Samsung’s new flip phone is finally here

The Z Flip is company’s first shot at getting a foldable right after the catastrophic launch of last year’s Galaxy Fold

Photo: EPA Rebecca Hirst, Head of UK Mobile Product Marketing for Samsung introduces pricing and availability of the new Galaxy Z Flip smartphone during the Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event

At least once a year, Samsung gathers hundreds of reporters, analysts and industry folk into one big room for an event it calls “Samsung Unpacked,” where the company shows off all of their latest flagship devices. The first Unpacked of 2020 was held yesterday in San Francisco and undobtedly, the star of the show was company's latest experiment in the foldable phones category.

Undobtedly, the star of the show was company's latest experiment in the foldable phones category. After a handful of leaks - and an entire commercial that aired during the Oscars over the past weekend - Samsung’s flip phone-style folding smartphone is officially official. And it appears to be the clearest demonstration yet of how the trend isn’t just a gimmick.

From a very first sight, The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip seems like a big improvement on the South Korean electronics giant’s predecessor, the Galaxy Fold. As we remember, that phone started life crashing for floods of gadget reviewers before it even had the chance to hit the shelves.

But the Z Flip promises that history will not repeat itself. The device, which folds in half like a clamshell flip phone, feels sturdier and the hinge is a noticable improvement on the Fold. The gap in both halves of the phone is barely noticable, and it’s built to resist exposure to dust and sand.
Whereas the Fold showed how you can cram as much as possible into a phone that folds out into a huge tablet, the Z Flip demonstrates a much more compact version of that design which could open up the “niche” of foldables to a bigger audience. Another great improvement in comparison to last year's catastrophic Galaxy Gold is that the Galaxy Z Flip is the first foldable smartphone with a glass display cover. That's right, glass that can fold in half. Previous foldable smartphones used a plastic display cover, which introduced all sorts of problems. Plastic

As with the Fold, there’s the ability to interact with apps in different ways. With the YouTube app, for instance, you can view it on the fully-opened phone normally as you would with any smartphone. But start folding it at a 90-degree angle, and the experience changes. The video you’re viewing then collapses into the top half of the display - meaning it doesn’t cross into the second half - while recommendations for other clips and the comments section can be interacted with on the bottom portion of the device.

Meanwhile, the way this folding experience - which Samsung calls “Flex Mode” - works with the camera is also a neat feature. When bending it at an angle, like with YouTube, the photo app shows only what the camera sees at the top, while at the bottom you can flick through options like whether to take a picture or video and different effects.

It’s only a sneak peak at how practical folding phones could be for apps, but given that’s such a key thing these phones will have to get right, it’s a promising sign.

Still, the Z Flip will need to stand the test of time - and of willingness from consumers to buy it. If we’ve learned anything from the last two years’ dismal smartphone market performance, it’s that not everyone is ready to part with $1,000 or more for a new handset. And this one will be available in the US and Korea starting 14 February for $1,380.

We will also need evidence the phones don’t stop working out of the blue like the Fold did for plenty of reviewers. That’s a key thing to watch out for as Samsung starts putting this into more people’s hands.

Needless to say, this won’t be the last you’ve heard of foldable phones. Plenty of other manufacturers - particularly Chinese ones - are working on new and innovative folding devices.

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