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The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 is what you get when foldables become a one-horse race
Samsung's fourth-generation foldable is such a slight improvement that it invites awkward questions about what's next.
Material gains make Samsung's latest spin on the foldable flip phone the brand's best to date, yet it bears the burden of being one of the first such devices to feel overly iterative and downright mundane.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 was the first foldable that got me hyped enough to put my own money on the table, but the new Galaxy Z Flip 4 had me awkwardly eyeing the exit signs for reasons I didn't quite understand. At least, not at first.
A bit of history to set the stage. Samsung's first generation of foldables represented a near-fatal experiment, the second was a necessary course correction and the third made good on most of the finer details.
Inevitably, the more significant advances of last year's model leave the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 adrift of any clear narrative or argument for why it should exist beyond the fact that it's expected to. We're all used to annual hardware cycles when it comes to premium smartphones at this point, so here we are.
It's fascinating to think about a world where Samsung faces more tangible competition in the form of a Google or Apple-made equivalent to the Z Flip 4. For better and worse, all that's left in the meantime is something of a personal best.
How much does Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 cost in Australia?
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 starts at the exact same price as the previous Galaxy Z Flip 3.
Depending on how you look at it, that's either a good thing or a bad thing. Given what's here is so similar to last year's device, it's a shame that Samsung hasn't gone a little cheaper. As the novelty of foldables fades, it feels only natural that the surcharge involved should do the same.
On the other hand, with inflation and the current economic climate being what they are, it's not hard to imagine things swinging in the other direction. That said, those considering the 256GB version of the device are looking at a slight price hike of $50 compared to what they would have paid for the Galaxy Z Flip 3 at launch.
Check out the table below for a complete round-up of local pricing for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 - plans
If you don't like the idea of buying the Galaxy Z Flip 4 outright, you've got a few options when it comes postpaid mobile plans.
At the time of writing, Optus, Telstra, Vodafone and Woolworths mobile are offering Samsung's latest foldable phone on a plan. Check out the widget below for a round-up of the best Galaxy Z Flip 4 plan with 128GB of onboard storage and at least 20GB of monthly data.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 - Design and features
The differences between the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 can only do so much to distract from how similar the two look, feel and function. Samsung's latest flippable phone is iterative to an extreme that almost eclipses that of 2020's Z Flip 5G and raises uncomfortable questions about what you're really paying for here.
The Galaxy Z Flip 4 often feels nicer to hold and handle than last year's model, but it rarely feels all that different or better in ways that feel meaningful or go beyond the aesthetics of the piece. It's not entirely dissimilar to what you'll find among this year's Galaxy S22 lineup. However, this emphasis on polish, style and sticking to what's worked before hits a little differently when you're talking about a fourth-generation product as opposed to a thirteenth-generation one.
Like its predecessors, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is built around a form factor that's engineered to evoke as much nostalgia for flip phones as can be mustered in 2022. There's a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (with a 120Hz refresh rate) on the inside, and a 1.9-inch Super AMOLED one on the outside.
Although the latter screen comes armed with a few new tricks (such as support for video content and animated gifs) the Z Flip 4's cover display is more or less the same as the one on the Z Flip 3. You can use it for checking the time, controlling your music, managing notifications and a few other bits and pieces. It's inoffensive and only occasionally useful enough that I stopped wishing that Samsung had been a little ambitious with the feature this time around.
From the Samsung Galaxy S10 onwards, Samsung has described the displays on its flagship smartphones as Dynamic AMOLED. However, the technical differences between this technology and the Super AMOLED found screens in older and cheaper Samsung devices is largely opaque.
While both Samsung Super AMOLED displays (like the one found on the Samsung Galaxy A73 5G) and Dynamic AMOLED displays (like the one on the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE) are regarded as high quality when it comes to their brightness, resolution and refresh rate, only the latter support HDR10+ content.
The core idea here is that you get the benefits of a bigger screen plus the ability to make your phone feel a little smaller whenever it's not in use. If you're working with smaller pockets or familiar with the struggles of larger plus-sized devices like the iPhone 13 Pro Max, then the benefits of that versatility are obvious. Even if it ends up feeling thicker, the squared-off chassis of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 make it much easier to carry around.
Previous Z Flip devices have been defined by two things: the appeal of the compact design as described above and the compromises Samsung have asked consumers to make in order to get it. Earlier Z Flip smartphones ran on worse processors, boasted inferior cameras and lacked key premium perks that consumers looking at spending this much money on a smartphone can usually take for granted.
The Galaxy Z Flip 4 almost manages to escape the orbit of this familiar fable. Even if it can't quite match the Galaxy S22 Ultra (or the Z Fold 4) when it comes to RAM, it's got the best processor in a Samsung smartphone you'll find this year.
As for onboard storage, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 arrives in the same three configurations as the Z Fold this time around (128GB, 256GB and 512GB). It's easy to bemoan this kind of by-the-numbers iteration.
Nevertheless, it's still somewhat refreshing to see Samsung so directly address the specifics that have held previous devices back. If the last generation of Z Flip was the first to feel truly practical, this one is the first to feel effortlessly premium in the way that only Samsung's sharpest hardware can.
As someone who used the Z Flip 3 as my daily driver for a solid seven months, I felt the difference in build quality right from the get-go. The frosted glass and steel edges are small touches that go a long way. Unfortunately, while the hinge on the the Galaxy Z Flip 4 feels more reliable, the glossy crease at the centre of the fold remains just as visible this time around.
Galaxy Z Flip 4 camera quality and samples
Finally, there's the camera. For Z Flip devices past, the camera has been the weak link and the bad news is that this is still the case.
You will get noticeably better low-light performance out of the dual-lens (12MP standard + 12MP ultra-wide) setup hanging off the back of the Z Flip 4 but you won't get any more megapixels or extra optical zoom. It's an improvement on the bar set by the Z Flip 3, but it's still arguably worse than what you'll get from the triple-lens setup found on the cheaper Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+, which undercuts the appeal somewhat.
In light of the more solid gains seen on other fronts, it's hard not to suspect there might a specific reason why Samsung doesn't want to deviate too far from the blueprint they've refined over the past three product cycles.
Given the durability difficulties that come with foldable phones, asking for a larger cover display, a crease-less screen or a new camera layout might be easier said than done.
If going back to the drawing board means gambling away the solid gains that Samsung has made to makes its foldables feel like less of a compromise or risk, then I doubt that we'll see anything but steady and safe updates like the Z Flip 4.
In any case, check out the gallery below for some snapshots that give you a sense of what the rear camera on the Galaxy Z Flip 4 can do.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 - Performance and battery life
Camera aside, the hardware powering the Galaxy Z Flip 4 represents a solid improvement over the previous model and an even more significant one for the ones before that. To Samsung's credit, it no longer feels like opting for a foldable mean settling for a worse processor and less RAM.
Despite the similar-sounding name, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor here is actually an upgrade on the one found in the Galaxy S22. This means that the newest Z Flip on the block is ahead of the curve for once.
While the Z Flip 4 doesn't have the same 12GB of RAM that the Z Fold 4 has to play with, it feels like the portability-oriented users it's designed to attract aren't likely to feel like they're missing out.
In practice, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 handled all my usual mobile gaming fodder with confidence and consistency. League of Legends: Wild Rift, Diablo Immortal and Call of Duty: Mobile all ran smoothly and without issue. When it came to more technically-demanding titles like Apex Legends Mobile and Genshin Impact ran well on medium settings but struggled at higher graphical settings.
How long does the battery inside the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 last?
When it came to the previous Z Flip 3, I found myself quickly turning off the higher refresh rate and enabling as many battery settings as I could in order to make the hardware go the distance. In contrast, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 managed to impress me in that wasn't a step I felt I ever needed to take.
Even with the bells and whistles enabled, I'd be able to comfortably make it to the end of a long day with the Z Flip 4. It's not quite a two-day phone, but with my daily screen time sometimes reaching past the six-hour mark, I came away pretty satisfied.
That said, I currently live in an area with spotty 5G coverage and my mobile plan doesn't offer 5G. Based on past experiences with 5G-enabled devices, I'm not particularly sceptical that the battery life of the Z Flip 4 might suffer under such conditions. Your mileage may vary accordingly.
In addition to being larger than the one found in the previous model, the 3700mAh battery inside the Galaxy Z Flip 4 supports 25W fast charging via USB Type-C and 10W wireless charging via Qi.
Unfortunately, during my time with the device, I did encounter a few weird issues with this. More than once, the Z Flip 4 would stop charging and tell me to unplug it for reasons that were never quite clear to me.
Burned down via video streaming on YouTube, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 lasted 14 hours and 36 minutes. That's not quite as long as devices like the Google Pixel 6a or OPPO Find X5 5G lasted, but the difference in battery size between the Z Flip 4 probably accounts for a lot of the reason why.
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Is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 worth buying?
There's a phrase that's been stuck on repeat in my head over the last decade, plucked from a podcast I used to listen to: "First you get good, then you get fast, and then you get good-fast." It's an imprecise and obscure point of reference, but I think it sums up Samsung's foray into foldables aptly.
Samsung had to learn to make foldables that worked. Then, it had to make foldables that were good. Finally, it had to make foldables which could confidently tick both of these boxes.
Last year's Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 was strikingly close to everything it needed to be and its successor pushes the formula that final mile. However, in spite of the material improvements involved, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 often feels like the first foldable smartphone to lose its lustre.
In isolation, it's easy to hold up as an example of Samsung trying and trying again until it gets almost everything right.
Unfortunately, this success breeds uncomfortable questions about what's next. The Galaxy Z Flip feels like evidence that Samsung's venture into foldables might have already passed its peak in terms of experimentation and excitement.
Now that the products are both good and built to last, all that's left is for foldables like the Z Flip is to get the same kind of boring year-to-year updates as regular smartphones do. Ultimately, that's exactly what the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is.
If you've been waiting for a foldable that doesn't feel like a compromise, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is arguably it. However, the price paid to get to that point leaves foldables feeling less like the future and more like a fad than ever before.
Even if what's here makes for a better buy than previous efforts, Samsung's latest is much less compelling when it comes to making the argument for why foldable screens are good and worth paying extra for.
For better or worse, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the first foldable phone that's just a little bit boring.
How does Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 compare?
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|Apple A15 Bionic||6.1-inches||See it at Amazon|
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 FAQ
There are a number of differences between the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, but the main ones are:
- The Galaxy Z Flip 4 has a better processor
- The Galaxy Z Flip 4 has a bigger camera sensor that makes it better at capturing images in low-light
- The Galaxy Z Flip 4 comes in a third 512GB storage variant
- The Galaxy Z Flip 4 has a bigger battery
- The Galaxy Z Flip 4 has a design that's slightly more premium