The Galaxy Z Flip, the $1400 foldable phone, Samsung’s second attempt at this form factor, is now on sale in the US and South Korea.
Last year’s Galaxy Fold proved to be a PR disaster for Samsung. Even before its availability, the $2000 foldable phone was trashed by tech reviewers for its erratic screen. But the Galaxy Z Flip, based on our early hands-on, gives us a positive impression about the future of foldable smartphones.
With the Galaxy Z Flip, which is reminiscent of the design of the Motorola Razr, folds in half like a flip phone from yesteryears. The phone feels solid, the screen is made of ultra-thin glass and not plastic, and the hinge appears to be stronger than ever. The Galaxy Z Flip sells for $1400, way less than the $2000 you would pay for the Galaxy Fold.
The Galaxy Z Flip could well have been Samsung’s debut foldable smartphone and not the Galaxy Fold. The Galaxy Z Flip’s design is less controversial than the Galaxy Fold’s candy-bar shape with a 4.6-inch display that turns into a tablet with a 7.3-inch screen.
Yes, both phones have different designs and as a consumer, I would like to see new form factors and different price points in the foldable phone segment. That said, Samsung took a risk to launch the Galaxy Fold as its first foldable smartphone because the device was a lot more complicated to design and manufacture. It was a different breed of a smartphone, a hybrid device that’s somewhere between smartphones and tablets.
The Galaxy Z Flip, in contrast, is a safer design. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the clamshell-style foldable smartphones. A lot of people I spoke to actually favoured the Galaxy Z Flip over the Galaxy Fold. They said the Galaxy Z Flip appears to be a regular smartphone and small enough to fit in a shirt or pants pocket than the Galaxy Fold, which even I agree with.
The phone actually has a vertical display that measures 6.7 inches on the diagonal (similar to any modern-day smartphone) and a small 1.1-inch secondary display on the exterior for notifications and call reminders. But of course, the big difference between this phone and my iPhone 11 is that the Galaxy Z Flip folds horizontally like old-school flip phones. That’s a big deal.
The idea behind the Galaxy Z Flip, which I think we all agree with, was to launch a foldable phone that looks and feels like a normal smartphone. I think Samsung couldn’t establish this narrative with the Galaxy Fold due to the phone’s unconventional design. So, in a way, the Galaxy Z Flip is a part of a broader strategy to capture a wide range of customers that might be interested in foldable smartphones.
The ad campaign of the Galaxy Z Flip and Samsung’s recent association with the New York-based designer Thom Browne on a special edition of Galaxy Z Flip establish the South Korean major’s focus on two large demographic groups: tech enthusiasts and fashion influencers.
At $1400, the Galaxy Z Flip is still expensive. It is too early for a foldable smartphone to come cheap. From a new form factor, a glass flexible display, premium design, new software experience and flagship-level specifications, Samsung has every right to charge $1400 for the Galaxy Z Flip. You get what you pay for with the Galaxy Z Flip, and what you pay for is a smartphone that folds in half.
The Galaxy Z Flip might not be the first flip-style foldable smartphone (that credit goes to new Motorola Razr which went on sale last week in the US for $1500), but it’s the first folding phone that sets the direction for foldables in the coming years. The problem with the first-generation foldable phones is that they are directionless and to some extent, unpolished.
The Galaxy Z Flip, as I would like to believe, appears to be a better version of the Motorola Razr. That clamshell-style foldable, by the way, has been panned by major tech reviewers.
The Galaxy Z Flip is an interesting take on foldable phones. But I just hope it lives up to the hype the phone has so far generated, considering it is Samsung’s second push at foldable phones. Obviously, a lot depends on the new hideaway hinge, whether or not this glass display can withstand 200,000 folds as Samsung claims, and so on. Since the phone is untested, I have a ton of questions on the Galaxy Z Flip’s long-term use.
For Samsung, the Galaxy Z Flip is more than eye candy. The success of the Galaxy Z Flip will ultimately decide the fate of foldable smartphones. If the Galaxy Z Flip fails to take off, it could seriously dent the reputation of Samsung, which is trying to make foldables mainstream. Further, the impact will be felt on the entire smartphone industry, which is under pressure to innovate.
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