The best and worst things about using Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4
It’s hard to get excited about new smartphones, especially after reviewing them for nearly a decade. Even foldable phones are starting to lose their novelty and excitement now that they’ve been around for about four years.
But after spending a long time with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4, I’ve learned a lot more about the promise and compromises that come with today’s foldables. Although I briefly tried out the Galaxy Z Fold 4 when it launched, I recently decided to use it as my regular phone for about three weeks.
Seven months into the Z Fold 4’s debut, many of the key takeaways from my colleague Patrick Holland review remains true. But I also came away with a few surprises – some pleasant and some less pleasant – that have me both excited and worried about the future of foldables.
What I liked about using the Galaxy Z Fold 4
The best thing about the Galaxy Z Fold 4, of course, is its tablet-sized interior screen. The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s 7.6-inch display allowed me to let my iPad home on a recent flight since I could rely solely on my phone to watch netflix on a bigger screen. Other tasks the Z Fold 4’s large screen has proven useful for include navigating online restaurant menus, video chatting, and reading news articles.
The idea of having a phone that doubles as a tablet isn’t new to early adopters and tech enthusiasts. But it’s still a new concept for the rest of us. When I showed the Galaxy Z Fold 4 to my mother, an avid iPad user, she was fascinated by it. I’ve never seen her get so excited about the tech gadgets I’ve brought home in the past 10 years.
I’ve had similar reactions from friends, who reacted with a mixture of curiosity, excitement and skepticism. A friend exclaimed that she thought I brought a Kindle to dinner when I opened the Z Fold to view the restaurant menu on a larger screen.
This underlines my main learning from using the Galaxy Z Fold 4 over the past few weeks. Right now, being able to display apps on a tablet-sized screen is its biggest attribute. I care less about using apps in split-screen mode and more about devoting the entire screen to a single lens. I never found myself using Flex mode, which is Samsung’s feature that splits the software between the upper and lower parts of the screen when folded halfway. I made it a point to try it, but never found myself using it naturally.
Aside from the large screen, I came away impressed with the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s speakers. I often use my phone to listen to music while I clean or get ready for the day, and the Z Fold 4 was able to fill my room with sound much easier than the smaller phones I usually use. This is another trait that makes the Galaxy Z Fold 4 an ideal entertainment device.
Battery life is decent on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but nothing too exciting. With regular use, I can easily get through a day on a single charge. However, when I was traveling and relying on my phone for directions, streaming Netflix on the plane, and calling numerous Ubers and Lyfts to get around, I needed a charger fast.
Look at this: Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: my favorite Android tablet
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 has a 50-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 10-megapixel telephoto camera, much like the Galaxy S23. Both phones also have 3x optical zoom and 30x digital zoom. I haven’t done an exhaustive comparison, but I did notice that the Galaxy S23 photos have more contrast in the shadows, making the images a bit better than the Z Fold 4 overall.
That’s likely thanks to the updated processing happening on the back-end, driven by the S23’s new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor which has been optimized for Samsung’s Galaxy devices. The Galaxy Z Fold 4, by comparison, runs on the previous-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. But both phones were excellent at taking photos in low-light scenarios, as shown in my chat photos below.
Those interested in a phone like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 probably aren’t too concerned about the camera since the screen is the star of the show. But if you’re going to splurge on an expensive phone, it should also have a great camera. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 ticks that box, but keep in mind that Samsung usually reserves the best cameras for its Galaxy S devices.
What I didn’t like about using the Galaxy Z Fold 4
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 gets enough rights to prove there’s promise in a device that can function as both a phone and a tablet in one. But there are a few setbacks that prevent it from being as useful and enjoyable as it could be – most of which are design and software related.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s crease is still noticeable even now that it’s in its fourth generation. If rumors from The Elec, ETNews and prolific leaker ice universe To prove true, Samsung could solve this problem with a new type of hinge in the successor to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. But companies like Huawei and Oppo are already ahead of Samsung in this regard, as my colleague Sareena Dayaram wrote.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s outer screen feels more natural than on previous versions thanks to its slightly wider design. But there are still times when its square aspect ratio comes through. When taking photos, for example, the cover screen provides a smaller viewfinder than you’d get with a normal phone.
The phone itself is also quite heavy, weighing in at 263 grams compared to 233 grams Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus of 195 grams. My 5-year-old nephew said it looked like two phones stacked on top of each other, and that’s an accurate characterization.
While I loved using the Galaxy Z Fold’s large screen for reading and watching TV, the general software could still use some work. This is a criticism I’ve had about foldable phones for a while, and it still holds true. Today’s devices lack software features that are compelling enough to prove the promise behind foldables.
With the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4, Samsung added a new feature that lets you use the bottom half of the device as a touchpad when the phone is in Flex mode. While this makes it easier to navigate the phone in Flex mode, the biggest issue is that I never felt inclined to use Flex mode in the first place, as I mentioned earlier.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold has gone far enough to show there’s a future for foldable phones. But mostly, I found myself using it like a regular phone. And it is perhaps the most revealing dish of all. Right now, most people probably just want a really good phone. But that doesn’t mean we’re not excited about the other gaps in our lives that phones like the Z Fold could fill in the future.
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