Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, three months later: is it worth buying?

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, three months after: is it worth buying?
Is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip worth buying? Not really, no. But not because it’s a Galaxy Z Flop. The actual reason is that Samsung had to make a ton of compromises in order to hit that sort of manageable $1,400 price tag. The type of compromises that kind of affect users from both target groups for such a device — the tech savvy and the lifestyle consumers.

But this is not a “Galaxy Z Flip hit piece”, no. I spent a great deal of time with this device as my daily driver and I have to tell you — I am sold on foldable smartphones. Not this particular one, but the ones to come. So, let’s start off with the positives. What do I like about the Galaxy Z Flip?

How durable is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip?

From my experience… very. I decided to live dangerously with this one and went without the proprietary case, which gives it at least a bit of protection. To top it off, I developed a fidget-spinner like tick with this smartphone — whenever it is in my hands, I would violently flick it open and flap it closed over and over and over again. It’s fun, really.

And the thing doesn’t seem to give.

I also enjoy the finish of the phone. Despite being super-glossy, the way it reflects light makes it look a lot less greasy. It’s also very easy to grip and sticks to the hand really well, but it does slip off surfaces like crazy, so I had to be careful with that.

And yes, the screen has a super soft plastic sheet covering it, which is bothersome; however, I have not yet managed to get a deep scratch in it. Presumably, this is because the phone stays closed a lot of the time and there’s less dust particles tho rub in the display as I am wiping it.

What is good about a foldable phone?

OK, there are a couple of main things I enjoy about using a foldable. The more obvious one is, of course, how tiny it gets when you fold it. It’s easy to stick into any pocket, bag, purse, or even place on a table without taking too much room. When you need it, flick it open and you have a full-sized smartphone. That’s great!

I also love the fact that I can now set my screen sleep time to up to 10 minutes. Since the phone auto sleeps when you fold it, why not set it to stay on for the entirety of the time you keep it open?

This is a niche use case, but I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. For example, when ordering takeaway and tracking your delivery in real-time — you just leave the phone on and glance at it. Or when using a companion app with a console game you are playing. Or when reading instructions on something, while simultaneously doing it.

So, what’s so bad about the Galaxy Z Flip?

Not necessarily bad, I’d say I am extremely impressed with what Samsung managed to accomplish with this device. But this came at the cost of a lot of compromises.

This is not a tech enthusiast’s phone

The reason for this is fairly obvious. Yes, you have a foldable phone, which has a certain allure just for its novelty. But beyond that, you have a 2019 processor, no stereo speakers, and a screen that is very obviously lacking the high refresh rates of this year’s smartphones.

And, if I am to be fair, the Galaxy Z Flip in unfolded form is a bit ugly. It has enormous bezels that stick out as a lip around the display. This makes gesture navigation a bit less nice-feeling and gives the device that “prototype look”.

Yes, this lip is there to protect the screen. I am aware of that — it does its job phenomenally. However, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a phat bezel on a $1,400 phone. Again — that’s a compromise Samsung had to make since, at least for now, we don’t have any other way to protect that sensitive foldable screen.

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In other words, the phone is a nice thing to have, but a techie will enjoy the crazy Galaxy S20 Ultra a lot more, thanks to its 120 Hz display, insane camera module, and slightly improved hardware.

The reason I am making this comparison is the fact that both phones are in the same price category — $1,400 for a Galaxy S20 Ultra gets you a lot, lot more stuff to actually play with than $1,400 for a phone that feels like a foldable Galaxy S10 with worse cameras.

And yes, I am holding off on the camera comments because these go into the next section

This is not a lifestyle person’s phone

Samsung’s main pitch for this device was that it was “for the ladies”. With its mirror purple color option (which does look phenomenal, I might add), its powder compact-like appearance, and all of its marketing materials, showcasing how you can prop it up to use it as a mirror or take selfies in half-folded mode.

And while the device has the appearance of such a lifestyle accessory down, it does lack in one major department here — the cameras.

A duo of 12 MP cameras on the back and a 10 MP snapper on the front sound like they may be just as good as last year’s Galaxy S10. However, they are pretty much mediocre, which becomes very, very apparent once you try to take pictures indoors.

It's bad to the point that it actually cured me of the habit of taking random, useless pictures of my dog — I just couldn't be bothered with the laggy viewfinder and the occasional blurry picture. I get it — I am a spoiled reviewer who uses top-tier phones and the regular user might not be as peeved as I was. But the regular user shouldn't pay $1,400 for this type of camera experience when there are other very pretty phones with better cameras at lower prices.

Final thoughts - who should buy the Galaxy Z Flip?

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip feels like the Apple Watch gen 1 — a device that’s only here to show us what's to come, but one that you shouldn’t buy right now unless you are crazy about tech. The original Apple Watch became obsolete and was quickly forgotten once the much-improved Series 1 and Series 2 launched. I kind of feel like this is how the Z Flip will go down as well.

If you are a tech head that can't help but want the newest gadget and you happen to be well off... sure — get a Z Flip and z flip it on the second hand market later.

For the rest of us... there are the Galaxy S20 series, which outperform the Galaxy Z Flip in absolutely every way. But they can't fold, so don't try that. Or the iPhones, which knocked it out of the park in 2019. Or the new OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro phones, which actually can't keep up with demand right now.

All of these alternatives look pretty and deliver all the newest hardware, 120 Hz screens (not the iPhones, though), and a camera experience that ranges from slightly better to being an extreme improvement over what the Z Flip has. Oh, for less money.

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