Popularity surrounded the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Samsung shipped more Flip 3 devices in five months than any other foldable phone combined in 2021, according to research firm Omdia.
Last year’s Flip had slow charging, poor battery life, and a rudimentary camera by flagship standards. Samsung agreed. This year’s Z Flip 4 is an iterative upgrade, but practically every adjustment is aimed at fixing those weak aspects, at least to some extent.
Flip 3’s 15W wired charging is now 25W. Still slow by Android standards, but on par with Samsung’s other flagships and Google’s Pixel phones. Last year’s Flip 3 barely lasted a day, and battery life only gets worse. This year, Samsung has a more efficient AMOLED display, a more efficient Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, and a larger battery.
I haven’t tested the Flip 4 long enough to say how long it lasts now, but Samsung officials say it lasts an extra three hours compared to last year’s model, and they’ve seen it operate for 36 hours. That won’t rival the top battery phones, but it pushes the Flip closer to the average.
Camera. There are still two back lenses, a main camera and an ultrawide, and they both use 12Mp sensors. The main camera’s sensor is bigger. Samsung claims it’s 65% brighter with 1.8m pixels. This means brighter, more detailed photos with better dynamic range. In sunny settings, the new sensor is modestly better, but in low light, it’s revolutionary.
The Z Flip 4’s camera still lags behind other Android flagships. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series outshoots the Flip 4 and includes a telephoto lens. The Flip 4’s camera is better than the Flip 3’s. Not really. No optical zoom yet (then again, neither do the iPhone 13 or Pixel 6). It’s powerful enough that only serious photographers will find issue with it.
Other enhancements exist. Samsung’s other enhancements – tweaks to the hinge design, updated Cover Display widgets, and 512GB storage – are more cosmetic than functional. Durability still dominates. Last year’s Z Flip 3 was more durable than I expected; I dropped my review sample on cobblestone and it kept working. After a year of regular use, the screen on two phones I know has split at the hinge.
Samsung says it’s improved. The hinge, crease, and ‘ultra-thin glass’ in the display have been changed. Samsung’s IPX8 water-resistance rating returns, and Gorilla Glass Victus+ and Armour Aluminium protect the glass body and metal frame.
After 20 minutes of playing with the Flip 4 at a pre-briefing, I don’t feel safe saying it’s tough enough to endure a year or two of use — I won’t be able to assess that in a weeklong evaluation. The Flip 4 sounds tougher than before, but buyers are still gambling.
Samsung’s goal this year is to consolidate its market share, win over a few on-the-fence users, and prove that the Flip 3 wasn’t a fluke. Fixing the phone’s conspicuous weak spots gives Samsung a second chance with buyers who baulked at the battery or camera last time.
Millions of people were willing to compromise for the Flip 3 to acquire a foldable phone. Samsung hopes millions won’t this year.