For the last few weeks we’ve been using the Galaxy Z Flip from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed each night and our experience has been interesting.
One thing we weren’t quite prepared for was how differently we’d have to use the Z Flip compared to other handsets.
Generally speaking, reviews of smartphones these days are mostly about the camera updates, the silicon and latest features within the operating system.
But the Z Flip is different not only because it folds but because it’s changed the way we use a smartphone. As such we should show our hand early on.
This handset is not for everybody, but for those who are willing to take a risk on new technology and can afford to take that risk, the Z Flip is something special.
Rather than Samsung’s own silicon, the Z Flip sports Qualcomm’s 7nm Snapdragon 855+ along with 8GB of RAM.
Multi-core performance is above that on the S20 Ultra but single-core performance, which is what really matters, is below that of the S20 Ultra and the S10+.
How much of a problem is this in real world usage? Putting the Z Flip side by side with the S10+ we noticed no difference when launching apps on the handset at the same time. In fact, in some instances, the Z Flip was faster than the aging S10+.
As mentioned in our preview, performance takes a nosedive the moment the battery hits the 30 – 25 percent mark which is not at all ideal.
Overall however, performance is about what we expect from a premium smartphone though we do hope future iterations of this handset have a bit more grunt.
Despite all of its engineering and the fact it folds, the Z Flip is a rather sleek device on the outside.
The hinge feels incredibly sturdy and closing the handset feels solid every time we’ve closed it. However, with that having been said, as this is a moving part it will become a point of failure in the future and when it does fail we foresee the rest of the Z Flip following its lead.
And that really is where our biggest problem with the Z Flip comes into play.
Generally we all accept that a smartphone will service our needs for around two years though that timeline shifts depending on a variety of factors. Of course we constantly see handsets with broken screens being used and smartphones in varying degrees of disrepair but we don’t foresee this handset lasting very long once damaged.
And damaging this smartphone will always be a concern.
The paint job on the Z Flip is incredibly slick and that also means it is prone to capture fingerprints from about 50 km away. Thankfully, you can slap a cover on the handset and one is included in the box which is great.
The biggest gripe we have with the exterior of the Z Flip is the fingerprint scanner.
Located on the right-hand side of the smartphone we have yet to get a successful scan the first time around. This is a problem that has plagued fingerprint scanners in this position since Sony adopted it for its smartphones and now Samsung has implemented it here.
While there is facial recognition and security features such as patterns and PINs, fingerprint authentication is so deeply ingrained in many apps that failings of this fingerprint scanner are immediately noticeable.
One can get by with doing multiple scans but it’s a hassle and you often feel as if you can’t use certain apps as the fingerprint scanner will get in the way. For example, earlier this week I tried to transfer money using my banking app which is unlocked via fingerprint authentication. After several failed attempts to gain access to my bank account I abandoned the Z Flip in favour of my older S10+ which worked immediately.
The visible fold in the display is also something that we are constantly aware of when using the Z Flip. Two weeks into using the handset and we are still not able to ignore the fold in the centre of the display and it truly detracts from the premium experience.
Despite being a folding smartphone, the Z Flip is packing a sizeable 3 300mAh battery and it does rather well though our determination of what “normal” use is has changed ever so slightly due to lockdown.
Using the Z Flip to make calls, surf the web occasionally and listen to music we were able to get 34 hours of life between charges.
For those looking to do a marathon usage session, while watching a movie at full brightness over WiFi and with Bluetooth earphones we managed to squeeze 10 hours of life from the handset before it shut down.
The main camera on the Z Flip is a dual 12MP sensor with both a wide and ultrawide lens.
This is a similar setup to that in the Galaxy S10 albeit with one less lens.
The camera experience is fine but it’s not the focus of this handset like it is in many other premium flagships.
The result is a camera that reminds us more of a mid-range smartphone than a flagship DSLR challenger.
We’re not overly blown away by the camera and there are better solutions on the market. We’d argue that this handset is less about the camera and more about something else but a better snapper wouldn’t have been a bad thing.
A selection of photos we’ve taken are available below.
So what is the Z Flip like to use as a handset.
In a single word – unnerving.
To offer a peak behind the curtain Samsung was meant to collect this device two weeks back and we’ve had the handset ready for collection since then.
Usually we would use a new handset up to the second where a courier would collect it from us but this time we were happy to pack up the Z Flip and put it in the box.
The delicate nature of the handset is not something we feel we’ll ever get used to and if folding smartphones are going to become more common then this fragility must be addressed.
Yes, Samsung has done better than Motorola in this form factor but we still feel that there is too big of a change between using the Z Flip and other smartphones.
As a marvel of engineering and technological advancement the Z Flip is a fantastic device.
As an everyday smartphone though, your money is better spent elsewhere.
The retail price for the Z Flip is currently R29 999 and that is a fair bit of dough for what is really an experiment.
The folding display is the real seller here but sadly the sum of the parts that drive that display simply aren’t better than a cheaper smartphone.
You could for example have this smartphone or the much more powerful Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Our advice then is to give the Z Flip a miss this time around, the next iteration might be a lot better if rumours of the Galaxy Fold 2 are to be believed.