If I weren't self-isolating to avoid Coronavirus, I would be writing this editorial from Walt Disney World, my favorite place to work through writer's block. And drawing eyes left, right, and center would be my shoulder holster, which I've worn every day for the last four years in order to ensure I can securely carry whatever ridiculously sized smartphone crosses my desk for work.
While I'm working from home, though, my holster sits in its designated cubby, and I'm back to carrying the Galaxy S20 I called pocket-friendly from room to room in my hand. Why? Because the second I sit down, the S20 starts stabbing me in the ovary or attempting to suicide slide out my pocket onto my vinyl floors. I've begged for years for us to get back to a reasonably sized phone, nostalgic for the days with my 2013 Moto X and the ability to sit down with my phone secure in my pocket.
At long last, we have a viable answer to our prayers in the clamshell foldable form factor and the Galaxy Z Flip.
Early foldables tried to be a tablet and a phone — and ended up not really doing either that well. However, clamshell foldables just try to be great phones that are more portable than the regular glass slabs that dominate today's relatively tame smartphone market. The Motorola RAZR even tried to recapture the zeitgeist of the original Razr's slim flip phone days, but it's too fragile to recommend, especially now.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Flip was Samsung's Valentine's Day present to all the women in the world who wanted a pocketable phone without sacrificing a big screen or a powerful chipset.
Folded up, the Z Flip is still slimmer than most pocket-friendly power banks. When open, you've got a 6.7-inch screen — or a smart little stand for video calls and livestreams. This is increasingly useful as more and more lunch dates and staff meetings are being replaced by Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom.
In short, this foldable gives you the functionality of a Galaxy S20+ with the portability of a Gameboy Advance SP. Clamshells give us a screen big enough for binge-watching Hulu in bed, but a profile tiny enough to actually fit in those pathetic excuses for pockets that they put on women's jeans and jackets.
The ability to set the screen at a variety of angles instead of just fully open or fully closed can also help make that larger screen easier to grip and more pleasant to use for smaller hands like mine. You can set the screen at a slight fold to make the top edge easier to swipe down for notifications, and you can have the phone bent while on calls so that you do not have to press the middle of the screen into your cheek.
This style of foldables is still only in its first year, but the Z Flip seems to have benefitted from all the issues Samsung had with the Galaxy Fold, adding a fiber lining to help keep particulates out of the hinge and from getting under the screen. The crease in the screen here is significantly less noticeable than the one on the Fold, too; while you'll still feel it a little when swiping, it's smaller and easier to glide over.
Clamshells still have a ways to go. $1400 is still too expensive for most of us to even consider spending on a phone today, and they're still a half or whole generation behind on internal specifications. However, if you can't take another year of phones popping out of your pockets or lusting after a holster like mine, clamshell foldables are the best hope for a "small" phone in 2020.
Finally foldable functionality
At long last, a phone that fits in women's pockets.
The Galaxy Z Flip takes a modern smartphone shape and lets you fold it in half. It's expensive to be sure, and you'll still feel the crease, but this is the first foldable to actually feel like an actual complete product and not a beta test.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.