The Galaxy Z Flip was the clear showstopper of Samsung's Unpacked event this Tuesday. The presentation opened with it before they had even made mention of the much more mainstream Galaxy S20 series. This is, of course, after Samsung had leaked its own phone days in advance with a televised ad during the Oscars.
But if Samsung is so confident in its new clamshell-style foldable, why are there so many dissenters? There's been no shortage of tweets criticizing the Flip for being an otherwise regular phone that simply folds into a smaller form factor, as opposed to the preceding Galaxy Fold which expands out into a tablet. Claims that modern flip phones like the Motorola RAZR are just nostalgia grabs for people clinging to the past.
In a way, those claims aren't totally unfounded; clamshell foldables are certainly a throwback to the first cell phones I had growing up. But the Galaxy Z Flip is a lot more than just a play on fond memories; it's a mark of incredible progress made in a very short amount of time.
The Galaxy Fold and RAZR walked so the Z Flip could run.
When the Galaxy Fold initially launched last year, it was riddled with problems. The plastic display was soft and fragile — the phone even came with a sticker warning you not to press on the screen with your fingernails. Of course, it also wasn't properly sealed to protect against dust getting under the display, which quickly became a big problem amongst pre-release review units.
Samsung re-launched the Fold in the fall, with far better sealing and a sturdier hinge that made the new version much more dependable, but even the revised model is far from being the perfect foldable. There's a sizeable gap between the displays when the phone is folded shut, and that plastic screen isn't any more resistant to scratches and dents than before.
That's why it was so surprising when, just months later, Samsung was able to present us with a foldable glass display that feels in every way like a "normal" phone. Yes, the crease is still there, but you can't feel the display components under the screen like with the RAZR, and you certainly won't scratch the display as easily as the Fold. The Galaxy Z Flip is the first foldable phone that truly feels ready for the hands of consumers without needing a laundry list of warnings and caretaking precautions.
The future of foldables is bright. Flexible glass is a huge step in the right direction.
Of course, rigid build quality alone won't sell people on a new form factor, and there's still the question to answer of why you'd want this kind of phone in the first place. A phone that's roughly the same size as Samsung's equally new Galaxy S20+, but folds down into something more compact, rather than a miniature tablet that fits into your pocket.
If you ask me, the answer is that not everyone will. The Galaxy Z Flip isn't a one-size-fits-all phone by any stretch of the imagination; power users who want all the latest and greatest features will still want to stick with the Galaxy S20 Ultra for roughly the same money. But the Z Flip is a potentially great option for people with small pockets who still want the benefits of carrying a big phone, namely all of that screen real estate for watching videos, scrolling through social media, or even running two apps at once.
Is it the most practical phone? Again, that sort of depends on who you are. If your pockets are too small, it's certainly more practical than not being able to have a big phone at all, and there are plenty of small conveniences like being able to lay the phone at a 90-degree angle for stationary selfies. In other ways, it's a bit less convenient; having to unfold your phone every time you want to use it just adds another step to getting into your apps, and plenty of people have already voiced their complaints surrounding the crease in the center of the screen.
The key thing to take away here is that even if you aren't planning on buying a Galaxy Z Flip, it's another huge leap towards a more foldable future. Having a glass display makes a massive difference in the way the phone feels to interact with every day, and I imagine that with enough time, engineers will work out a way to get rid of the crease altogether in future devices. That's worth getting excited for, no matter where you stand on this particular hardware.
I'm not even sure if the Z Flip is the right phone for me yet, but I'm certainly looking forward to spending some quality time with it. Of course, we'll have plenty of coverage on the Z Flip soon enough.
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