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Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is the first foldable with a flexible glass cover

Take a Samsung phone, bend it in half, and what do you get? The Galaxy Z Flip! Alongside the Galaxy S20, Samsung is also introducing its second-ever foldable smartphone. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, which was a tiny tablet that folded in half, the Galaxy Z Flip is closer to a normal-size smartphone that folds into a tiny square, making it Samsung’s competitor to the Moto Razr.

When open, the Z Flip is about the size of a Galaxy S20+. You get a 6.7-inch, 2636×1080 OLED panel with a hole-punch camera, the usual Samsung interface, and slightly thicker-than-normal bezels. Close the phone and you’ll see a tiny 1.1-inch, 300×116 display on the front, which is just big enough to display the time, date, battery status, and any incoming notifications.

While the Galaxy Z Flip has plenty in common with the Galaxy Fold, one big improvement is that it’s the first foldable smartphone with a glass display cover. That’s right, glass that can fold in half. Previous foldable smartphones used a plastic display cover, which introduced all sorts of problems. Plastic is delicate and easily scratched, which limits many of the design possibilities of foldable devices. Designs like the Huawei Mate X, with a wraparound display on the outside, are not going to last long with only plastic for protection. Plastic is also not a great material when it comes to sliding your finger across the display. The Galaxy Fold had a big indent in the middle of the display where it folded in half, creating a valley for your finger to get stuck in. For the new Moto Razr, Motorola warns “bumps and lumps are normal” in the plastic-covered display. Samsung’s flexible glass is the first step toward more durable, practical, better-feeling foldable devices. Samsung says the phone can survive 200,000 folds.

The hinge of the Z Flip still doesn’t fold completely flat, though. Like the Galaxy Fold, the hinge closes with a small gap on the crease of the display, which limits the amount of stress the display and the glass have to go through. The hinge looks just like the Galaxy Fold’s hinge, complete with “T”-shaped hinge covers that were added to the post-delay revision of the Galaxy Fold. Also like the Galaxy Fold, the bezel is raised plastic, which keeps the two halves of the display separated when the phone is closed. On the Fold, this raised plastic got in the way of Android’s numerous edge gestures.

The Galaxy Fold hinge had trouble with debris ingress, and Samsung attempted to address that with the Galaxy Z Flip. Samsung says the hinge features “nylon fibers crafted by micro-height-cutting technology to repel dirt and dust.” It looks like it has brushes around the hinge to keep dust out.

One new trick in the Z Flip’s hinge is the ability to sit on a table half-open in an “L” shape, making the phone look a bit like a makeup compact. In this “L” shape, the phone can freely stand up on a table, and Samsung’s Android skin will split the software between the top and bottom half of the display, letting you do things like have a video call in the upright, top portion of the display. Neat!

The Z Flip specs aren’t up to the same 2020 flagship standards as the Galaxy S20. Instead, this is more like a phone from last year. You get 2019’s Qualcomm chip (the Snapdragon 855+) instead of the newer Snapdragon 865 launching with the S20. After the delay of the Galaxy Fold, we’ve got to wonder if this phone was also delayed. A launch next to the Galaxy Note 10 in August would have made much more sense for a Snapdragon 855+ device.

The phone has 8GB of RAM, 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage, a MicroSD slot, and a 3300mAh battery. That battery shows the tradeoff you’re making with foldable devices. The similarly sized Galaxy S20+ has a much bigger 4500mAh battery—the hinge in the middle of these foldables takes up a lot of space that would otherwise be used for battery.

The camera package is a step down from the S20, too. You’re getting a 12MP main camera and a 12MP wide-angle camera on the rear, and that’s it. Instead of an in-screen fingerprint reader, the reader is mounted on the side of the phone. The Z Flip has wireless charging, a USB-C port, and no headphone jack.

The Z Flip will retail for $1,380, putting it at basically the same price as the highest-end Galaxy S20, the $1,399 Galaxy S20 Ultra. The two phones will offer an interesting question to consumers. Do you want the standard form factor Galaxy S20 with a better camera and faster SoC, or do you want the slower, less capable phone that comes in a wild new form factor? So far, every foldable has had durability issues that crop up quickly after launch, so even if you’re interested in the Z Flip, it’s probably best to wait for initial reports on the device.

The phone ships February 14.

Listing image by Samsung

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