Hands on the Exciting Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

It’s like holding the past and the future in one hand

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Like a handheld time-machine, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip transports you back to a bygone era of bountiful flip phones. In size, shape and, to a lesser extent, function, it is the distant grandson of my old Motorola Razr and beloved Nokia clamshells.

And yet, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is something else entirely. It’s the little brother to the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the folding screen tablet masquerading as a phone. The Z Flip, though, is not simply a shrunk down version of that technology. It’s the bleeding edge of screen and screen-covering chemistry married to a somewhat classic, yet wholly forward-leading clamshell design.

The thoughts that come to mind when holding, folding, and touching it for a little while are “exciting,” “compact,” and “fun.”

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
It's basically palm-sized when folded.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Announced just a day before in a glitzy San Francisco product event, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip was such a poorly kept secret that Samsung went ahead and pre-announced the folding screen device during the Oscars telecast. I was intrigued, but after the botched initial Fold launch, I held my enthusiasm in check.

Less than 48 hours later, I held one of these 183-gram Android 10 phones in my hand. That’s when my perspective started to change.

A New Kind of Glass

Before I dive further into the specs and some of the use and feel, let’s talk about the screen or, more accurately, the screen covering. No, you didn’t misread some of the reports; the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip features a glass covered screen.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
There's a 10 MP Camera and drill hole on the front.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

According to Samsung, it’s an ultra-thin glass co-developed with a third-party company. Samsung refused to reveal the name. It could be Corning, which has tons of experiences in super-thin, durable, and quite flexible glass. Its Gorilla Glass has been used on many iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices. But no one, including Corning, is revealing anything.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Unfolded, it looks like a typical 6.7-inch Android smartphone.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

On top of the glass is a thin polymer coating intended to improve durability. While the phone does not fold perfectly flat, the top edge of the 6.7-inch display does fold all the way to meet the bottom edge and there’s just a very tiny gap that widens a bit as you look from the bottom edge toward the hinge.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
It folds that glass all the way.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

When I opened the phone, flipping it with one hand to reveal its full 6.7-inch 2036x1080 infinity display, I could detect, visually and by touch, a faint ripple in the screen along that hinge. It’s similar to the one on the inside curve of the Galaxy Fold but is also considerably less noticeable. Samsung is clearly refining the technology even as it swaps out plastic coverings for its new Ultra Thin Glass (UTG). Samsung could not, by the way, reveal the thickness of the glass material itself. Like the Fold, the Z Flip’s infinity display disappears under a narrow lip that runs around the edge of the screen. I assume this holds the screen pieces in place and keeps them clear of prying fingernails.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
There's a lip covering the screen edge.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Samsung claims that I can fold and unfold the Galaxy Z Flip 200,000 times, which is about 100 times a day for 5 years. After that, well, Samsung thinks it will continue to work and that most people might never reach that limit.

The Galaxy Z Flip features a carefully protected hideaway hinge that really did disappear when I unfolded the phone. It all looks well-sealed, but this phone is neither water nor dust proof.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The hideaway hinge.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

In addition, Samsung reminded me that the screen still can’t withstand a stylus or pen. Basically, you’d want to use it with care.

Pocketable

Folded, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is a wonderfully pocketable square, measuring 2.38 inches x 3.44 inches x 0.68 inches thick. My hands are large, which meant the phone fit neatly in my palm and I could fold and unfold it with one hand. I instantly wished I could sit on the subway doing that, just looking cool.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
I could fold and unfold the Z Flip with one hand. Also, this shows off the split-screen Flex Mode.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

The outside the Z Flip is also quite functional, with a pair of 12MP cameras (wide and ultra-wide) and a 1.1 in Super AMOLED touch-screen cover display that serves as a notification screen, call answer switch, view finder, and even a camera lens switcher.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The two 12 ZMP cameras and 1.1 inch Super AMOLED screen (left).  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

I double-tapped the fingerprint reader/power/sleep button on the edge to open the camera and then used a gesture (I held up my open hand) to take a selfie. However, because the Galaxy Z flip also supports Continuity, I could start on the outside screen and then open the phone and continue taking a photo with the 10 MP selfie camera on the inside.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Look closely and you'll see me.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

I noticed I could fold the phone halfway and sit it on a table like a tiny desktop. This is called Flex Mode and it can split the screen into two activities. Samsung showed how this can be used for selfies, but I imagine many third-party developers might take advantage of this mode for other cool utilities.

The Specs

Inside the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the expected Octa-Core CPU (running at up to 2.4 GHz), 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. That’s a decent amount but it’s also the max you can get since the phone does not include a micro SD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Look, the hinge disappears.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

The good news is that there’s wireless and fast charging. In my limited experience with the Galaxy Z Flip, I couldn’t test performance or charging capabilities. I did take a few photos which looked fine, but again, I couldn’t pass judgement on the quality of the images or cameras without further testing.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
A closer look at that folding glass screen.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Finally, there was some confusion about the name. Even partially folded, the phone does not look like the letter Z. Samsung said the name choice is a reference to all foldables and a more youthful device. We asked if that meant the “Z” is a reference to Gen Z. They said, “not necessarily.”

Some Cash

Available in three colors—Midnight Purple and Midnight Black in the US. and Midnight Gold outside the U.S. —the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip lists for $1,380. Unlike other bleeding edge devices, there’s virtually no distance between announcement and availability. The Z Flip will be on sale in Samsung stores and online on February 14, which means it will run the gauntlet of consumer demand and use right out of the gate, leaving many tech reviewers to play catch-up.

Let the flip phone games begin.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The 22:9 aspect ratio makes for a long screen that can fit a lot of apps.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff