Samsung’s new foldy phone is more versatile than my iPhone, but it’s not worth $1,800
I’ve been testing Samsung’s new $1,800 Galaxy Z Fold 4 phone, which launches Aug. 26, for the past two weeks. It’s the first time I’ve ever used a phone that opens up to reveal a screen the size of a small tablet. And I’m impressed.
I normally use an iPhone 13 mini, and I found there’s a lot I can do with a phone like this. I can run multiple apps side-by-side, for example. I can sit outdoors and watch TV with a larger screen than I usually have in my pocket.
The battery life is great, the upgraded camera is sharp and the new app taskbar at the bottom of the screen makes it easy to launch your favorite apps with a quick tap.
Still, I’m not impressed enough to justify the $1,800 price tag. The improvements to the Z Fold 4 are marginal compared to last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 3. And while it’s fun to use, I don’t think the Z Fold 4 will take foldables “mainstream” just yet.
Here are my three takeaways after trying out the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.
The big display is a game changer
The most common complaint I came across before my first interaction with the Z Fold was that the crease down the middle is obvious and distracting. I compared the Z Fold 4 to its predecessor, the Z Fold 3, and the crease seems less noticeable. When watching Bravo on the YouTube TV app, I forgot I was watching on a foldable phone altogether. The crease just sort of fades away once you get used to it.
The screen is also super bright. I was able to watch TV outside on a bright day and the picture didn’t get blown out by the sun. I even read an e-book and some news articles on the beach.
I also like that the external screen is slightly wider than on last year’s model. There’s more room for typing and it feels a lot more like using a regular phone, instead of a skinny one.
The most useful feature was being able to open multiple browser tabs on the 7.6-inch screen at once. It meant I could bounce between different websites, as I would on a computer, just by tapping different tabs.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is also the first device with Android 12L, a special version of Android created by Google for large-screen devices. It makes multitasking with three open apps at the same time really easy. In the picture above, you can see I have the browser, YouTube TV and my photo gallery open. But you can do it with any three apps. I liked that I could save them into a shortcut on the home screen and, with one tap, launch them again right back to where they were.
Some apps aren’t automatically optimized to use the bigger internal screen. Take Instagram for example, another app I frequent often. It has big borders on the side by default. Thankfully, Samsung has an option in settings to force apps to use the whole display, even if they aren’t optimized. It works, you just need to know where to look.
The camera is on a par with the iPhone 13 Pro Max
There a three rear cameras on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, including an upgraded 50-megapixel wide lens and a 30x zoom lens. The bigger lens size means the camera catches 23 percent more light than the Fold 3, and the increased megapixels translate to sharper pictures.
I compared the Z Fold 4 to Apple’s high-end iPhone 13 Pro Max. Both are great for pictures. The details seemed to be captured better by the Z Fold 4, while colors were more accurately represented on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Take for example this shot of a rose. The iPhone 13 Pro Max offers more detail and a more accurate representation of the real color. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 captures a photo that has a little more natural blurring around the rose, which some people prefer.
In this landscape photo, you can see that the colors the Z Fold 4 captures aren’t super accurate. They’re more saturated looking. You do, however, get more details from the darker parts of the Z Fold 4 images.
One thing I miss when using the Z Fold 4 is the indexing capability of the iPhone camera roll. I like being able to search my camera role for text in images, which works really well on the iPhone but doesn’t work great on the Galaxy Z Fold.
Battery life that lasts a full day
I used the Galaxy Z Fold 4 all day to stream, email, read e-books and play games, I managed to make it until bedtime without needing a charge. But, keep in mind your battery life will vary depending on how often you’re using the big internal display versus the smaller one. You might get much longer battery life if you mostly use the external screen.
The Z Fold 4 comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, but it doesn’t come with a wall plug despite the $1,800 price tag. Most phone makers are doing this now, under the assumption they can save on waste since most people may already have a charger at home. Still, I think it should come with a charging brick since you need at least a 25-watt charger to fast charge. It’s also compatible with wireless charging.
Should you buy it?
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 feels like a flex. I was at a family gathering among my iPhone-using in-laws and I gave them a chance to try out the phablet. After some initial “oohs and aahs” all of them said the phone wouldn’t pull them away from their iPhones.
$1,800 is a lot of money. I think being able to fold a phone in half is cool, but not cool enough to justify the price. You can save money and buy a great Android phone like Samsung’s Galaxy S22, the S22 Ultra or Google’s Pixel 6 and still have enough left over to buy a tablet.
But, if you want a tablet and phone in one, this might be right up your alley. It’s especially useful if you’re a frequent traveler and want to carry fewer devices.