2019 was an exciting year for mobile tech. It was the year that folding phones finally became a reality, treating us to handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X, and (unfortunately) the Royole FlexPai. Those initial foldables paved the way for the rest of the market for the coming years, with the Galaxy Fold standing out as the best of the bunch.
We've given a lot of praise to the Galaxy Fold here on AC, with Nirave Gondhia going as far to say that it's the best $2,500 he's ever spent. That's quite the compliment, and in a lot of ways, the Fold is fully deserving of the credit it's received. It's essentially a phone and tablet in one device, and the 7.3-inch folding display makes for a fantastic canvas for working and playing on the go.
Considering the Fold was Samsung's first foldable device, and the first folding phone you could actually go out and buy, it's remarkable how well it turned out.
As much as we love the Fold, though, it's not a phone we'd likely recommend an average shopper go out and buy anytime soon. It's cumbersome, the fragile plastic display is still cause for concern, and there's no getting around its price. It's a very exciting phone, but it's also for a very select group of people that are willing to spend two grand on a completely new type of device.
One year later, Samsung came out swinging with the Galaxy Z Flip. It's similar to the Fold in some ways, but it's also quite different.
It's insane how much the Z Flip improves on the Fold's pain points in just a year's time.
The Z Flip is another folding phone with a high price tag to match, but the execution is far more practical. Rather than cramming two devices into one, the Z Flip exists as a normal Android phone that can fold up into a tiny square for easier portability. As someone who's seen my wife struggle with fitting normal-sized phones into her pockets (if they exist in the first place) or purse, the Z Flip addresses a legitimate issue — even if it doesn't directly impact you.
There's also the folding display itself, which is made out of Ultra Thin Glass instead of plastic. Durability tests have shown that Samsung's folding glass doesn't have the same exact durability we come to expect on most smartphones, but it's still a notable year-over-year improvement. Compared to the Motorola RAZR, which has a similar form factor, the Z Flip benefits from legitimately good specs and capable camera system.
Outside of specs and hardware changes, another important factor for the Galaxy Z Flip is its price. Yes, $1,380 is a lot of money to spend on a smartphone, but it's also a really enticing alternative to the $1,400 Galaxy S20 Ultra that Samsung will be selling right alongside it.
Most people in the U.S. get their phone through a carrier on an installment plan, and in this scenario, the Z Flip looks like a downright steal. With 30-month financing through AT&T, you could pay $46/month for the Galaxy Z Flip or $46.67/month for the S20 Ultra. The cost-per-month is almost identical, but one of these phones looks like something most people haven't seen before while the other is a rehash of the same smartphone design we've had for over a decade.
The Z Flip isn't cheap, but compared to the S20 Ultra, its price makes a lot of sense.
Also, at least in theory, buying the Z Flip should be much easier compared to the Fold. While Samsung is temporarily out of stock until February 21, the plan is that you'll be able to get the Z Flip online and in-store through Samsung, Best Buy, AT&T, and Sprint. Compared to the Galaxy Fold which is only offered at certain physical Best Buy and AT&T locations, that's a huge step forward.
The Galaxy Fold is very much a phone that you need to seek if you're interested in it, where the Z Flip is widely available and on-display for anyone that wants it. It's obvious Samsung has much more confidence in the Z Flip and actually wants a lot of people to own one. If you ask me, that's the biggest thing to take away from all of this.
We're still a ways off before folding phones are the norm, but between when the Fold launched and now, the market is already extremely different. On Friday, my Twitter feed was filled with people showing off their Z Flip or talking about wanting one — not to mention that Samsung completely sold out just a few hours after opening sales. Before the Fold even had a chance to hit store shelves, it was recalled due to reliability concerns.
There will be better and more impressive foldables released in the years to come, but from my perspective, the Galaxy Z Flip is the first one that feels like it was created for normal people. It's exciting we've already gotten to this stage, and it has me ecstatic about where the market goes from here.
A foldable that's actually worth buying
The Galaxy Z Flip certainly isn't for everyone, but it's the first folding phone that has potential to appeal to more than diehard techies. The glass display feels nicer to touch, its specifications are plenty powerful, and it's even slightly cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
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