Samsung, the Galaxy Z Fold & Flip could be even better

What is happening

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 are Samsung’s best foldables yet, but there’s room for improvement in design, camera quality and battery life.

why is it important

Companies like Samsung are betting big on foldable phones being the next major evolution of the modern smartphone. But high prices and other setbacks have limited their appeal so far.

And after

Samsung is holding its next Unpacked event on August 10, where it could unveil the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4.

Foldable phones have come a long way since 2019, when Samsung launched its original Galaxy Z Fold. $1,800 last year Galaxy Z Fold 3 and $1,000 Galaxy ZFlip 3 are the most polished versions of the company’s foldable devices to date, with improvements to their software and cover screens.

But Samsung could do a lot to make these devices even better, and I hope to see such changes in the next few years. Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy ZFlip 4.

Both phones are expected to debut during Samsung’s Unpacked event August 10. They will represent Samsung’s latest bet to maintain its leadership position in the nascent but growing foldable phone market.

Read more: Samsung unpacked is in 3 days. Here’s how to watch it live

TM Roh, Head of Mobile Experience Business at Samsung, says nearly 10 million foldable phones were shipped in 2021. This is generally in line with estimates of IDC market researcherwhich indicates that 7.1 million foldables were shipped in 2021, representing a 264% increase from 2020.

These numbers suggest foldables are starting to appeal to more than just early adopters and tech enthusiasts. But there are still hurdles that Samsung and other companies must overcome before foldables become as ubiquitous as standard smartphones.

Lower price

Samsung’s foldables are more expensive than their standard smartphones, which can make them a tough sell. This has changed in recent years, with the Galaxy ZFlip 3 in particular being one of the most affordable foldables to date. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 starts at $1,000 without trade-in, making it the same price as the Galaxy S22 Plus. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is considerably more expensive, with a usual starting price of $1,800 without trade-in, though that’s still a welcome improvement over the $2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2.

New software features

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 the foldable designs certainly set them apart from most phones. But the software has to catch up with the hardware.

Samsung is off to a good start in this regard. The Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip both have a feature called Flexible mode, which reorients and optimizes some apps to fit the device’s screen when folded halfway. For example, Flex Mode moves some compatible apps to the top half of the screen while displaying navigation and playback controls on the bottom.

My favorite example of this mode put to good use is in the Galaxy Z Flip’s camera app. When the camera is half open, the shutter, photo settings and other controls are on the bottom half of the screen while the top half acts as a viewfinder. Flex mode combined with the Z Flip’s ability to stay open on its own makes it a great camera-tripod combination.

Besides Flex Mode, the Galaxy Z Fold can also run multiple apps on screen at once to take advantage of its tablet-sized screen.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 running multiple apps on screen at once

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 can run multiple apps on screen at once.

Patrick Holland/CNET

These are great additions, but there’s plenty of room for Samsung to do more. It feels like the software conforms to the hardware when it should be the opposite. While the Z Fold’s Flex mode and multitasking capabilities are a good start, they’re not enticing enough to justify buying a foldable phone.

I would like to see Samsung develop more compelling software features. Although I would not recommend buying the Surface Duo 2 because it doesn’t work very well as a regular phone, i think microsoft is onto something software wise.

The way the Surface Duo 2 divides compatible apps between screens almost feels like you’re using an app in an entirely new way. The Amazon Kindle app turns the Duo into a digital book, Xbox GamePass turns it into a Nintendo 3DS-style handheld game console, and Outlook’s split-screen turns it into a mini laptop. There’s a lot of promise with foldables, and I hope Samsung finds other ways to take advantage of that.

Longer battery life

Battery life is one of the most important features of any phone, and foldable phones are no exception. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 both had disappointing battery life. My colleague Patrick Holland could barely get through a day with the 4400mAh battery capacity of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 only lasted about 11 hours before needing a charge.

I hope Samsung improves battery life or develops new ways to circumvent it in future iterations of the Z Fold and Z Flip. And by “workaround” I mean Samsung could increase the devices’ fast charging speeds or make improvements to their power-saving modes. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 charges at up to 25 watts while the Z Flip 3 charges at 15 watts, which is nothing special. The Galaxy S22 Plus and S22 Ultrafor example, both have a charging speed of 45 watts.

Better cameras

Camera quality matches battery life when it comes to what matters most in a phone. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 cameras are good, but there is room for improvement. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a 12-megapixel wide and 12-megapixel ultra-wide primary camera setup, which, as my colleague wrote in his review, is “the equivalent of the cameras you’ll find on a $700 phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a triple camera system that adds a 12-megapixel telephoto lens in addition to the 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lenses.

Samsung Z Fold 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 cameras

Sarah Tew/CNET

These cameras are suitable for most people. Anyone considering buying one of these phones is obviously more interested in the screen than the cameras. But for the price, I’d like to see camera quality that at least matches, if not exceeds, Samsung’s best non-folding phones. Like my colleague Patrick the dish: “the Z Fold 3 has B+ cameras at an A+ price.” This is especially true for the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s under-display camera, which is the phone’s selfie camera when used in tablet mode.

Fortunately, rumors suggest that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will come with some serious camera upgrades that will bring it up to speed with the Galaxy S22 range.

Design improvements

Samsung Z Fold 3

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 folded.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Even if the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 are Samsung’s finest foldables to date, phones with foldable screens are still relatively new. As such, it takes time to achieve perfect ergonomics, and Samsung still has some work to do here.

Let’s start with the Galaxy Z Fold. The Z Fold’s biggest downside is that it still feels a bit awkward to use as a regular phone when closed. Samsung has made some design improvements to the Z Fold 3 that make it both lighter and thinner than its predecessors. But it remains an abnormally bulky phone when closed, which can cause some inconvenience when using it with one hand.

Anyone who bought the Z Fold probably did so because of its large interior display, not the cover display. But consider how often you pull out your phone to quickly check a notification or reply to a text. In some situations, these tasks are much more convenient to accomplish when the Z Fold is closed, such as when you’re on the go and unfolding the device seems inconvenient.

Another design upgrade I’d like to see on the Z Fold is the ability for the S Pen to magnetically attach to the hinge of the device. A stylus storage slot like the one in the Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t seem like a plausible solution since it would add to the thickness of the Z Fold.

The Galaxy Z Flip already looks a lot like a standard phone, but one improvement I’d like to see is a bigger cover screen. The Z Flip 3 is a major upgrade over the original Z Flip in this regard. While Samsung’s first foldable flip phone only had a small pill-shaped cover screen, the Z Flip 3 is large enough to house widgets for weather, music, alarms and more.

Samsung ZFlip 3

The cover screen of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Sarah Tew/CNET

But I still wish I could see more lines of text and widgets on this screen. A larger screen would also make it easier to take quick selfies without unfolding the phone, as the cover screen can act as a camera viewfinder. Fortunately, rumors suggest that Samsung plans to increase the size of the cover screen with the Galaxy ZFlip 4.

I also hope Samsung finds a way to make the crease less obvious on the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip. The creases on Samsung’s current foldables aren’t too bothersome, but they are definitely noticeable, both to the eye and to the touch. Chinese tech giant Oppo has found a way around this problem on foldable Find N sound by implementing a “teardrop” hinge, which makes the crease of the device harder to see and feel when open. by Motorola teardrop hinge design also makes the foldable Razr’s crease less noticeable.

Samsung’s Z Flip and Z Fold phones are gradually approaching standard non-folding phones in price, and I hope that trajectory continues. Foldable phones will likely always require some type of compromise, whether it’s the quality of their camera or the thickness of the device. I just hope the list of compromises gets narrower over time, starting with the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4.

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