Best foldable phone Android Central 2021
We're still in the early days of the foldable phone re-emergence, but there are a couple of options available if you want to buy in. These are no longer concepts or prototypes. They're complete phones that are on store shelves just like any other. Right now, the best overall option is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, but it's far from your only option. These are the best foldable phones you can buy.
- Best foldable phone overall: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G
- Best flip phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G 256GB
- A solid flipping alternative: Motorola RAZR 5G Polished Graphite
- Wider cover display: Huawei Mate X2
- Xiaomi's first foldable: Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold
- Two separate screens: Microsoft Surface Duo 128GB
Best foldable phone overall: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is by far the most refined foldable currently on the market. It improves massively upon the hinge of the original Fold and can stay open at various angles to use certain software features in unique ways. The cover display takes up the entire face of the device, and while it's a bit narrow compared to most phones, that helps keep it relatively useable one-handed since the phone is particularly thick when folded shut.
The inner display features Samsung's Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) screen covering, making it more durable than other fully plastic options, and the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate makes everything you do on that display feel ultra-smooth. Of course, it's large enough to run two full-sized apps in split-screen view, and you can run even more without slowing down the Fold 2's ultra-powerful specs.
With a 4,500mAh battery, the Z Fold 2 can easily last through a full day, though it isn't without its setbacks. For one, foldables still have too many moving parts to offer water resistance, and this phone is no exception. You'll also run into the occasional unsupported app, which may scale abnormally to the large display. But the compromises mostly stop there; the Z Fold 2 is as close to perfection as we've seen so far and goes a long way to be considered as one of the best Android phones on the market today.
- Massive 120Hz display when unfolded
- Snapdragon 865+ with 5G support and 12GB of RAM
- Strong battery life
- Most durable, foldable screen
- Impressive triple camera array
- Very thick and heavy
- Internal screen is still more fragile than most phones
- Extremely expensive
Best flip phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G
Flip phones are back! Samsung's latest revision to the Galaxy Z Flip launched earlier this year brings 5G support and the latest, greatest Snapdragon 865+ processor to a familiar design. At its core, the Galaxy Z Flip 5G looks and acts like an S20+, running Android 10 with Samsung's One UI software. But of course, it folds in half, allowing it to fit much more easily into your pocket than an S20+.
Along with that added portability, the Z Flip 5G can also be propped up like a laptop or compact mirror to take selfies or make video calls. Otherwise, there's not much extra functionality versus a traditional smartphone. That's not such a bad thing, though, since it performs exactly as a traditional phone should. It's fast and responsive and has decent battery life.
Like the Z Fold 2, the Z Flip 5G lacks water resistance, and its display is limited to just 60Hz and 1080p. You're also getting a pretty weak speaker system and no ultra-wide camera on the back, but if you're after something portable above all else, the Z Flip 5G is still a great option.
- Durable UTG display
- Updated with modern specs and 5G
- Typically, great Samsung build quality
- Fits comfortably into nearly any pocket
- Cameras a step behind 2020 flagships
- No water resistance
- Bad speakers
- Low refresh rate
A solid flipping alternative: Motorola RAZR 5G
When the Motorola RAZR was launched back in 2019, many were hoping that Motorola had found itself again as the RAZR was poised to combat Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip. However, that just wasn't meant to be, as we saw a foldable display that lasted just a few hours before the creaking in the screen began. That's been remedied with the Moto RAZR 5G and added some new features such as being able to open apps and use them on the Cover Display.
This iteration is much more durable than the original, being able to withstand quite a lot more than you might expect, save for a fall onto concrete at the perfect angle. The internal specs were slightly upgraded over the original, with the Snapdragon 765G powering the flip phone, along with 8GB of RAM, and a slightly larger battery. While you won't turn to the RAZR 5G for all of your photography needs, Motorola made some necessary changes to at least make the camera serviceable on a daily basis.
But that's about all that you'll find with the RAZR 5G. Although the 5G moniker has arrived because that's what OEMs do now, you'll never see 5G speeds if you're a Verizon customer. That's because while there's sub-6GHz compatibility, Motorola ignored Verizon's mmWave network. And although Motorola changed the design to incorporate a glass back, you still won't find wireless charging, which is disappointing. Speaking of disappointment, the RAZR 5G is limited to just two major Android releases. Considering that it launched with Android 10, that means you're going to be limited to Android 12 whenever Motorola gets around to releasing it.
- Cover Display can be used with an installed apps
- More durable than the original version
- Slightly improved internal specs
- Camera performs better than expected
- Only two major Android release updates
- No wireless charging despite glass back
- Not compatible with Verizon's mmWave 5G network
Wider cover display: Huawei Mate X2
Take everything that you love about the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and make it just a little bit larger. Then, take away Google's services and add another $700-$1,000, and you have the Huawei Mate X2. Like Samsung, Huawei's second-generation foldable phone is practically a completely different offering from the original. There's a larger Cover Display that feels more like a regular smartphone and not just an accessory that you might use every once in a while.
The massive 8-inch inner display features edge-to-edge screens, meaning that you won't find any camera cutouts to interrupt your line of sight. 5G support is onboard with the ability to use either 6GHz or mmWave, depending on what your carrier provides. There's also fast 55W charging speeds that help make up for the lack of wireless charging on the Mate X2.
When it comes to the Huawei Mate X2, there's a lot to love, but there's far too much holding it back from being a sensible option. First, there's the price tag, starting at $2,700 before dealing with import taxes and fees from whichever retailer you buy it from. Secondly, and more importantly, is the lack of Google services. The Mate X2 is powered by Huawei's HarmonyOS, but you won't find the Play Store available without some side-loading and tinkering. And even then, it's likely not going to work exactly how you would expect.
- Larger Cover Display
- 8-inch inner display without any camera cutouts
- Fast 55W charging speeds
- 5G support for sub-6Ghz and mmwave
- No Google services
- Not readily available in the U.S.
Xiaomi's first foldable: Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold
It was long-rumored, but Xiaomi has officially entered the foldable arena with the Mi Mix Fold. In previous years, the Mi Mix moniker was reserved for experimental handsets that may or not may not make it to market. But the Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold is here and is available, if you live in China at least. The device definitely looks like a first-generation foldable, with thick bezels on the outer display and a more bubbly overall design.
However, Xiaomi makes up for those questionable design choices by harnessing the power of the Snapdragon 888 with MIUI 12. You'll find a more natural Android interface, but after you start playing around with it, you might come across the new Desktop Mode. Think of Samsung DeX on an 8-inch display, and that's pretty much what you'll find here. It's making us hope that Samsung includes a dedicated DeX Mode that doesn't require to be plugged into a monitor to take advantage of for the Z Fold 3.
The biggest selling point of the Mi Mix Fold isn't the dedicated Desktop Mode or the awesome combination of software and hardware. It's not even the liquid lens technology being used in the camera or the fact that it features the largest battery in a foldable smartphone. Nope, it's the fact that Xiaomi has priced the Mi Mix Fold at just $1,500, which is cheaper than any of the standard foldable phones that you'll find. But just be warned that you'll have to deal with importing the Mi Mix Fold from China, and there could be some extra costs associated which bring it closer to the Z Fold 2.
- Less expensive compared to competitors
- Software features are second-to-none
- Liquid Lens technology is unique to foldables
- Largest battery in a foldable (5,020mAh)
- Cover display has thick bezels and just 60Hz refresh rate
- No water resistance
- Difficult to purchase in the U.S.
- First-generation products are prone to long-term issues
Two separate screens: Microsoft Surface Duo
For many, the idea of a foldable smartphone has been relegated to a single displayable of being folded in half. Microsoft has a different take on the idea of a foldable, offering two separate displays attached to a single hinge. The Microsoft Surface Duo is one elegantly designed smartphone and shooting for the moon as the company's first handset since the Windows Phone days.
The dual-screened approach actually enables you to be a bit more productive, as you can move apps between the two screens instead of tiling them on one large display. The Surface Duo is a fun and unique device that stands out from the crowd, but many compromises were made in Microsoft's effort to get into the Android smartphone market.
For one, the underlying hardware was outdated from the time that the Surface Duo hit storefronts. While performance is not the worst that we've seen, it does make it difficult to justify the high price tag. This, combined with Microsoft's inability to update Android 11 and instead focus on releasing stable software with updates, adds to the frustration. And as you might expect, you won't find any 5G support, nor will you be able to enjoy great camera hardware. The Surface Duo is an interesting device, but we're really hoping that Microsoft gets things together for a potential successor.
- Excellent hardware design
- Hinge is smooth to operate
- Dual-screens enhances productivity
- Fun and unique
- Still running Android 10
- Microsoft still working out the software kinks
- No 5G
- Lacking wireless charging
- Cameras are extremely outdated
Two separate screens
Microsoft Surface Duo 128GB
Be more productive with two screens
The Microsoft Surface Duo is a unique foldable that sports two separate screens instead of a single folding one. Despite a superb design, the hardware powering this device was outdated from day one and is expensive for what you get.
When it comes to the limited selection of foldable phones, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best of the bunch. It doesn't offer the same level of durability and value as a normal non-folding smartphone, but that's not what we're evaluating here.
As far as a foldable goes, it offers the best combination of features and quality while limiting the compromises. When it's open, you have a tablet-like canvas for running multiple apps, and when it's shut, you get a relatively familiar (albeit narrow) form factor that's useable in one hand. Best of all, you can use the three great rear cameras regardless of which screen you're using.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Hayato Huseman is a recovering trade show addict and video editor for Android Central based out of Indianapolis. He can mostly be found complaining about the cold and enthusing about prog metal on Twitter at @hayatohuseman.
Andrew Martonik is a former Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central. He has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days, and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.
Andrew Myrick is a regular freelancer at Android Central. He has been a tech enthusiast ever since the original iPhone was released and continues to flip-flop between devices. You might as well hook him up to an IV filled with coffee to get him through the day. If you have any questions, you can find him on Twitter.
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