Samsung’s Z Fold4 and Z Flip4 are foldable phones for the tech curious

Samsung’s Z Fold4 and Z Flip4 are foldable phones for the tech curious

Samsung’s Z Fold4 and Z Flip4 are foldable phones for the tech curious

Samsung’s fourth generation of foldable phones hits the market on Friday and brings a number of improvements that could up the ante and justify their relatively high entry-level prices.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 and the Galaxy Z Fold4 powered by Android (GOOG, GOOGL) start at $ 999, the same price as high-end phones like the Galaxy S22 + and $ 1,799, respectively, and sport improved software and cameras, for not talk about bigger batteries. Additionally, the Fold4 gets improved multitasking capabilities with a new PC-like taskbar feature. Traditional smartphones offer basic multitasking capabilities, but nothing quite like what the Fold4 can do.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold4 (left) and Galaxy Z Flip4 (right) are the company's latest foldable devices.  (Image: Howley)

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4 (left) and Galaxy Z Flip4 (right) are the company’s latest foldable devices. (Image: Howley)

But foldables are still relatively niche devices compared to more popular flat-screen smartphones. They also have their own unique compromises, most notably the Flip4 which you’ll need to open up to use it as a fully functional phone.

If you’re the type of person who loves cutting edge technology or, in the case of the Fold4, a huge screen, these could be the phones for you. But if you’re looking to save money or just want a phone you don’t need to open, you might want to stick to Samsung’s flat-screen deals.

Same look, better software

It would be difficult to differentiate Fold4 and Flip4 from Fold3 and Flip3. The Fold4 is built like a book, while the Flip4 is more like a makeup case. The Fold4 packs a 6.2-inch display that lets you interact with most of the phone’s features.

The Z Fold4 packs a large coverage display.  (Image: Howley)

The Z Fold4 packs a large coverage display. (Image: Howley)

Open the Fold4 and you’ll get a 7.6-inch tablet-like screen. In total, you can run three apps on the screen at the same time, with a larger app taking up one side of the screen and two smaller apps stacked on top of each other.

When you open an app, Fold4’s taskbar appears, offering a series of apps at the bottom of the screen that you can drag onto the main part of the display. Your most recently used apps will also appear in the taskbar, making it easy to bounce back and forth between them.

Of course, the open screen can be a little tricky to handle if you’re trying to reach objects in the center of the screen with your thumb and don’t have any platter-sized hands.

The Z Flip4, for its part, has a 1.9-inch cover screen that lets you see notifications, check things like the weather, check your music, and watch your shows. You can also use the petite display to trigger the Flip4’s cameras to take selfies. It works in a pinch, but it’s not the best choice if you want to get it Perfect I take high angle selfies as the screen is tiny.

The Galaxy Z Flip4 can be used in Flex mode or lying down and used like a normal phone.  (Image: Howley)

The Galaxy Z Flip4 can be used in Flex mode or lying down and used like a normal phone. (Image: Howley)

The big software trick of the Flip4 is the Flex mode, although the feature is also available on the Fold4. It allows you to fold the phone and automatically separates the display into two halves. If you’re using the camera, for example, the top half will act as a viewfinder, while the bottom half gives you controls like which camera mode you want to use and more.

But not all apps get the special controls, and the videos seem too small for my taste.

Cameras and battery

The Z Fold4 features a triple lens setup that offers ultra wide angle, wide angle and telephoto lens options.

The telephoto lens features 3x optical zoom, which means you’ll get sharp shots when capturing subjects from a distance.

Where the Z Fold4 falls on its face is its selfie camera below the display. Samsung claims it tried to improve image quality for camera shots, but woof. The images are rough and nowhere near as good as those taken on other high-end smartphones, or even the Z Flip4.

The Z Fold4's huge display is great for watching videos, but it can be cumbersome to hold.  (Image: Howley)

The Z Fold4’s huge display is great for watching videos, but it can be cumbersome to hold. (Image: Howley)

For its part, Flip4 offers a dual lens rear camera setup with ultra wide angle and wide angle options.

Photos taken with the rear cameras of both phones are just as great, as you’d expect from Samsung phones. But at $ 999, you’d think the Z Flip4 would get a triple-camera setup as well.

As for battery life and performance, I was able to use both phones during my work day, take pictures and play games … er, I mean work, never worrying about them closing before reaching my bedside charger at night.

The slowdown, meanwhile, was absent thanks to the phones’ Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 chips, which powered them in everything from video to multitasking to gaming.

I’m for you?

Samsung has come a long way since its first foldable devices, making them not only more rugged and water resistant, but with more capacity as well. But they are not yet for everyone.

The Z Flip4 is fun thanks to its unique look, but having to open the phone to take full advantage of it can be a hassle. As for the Z Fold4, while I loved having a huge screen when it was open, it often felt too big and cluttered.

For the average consumer, these phones are interesting, but difficult to recommend. But if you have money to spend and are looking for something that offers a unique take on the smartphone formula, these phones are worth checking out.

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Do you have a tip? Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Daniel Howley.

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