as well in darker environments.

I noticed wishy-washy behavior from the phone deciding which sensor it would use for a shot, often opting to use the main sensor for a zoom shot even when set to 4x zoom. This was a behavior I ran into on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but in this case it’s not caused by my finger confusing any laser AF sensor as there is none. The main sensor does well enough for a 2x zoom, but beyond that I feel the actual zoom lens would perform better even if it’s not getting as much light. A zoom factor of 2x is pretty disappointing in this case, as Samsung has shown how much further it can go with the S21 Ultra, and the digital zoom caps off at 10x while providing results that don’t hold up against even the Galaxy S20’s zoom capabilities in a side-by-side shootout.

Samsung’s photo smarts are also a little lacking when it comes to deciding on when to use Night Mode. I’m often trying to snag a shot of the cats in darker settings, and the phone will frequently switch to a long exposure, guaranteeing a bad result if the cats move, and it’ll do so even if the photo would have been acceptably lit without Night Mode engaging.

Purchasing guide

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is available from Samsung for 1799.

Verdict

It’s hard to say the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is anything but an over-engineered technology showcase that creates artificial use cases in order to justify its existence. Supposing a user actually has a regular need of a larger display, doesn’t want to regularly carry more than one device, and doesn’t mind sacrificing durability in the process, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is as good an option as can be. For anyone whose uses and needs are a little more flexible, the flexibility of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will just be an expensive party trick.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: mega multi-tasker

The foldable phone arms race shows no sign of slowing down, with big names like Huawei, Motorola and Oppo all getting in on the action – but Samsung is the firm on the front lines. It’s all-in on dual screens, with the inward-folding Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 now leading the charge.

This fourth-gen flagship gets the latest Snapdragon silicon, a triple-lens camera borrowed from the Galaxy S22, and a more streamlined appearance – along with a price that confirms its premium status.

Those might sound like minor gains, but the biggest changes are on the software front. A productivity push seems to finally take full advantage of that big internal screen – and might be the move that fully cements foldables in the wider smartphone landscape.

Design build: flat but familiar

Yes, it looks startlingly similar to the outgoing Galaxy Z Fold 3, but this new handset isn’t quite so tall, and is ever-so-slightly wider. That means the outer display isn’t nearly as skinny this time around, with slimmer bezels and a more generously proportioned 23.1:9 aspect ratio that’s more manageable with one hand. At 263g, Samsung has even managed to trim a bit of weight in the process. It’s still heftier than a traditional phone, but that’s a typical trade-off in the foldable world.

The frame has been flattened down a bit, and now has a shiny finish to contrast the matte rear glass. It remains a chunky thing when closed, but not so much more than a regular phone it’ll feel like a brick in your The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is accurate, quick to unlock the phone, and at a sensible height for left- and right-handers.

As before it doesn’t close completely flat, like a Microsoft Surface Duo 2, instead leaving a small gap near the hinge that quickly begins to collect dust as you pull the phone in and out of a It feels reassuringly sturdy, though, with no flex when you squeeze the two halves together and a hinge that’s happy to stay open at a more book-like angle if you like. Samsung says it has been tested to withstand 200,000 folds, and we had no issues with it loosening over time during our testing.

We’re glad to see IPX8 water resistance make a return, so you’re safe from rain showers and accidental spills. It’s something you won’t find on other foldable phones. Gorilla Glass Victus should keep exterior scratches and scrapes to a minimum, and a pre-installed screen protector remains on the interior display. It’s still more delicate than regular glass – so much so Samsung has designed an all-new S Pen that won’t damage it – but the firm has beefed up its durability significantly. We’ve not noticed any permanent marks during our time with the phone.

Sketching and note-taking is a breeze with the S-Pen – it’s just a shame there’s nowhere to stash it inside the phone.

Screen sound: in the crease

The Fold 4’s outer screen is as good as any flagship phone, with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and a colourful, contrasty OLED panel – it’s just a little narrower. Not as narrow as last year’s effort, though, which makes it perfectly usable on its lonesome. It gets plenty bright, can do justice to HDR video and has stellar viewing angles.

Amazing, then, that this is the lesser of the two.

Inside, the 7.6in panel is now 3mm wider than the outgoing Fold 3. It’s a small change, but any extra space is a good thing in our book. The 2176×1812 resolution is wonderfully sharp, and the high refresh rate delivers silky smooth scrolling. The 1000 nit peak brightness means it holds up very well under direct sunlight, and as we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s OLEDs, colours are wonderfully vibrant.

The slightly wider aspect ratio still leaves substantial black bars around most video content, but you’re still getting a bigger picture than any traditional phone. The stereo speakers are a great match, too: they get impressively loud with no sign of distortion, have decent separation and avoid making higher frequency notes sound shrill or piercing. Just don’t expect much in the way of bass. You’ll also need Bluetooth buds for private listening – there’s no headphone port here.

The under-display selfie camera is much improved over last year’s phone, blending in neatly with the surrounding pixels. It’s still visible if you go looking for it, as is the crease down the centre of the screen, but both are now less distracting than before.

Performance battery life: not short on power

As with all of Samsung’s flagships, the Z Fold 4 isn’t short on power. It’s rocking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU and 12GB of RAM, so you’d better believe apps open in the blink of an eye and animations are beautifully smooth. importantly, multitasking is a breeze with Samsung’s take on Android 12L.

The new taskbar is very Windows or Mac-like, but only appears once you launch an app on the inner display and doesn’t take up very much room. It saves constant trips back to the home screen to launch your favourites, and you can pin multi-app combos so a single tap opens two or three apps simultaneously, in the layout you want. Two apps side-by-side works best, but having three onscreen at once can be handy for making notes and copying/pasting – plus you can have a fourth in a floating window.

Want to watch a YouTube video, scroll through and check your incoming chats at the same time? The Fold 4 handles it with no stuttering or slowdown. Even more demanding apps run smoothly. It helps that a lot of apps have been tweaked to better fill the big screen, including third-party ones like Microsoft Outlook, and Google Meet.

Gaming is a joy, too, with titles like Apex Legends Mobile and Diablo Immortal willing to crank up the detail settings with no ill effect on frame rates. It can get pretty toasty after a prolonged session, but we didn’t notice any major throttling.

The entry-level phone gets a generous 256GB of storage, which should take some time to fill, but with no microSD card slot, you’ll need to splash out on either the step-up 512GB model or top-tier 1TB version – a first for the range, but one that’ll set you back more than £2000. Ouch.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Unboxing

The Fold 4 makes modest gains over last year’s model on the battery front. It has the same 4400mAh cell, but the processor is a little more energy efficient. It’ll last from morning until bedtime, unless you’re glued to HDR Netflix shows or recording a lot of 4K video, but you’ll definitely want to top up before lights out. 25W fast charging over USB-C is a long way behind the Rapid flagship phones coming out of China right now, but wireless charging (with reverse charge for topping up headphones like the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro) goes some way to making up for it.

To Fold or Not to Fold: Should You Buy the Samsung Galaxy Fold 4?

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Article Index

  • Intro
  • Background: A Note Fan
  • First Impressions
  • Creased
  • Apps
  • Gaming
  • Portability
  • Productivity
  • Galaxy Z Fold 4: The Positives
  • Galaxy Z Fold 4: The Negatives
  • To Fold or Not to Fold?

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is now available. It might be an iterative update over the Z Fold 3, but Samsung‘s latest device has been hailed as the best foldable released to date. The handheld is, of course, very expensive, and those who’ve never used a folding smartphone before might worry about such an outlay on something they end up hating.

This isn’t a traditional phone review; instead, it primarily looks at the advantages and disadvantages of buying the Fold 4 in terms of the device itself and using a foldable for the first time, and asks whether you really should hand over almost 2,000 of your hard-earned money.

Background: A Note Fan

I’ve owned the same smartphone brand for the last decade: the Galaxy Note. From the Note 2 right up to my most recent handset, the Note 10 Plus, the phablets’ large screens, included stylus, and productivity FOCUS long made the Note the only type of phone I’ve ever wanted.

Like other Note fans, the increasingly large size of Samsung’s S range, especially the enormous Ultra variants, was cause for concern. The question of whether the company was planning to discontinue the Note series was pretty much answered when the S21 Ultra became the first in the S line to support Samsung’s S-pen stylus. The Note brand was officially retired in February. God rest its soul.

With my Galaxy Note 10 Plus getting long in the tooth, it was time for an upgrade. But do I dare go foldable? The first ever Galaxy Fold seemed like a good idea at the time, but the execution was flawed, leading to the original’s screen problems that resulted in canceled pre-orders and a lengthy release postponement. It eventually arrived to mixed reviews.

But Samsung didn’t give up. Each iteration improved on the last, and after briefly checking out a friend’s Z Fold 3 (and noticing how much Linus Sebastian likes his), I decided to wait until Samsung launched the successor and take the plunge.

First Impressions

After trading in my old Note 10 to take some of the sting out of the foldable’s price, it arrived slightly earlier than expected in the heftiest phone box I’ve ever seen.

While the Z Fold 4 is slimmer and lighter than the Z Fold 3, those who have never handled a foldable before will likely be shocked by the sheer brick-like feeling of gripping one. Booting it up shows off the bright 6.2-inch AMOLED front panel (2,316 x 904) that can make it look like any other flagship phone, albeit a very thick one, and the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate is evident, offering a silky smoothness that reminds me of the iPad Pro.

Then there’s the internal screen. I was a massive fan of the old Nexus 7 mini tablet and its form factor that was somewhere between a phone and a traditional slate. The unfolded Z Fold 4 reminds me of the old Google/Asus device, albeit one that’s been sent into the far future and modified.

The 7.6-inch inner display (2,176 x 1,812) is amazing. It really is like using a mini tablet, except this one doesn’t have the clunkiness often found in Android slates.

The rear of the Z Fold 4 with an added camera lens protector

The flagship Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 SoC pushes everything around at light speed as the apps slickly slide around the screen and load instantly. For new foldable users, it is an awe-inspiring sight to behold.

Creased

It’s long been said that one of the worst elements of the Fold series is the internal display’s crease, a result of the hinge design. Having seen it in the Z Fold 3, it’s evident that Samsung has managed to decrease its visibility in the successor, slightly. But don’t think that means it’s not noticeable.

The very shallow indentation is obvious when running a finger across the center of the screen, and the line is more prominent against a dark background and when viewed from an angle. It’s easy to imagine that this alone will put many potential buyers off the Fold.

The crease is less noticeable against white backgrounds

However, while this is the phone’s worst element, it’s by no means a deal breaker. The crease is almost invisible against lighter backgrounds, especially white ones, and looking at the screen head-on lessens the effect even more.

In my fortnight of using it almost non-stop, there’s only been a couple of occasions where the crease has been a mild annoyance, the result of trying to select something or placing the cursor in the creased area and it not working first time. I’ve read countless articles and watched many YouTube videos on its opened screen, and not once was my attention distracted by the line in the center.

Apps

Samsung positions the Z Fold 4 as the ultimate productivity handset, and it’s easy to see why. Multitasking is great thanks to most apps working so well in the multi-window mode. Using something like Notes, Google Calendar, and Maps simultaneously and seamlessly on a phone screen is something that tends to work better in theory than in practice, but the Fold 4’s size and taskbar abilities make it a genuinely useful feature.

You can hold it in one hand while unfolded, just do so carefully

The third-party apps optimized for the Fold, such as. really do look and work great-unoptimized ones like Instagram, not so much-and Samsung’s own apps fully take advantage of the form factor. The camera app that allows users to utilize the front cameras for selfies, stand the phone up for videos, and see images in the gallery as soon as they’re captured is very impressive.

Gaming

Gaming on mobile is something I’ve never been interested in. Owning a pretty powerful PC and a PS5 leaves little time or inclination to play on a handset at home, and I prefer reading or social apps when on the go. That changed with the Z Fold 4.

samsung, galaxy, fold, review

I decided to try a title that appeals to my love of all things Games Workshop – Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus. I briefly tried it on the Note 10 Plus and thought it seemed okay. On the Z Fold 4, however, the massive screen, snappy SoC, and immersive sound have turned this into a game that gets played daily. And thanks to a screen that can hit 1,200 nits, it’s possible to enjoy it outdoors in bright sunlight without any problems.

Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus, a lot of fun if you love space marines

Then I downloaded that money-gobbling yet highly popular loot-em-up, Diablo Immortal.

This was another mobile game I briefly tried on the Note but was put off by the pig-like performance being squeezed from the Exynos 9825. Knowing that the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is a powerhouse, I cranked the framerate to 60fps, resolution to High, and graphics settings to Very High.

For those on the wrong side of 40, seeing titles like this on mobile feels like magic when one can recall Snake being the pinnacle of handheld gaming.

Portability

There’s no getting away from the fact that even when closed, the Z Fold 4 is a chunky boy. Its dimensions and 263g weight can make it feel very conspicuous in your pants, and expect a battle to keep them from falling around your ankles if you like to run/jog with a phone in your

The “Armor Aluminum” body can also make holding it feels like grappling with the world’s most expensive bar of soap, so a good case with a screen and camera lens protector is recommended, which adds even more weight and heft. After the screen crease, this is likely the other factor that will put people off a Z Fold, though they could always opt for a Z Flip instead.

It’s like having a heavy, old-fashioned unfolding paper map in your hand

If the dimensions and weight are not a problem, you’ll find the Z Fold 4 is excellent when used on the move. Google Maps is brilliant on the big screen, showing details that can be easy to miss on standard mobile displays. And being able to browse magazines/websites, play games, or watch a YouTube video on a 7.6-inch screen makes waiting for someone a pleasure rather than a chore.

I thought using the scan-and-go app with one hand while shopping with the Z Fold 4 might be a problem, but its narrower body actually made it easier for this task than using my old Galaxy Note.

A case with an S-Pen holder attached makes a bulky phone even meatier

Social media and messaging, the two areas most people use their phones for outdoors, also benefit from the large screen, with the tablet-like experience improving the text, images, and especially photos. I also enjoyed using Samsung’s optional split keyboard. And being able to view on the outer display before opening the Fold so it automatically fills the larger screen never gets old.

It’s also possible to be genuinely productive outdoors with the Fold 4. Checking and editing documents, writing emails, and making video calls all work seamlessly. It’s even better if you can take advantage of the phone’s 5G connectivity. Which leads us to.

Productivity

Why use a phone when a computer/laptop/tablet can do a better job? That statement has long been true, of course, thanks mainly to their larger screens, better software, more power, and the fact they’re usually just more intuitive. Nobody would claim the Z Fold 4 could take the place of those devices, but it’s about the closest we’ve ever come.

Hmm. Chrome. or Notes? Why not all three?

Multitasking on anything smaller than a laptop can often be a fiddly experience, but the Fold 4 does get the job[s] done, thanks to its resizable multi-window ability and Android 12L’s taskbar feature.

Operating up to three apps on the screen works so much better than it has any right to, and some even allow users to drag-and-drop text or images between the open programs. I enjoyed scribbling down memos with the-sadly not included-S-pen on the right side of the screen as I checked facts in a Google search on the left.

Some apps also support Flex mode. This adds another function to the bottom half of the screen, such as a keyboard or trackpad. The camera app uses this feature by showing the camera controls and gallery on the bottom, while the entire upper screen acts as a viewfinder.

Speaking of the cameras, the Z Fold 4 does take some amazing shots. I found looking like someone wrestling with a mini tablet was worth it just to use all the camera app’s features-though taking photos while it’s closed works just as well, of course. And photography fans will no doubt appreciate the support for the Expert Raw app. Take a look at some of the images it captured.

Galaxy Z Fold 4: The Positives

  • Form factor: Samsung moves another, albeit small, step closer to creating a device that’s both phone and tablet.
  • Productivity beast: The Z Fold 4’s multitasking abilities are unmatched in the mobile space, made all the better through the new taskbar feature.
  • Amazing displays: The two screens are fast, bright, and gorgeous. You also get a wider front display and slimmer bezels around the main one compared to the Fold 3.
  • Excellent cameras: You wouldn’t normally associate good cameras with a foldable, but the Fold 4 holds its own against the best out there.
  • Powerful performance: The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is the best Android has to offer.
  • Fingerprint reader: Embedded in the side power button. A lot more responsive and easier to use than Samsung‘s under-display version.

Galaxy Z Fold 4: The Negatives

  • The price: Remember when people complained about 1,000 phones? Pushing nearly two grand, you could buy a monster gaming PC instead of this foldable. Samsung’s trade-in program is generous, but not everyone has an old device that can lower the cost to a more reasonable level.
  • The crease: Just to reiterate, less crease doesn’t mean no crease. Some people will likely find that tiny indent a bit too much to bear.
  • Almost indistinguishable from the Galaxy Z Fold 3: If you already own Samsung‘s last-gen foldable, there’s no good reason to buy the latest version.
  • No S-Pen: Come on, Samsung. Giving away free cases with S-Pens to those who pre-order is all well and good, but a phone this price, and one that’s the natural successor to the Note, should come with an S-Pen as standard, and would a holder built into the chassis be too much to ask?
  • Battery life: You’ll doubtlessly find yourself using the Z Fold 4 a lot more than previous phones. The battery does last longer than previous models, but with the brightness turned up and the adaptive 120Hz refresh rate enabled, expect more than an overnight charge to be required. The good news is that it supports 25W Super Fast Charging.

To Fold or Not to Fold?

While most people love getting a new phone, the last few years have seen the same thing being churned out by companies: a faster device with a nicer screen and cameras along with a few new features, all packed into a chassis often indistinguishable from the previous year’s model. You might play with it for a few days before forgetting it’s actually an upgrade on your old model.

As someone new to foldables, the Z Fold 4 has made me excited about phones again. From the form factor starting life as a buggy, easily broken novelty, the fourth iteration of Samsung’s version is a step closer to the devices sci-fi movies and shows have long promised us.

From content consumption to productivity, games to social media use, there’s little it doesn’t do better than a standard handset. That price will always be a problem, but unless you already own a Z Fold 3, I can’t recommend the Fold 4 highly enough.

There once was a time when companies tried to make phones as small as possible. Then larger screens became the must-have feature. As Samsung’s foldable designs, including the Z Flip, improve with each iteration and more companies adopt these form factors, the future of phones is starting to look foldable. I, for one, certainly wouldn’t go back to a normal handset.

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What to expect from foldable phones in 2023: Galaxy Z Fold 5, Pixel Fold and more

If you’re on the fence about whether foldable phones are futuristic innovations or a soon-to-be-dead gimmick, 2023 could be the year that changes your mind.

It’s easy to see how quiet the foldables space is right now, especially if you live in the United States. We had the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 in August, and Motorola might be bringing the Razr 2022 over at some point, but that’s about it. But the thing about next year is that more companies are rumored or confirmed to be bringing out foldable devices, and these devices could bring something genuinely different.

To try and make some predictions for the coming year in foldables, I spoke to experts Ben Wood, chief analyst and CMO of analyst firm CCS Insight, and Runar Bjørhovde, research analyst for Canalys. Combined with what the rumor mill’s telling us about next year’s crop of foldables, the picture of foldable phones in 2023 is a fascinating one.

Starting with a bang

“Everything points to an avalanche of foldable devices in 2023,” says Ben Wood, “We expect MWC [February 27. March 2] to be an epicenter of foldables with many of the Chinese manufacturers showcasing devices they have already announced while others will unveil new products.”

With the Google Pixel Fold also tipped for a May reveal, the first half of the year could be an exciting time for folding phone fans.

The only problem is, as with previous years, that these Chinese foldables are mostly not going to make it to the U.S. Here in the U.K. we’ll get a few of these, such as the recently announced Honor Magic Vs and the Oppo Find N2 Flip, and it’s possible more companies like Xiaomi will start shipping foldables beyond China, too. But the pool of available devices is going to remain small, and that’s going to give an advantage to one company in particular.

Samsung keeps the crown

It likely won’t surprise anyone keeping tabs on the foldables market that Samsung sold 79% of all foldables sold in the first nine months of 2022 (according to Canalys data). While that’s lower than the 90% saturation it managed in 2021, Samsung’s Galaxy Z models will most likely still keep this lead going into 2023 and beyond.

“Samsung will continue to lead their portfolio with foldable devices in the upcoming years,” says Runar Bjørhovde.

“The main driver behind this is the devices’ ability to create switchers from Apple and other Android brands,” he continues, but that seems partly dependent on users having little other choice right now if they live outside China.

One of the unique things that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 does, but that other foldables have yet to attempt, is stylus support. It allows users to make more use of their larger folding display, in line with a premium tablet, although with the caveat that the S Pen has to be stored separately.

Fortunately, Bjørhovde says he “wouldn’t be surprised if the next development feature from Samsung would be to include the S Pen within the Fold model,” although there’s no guarantee that would come to the Galaxy Z Fold 5. That feature may still be another generation or two away given the engineering challenges that would be involved.

Big hurdles are still there

Even if Samsung still dominates the foldables world, and even if it does manage to stuff an S Pen into the next Z Fold, that’s not going to increase sales by itself. According to Canalys, only 1% of all phones sold this year (excluding Q4) were foldables, The things that put users off of ditching their slate-shaped phones for flexible ones will sadly not be going away in the coming year.

As Wood says: “There are still major challenges to be overcome with foldables. Durability remains amongst the biggest reasons consumers are nervous of buying a folding device.”

While companies are clear to state just how many thousands of times their phone hinges can be folded without breaking, and Samsung gave some peace of mind by certifying the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 as IPX8 water resistant, some parts of a foldable remain uniquely vulnerable. The main one would be the folding display, which by design has to be soft and flexible.

Were these problems to be fixed, or at least taken in consumers’ stride, the cost of these phones will also be “a significant hurdle” according to Wood.

“2023 will certainly see come down,” he says, “But I expect folding smartphones to remain premium devices for quite some time.”

That’s a great pity as I have been calling to the skies for Samsung to make a cheaper foldable, but all these things are linked. Until more people are confident about buying a foldable, the price of parts and repairs won’t drop, and that in turn keeps them out of the hands of potential users.

Other than fixing these issues, there’s one thing Bjørhovde says companies could also do to bring in new buyers:

“I believe that [experience] is where vendors focused on foldable devices must put their attention to make sure that they stay relevant to consumers.”

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Foldables are obviously unique-looking devices, but that doesn’t help sell the device unless you can do something interesting and useful with them. You’ve got to justify all that money you spent somehow, after all. Things like Samsung‘s S Pen or Flex Mode utility are good for this, but more’s needed before people feel foldables are a necessity in the same way a regular smartphone is. And a new player tipped to be entering the market this year could make a difference there.

The Pixel effect

I hinted before at the Google Pixel Fold, a rumored foldable that would be Google’s first. This is potentially important since it’s guaranteed to be sold in the U.S., where Samsung’s status as the king of foldables is safest, providing some much-needed competition to the Z Fold 4. But Bjørhovde sees another significance to Google’s involvement in the foldables market.

“I find the rumors about Google Pixel to be very interesting,” says Bjørhovde, “Not because it is ‘just’ another vendor — but because it could help to get an extra push of development on the software and user experience side through Android. Plus, Google Pixel is fully willing to invest in making the mass market more used to foldables — and could potentially match Samsung on this.”

Currently, Android phone makers wanting to make a foldable have to do a lot of the software legwork required to adapt Android to the new form factor themselves. But if Google helps add more foldable-friendly features to stock Android, as it did with Android 13 and Android 12L before it, then this could be the trigger for even more companies to try building a foldable, hopefully driving the segment forward towards more innovative and effective foldable phones in a way the Pixel Fold itself wouldn’t be able to manage.

We shouldn’t underestimate the Pixel Fold though. The current rumors paint it as an effective Galaxy Z Fold 4 rival, not least because of the fearsome-looking camera array on its back. While the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s cameras are much better than previous generations, Chinese foldables are outdoing it on hardware, and no doubt Google would be able to do a much better job with foldable photography with its amazing post-processing software.

No iPhone Flip… probably

Before we wrap up, one last question: Is 2023 going to be the year that the elusive iPhone Flip appears? Bjørhovde is skeptical.

“I highly doubt that we’ll see anything related to foldables from Apple over the next years. Apple has a comfortable position with the iPhone… and foldables provide an unnecessary risk on its side in the short-term.”

That would make perfect sense from Apple, a company that’s notoriously risk-averse with its phones. Although some analysts have suggested Apple could bring out its first foldable next year, there’s certainly no rush for Apple to do so just yet, even if it’s losing some of its users to Samsung because of the Galaxy Z models. Better to take its time and ensure the folding iPhone’s super polished on release so that it can start converting its customers to foldable users at low risk to its reputation or bottom line.

Foldables in 2023: Outlook

I already thought 2022 was a good year for foldables, given the amount of time the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s stayed in my in place of a more standard Android phone. But other than some minor updates to phone types we’d already seen before, it was actually kind of quiet.

That doesn’t look to be the case in 2023 though. Between the rumors and expert analyses we’ve seen above, the next 12 months could be the biggest year for foldables since we first started seeing them in 2019. Some foundational problems with folding phones may take longer to sort out, like pricing and toughness, but with lots of new players in the game, including the influential Google, foldables could prove to be a big source of excitement in the new year. Who knows, perhaps next year is when you’ll finally consider switching phones, and if you do, Tom’s Guide will be here to provide buying advice on the best foldable phones so you can find the right one for you.

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