Galaxy Z Fold 4: What It’s Like Using Samsung’s Foldable Phone 7 Months After Release



As somebody who has been testing and reviewing tech merchandise for roughly a decade, it is laborious to get enthusiastic about new telephones. That is change into true even for foldables now that telephones with bendable screens have existed for about 4 years. 

However after spending an prolonged time frame with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4, I realized far more about each the promise and compromises that include at this time’s foldables. Though I attempted the Galaxy Z Fold 4 briefly across the time it launched, I not too long ago determined to make use of it as my common cellphone for about three weeks. 

Seven months after the Z Fold 4’s debut, lots of the most important takeaways from my colleague Patrick Holland’s evaluation stay true. However I’ve additionally come away from the expertise with a couple of surprises — some nice, and a few not so nice — that make me each excited and apprehensive about the way forward for foldables. 

What I cherished about utilizing the Galaxy Z Fold 4

One of the best factor concerning the Galaxy Z Fold 4, after all, is its tablet-sized interior display. The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s 7.6-inch show meant I used to be in a position to depart my iPad at residence when taking a latest flight since I may rely solely on my cellphone to look at Netflix on a much bigger display. Another duties that the Z Fold 4’s massive display got here in useful for embrace shopping on-line menus at eating places, video chatting and studying information articles.

When the Fold 4 is opened up as a pill, its measurement and side ratio make it a pleasure to make use of.

Kevin Heinz/CNET

The concept of getting a cellphone that additionally doubles as a pill is nothing new for early adopters and tech fanatics. However it’s nonetheless a novel idea for the remainder of us. After I confirmed the Galaxy Z Fold 4 to my mother, an avid iPad consumer, she was fascinated by it. I’ve by no means seen her get so enthusiastic about any of the tech devices I’ve introduced residence to evaluation over the past 10 years. 

I’ve gotten some related reactions from mates, who reacted with a mixture of curiosity, pleasure and skepticism. One buddy exclaimed that she thought I had introduced a Kindle to dinner once I opened up the Z Fold to view the restaurant’s menu on a bigger display. 

That underscores my major studying from utilizing the Galaxy Z Fold 4 over the previous few weeks. Proper now, with the ability to view apps on a tablet-size display is its largest attribute. I care much less about utilizing apps in split-screen mode and extra about dedicating your complete display to a single goal. I by no means discovered myself utilizing Flex Mode, which is Samsung’s characteristic that splits the software program between the highest and backside parts of the display when folded midway. I made some extent to attempt it, however by no means discovered myself utilizing it naturally.

The main screen of the Galaxy Z Fold 4

The hinge permits the Galaxy Z Fold 4 to be positioned in quite a lot of methods.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Except for the massive display, I got here away impressed with the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s audio system. I usually use my cellphone to play music as I am cleansing or preparing for the day, and the Z Fold 4 was in a position to fill my bed room with sound far more simply than the smaller telephones I usually use. It is one other trait that makes the Galaxy Z Fold 4 a really perfect leisure gadget.

Battery life is respectable on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, however nothing to get too enthusiastic about. With common utilization, I can get by a day simply on a single cost. Nonetheless, once I was touring and relied on my cellphone for instructions, streaming Netflix on the airplane journey and calling loads of Ubers and Lyfts to get round, I discovered myself in want of a charger quick. 

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The Galaxy Z Fold 4 has a 50-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra wide camera and 10-megapixel telephoto camera, much like the Galaxy S23. Both phones also have a 3x optical zoom and a 30x digital zoom. I didn’t do an exhaustive comparison, but I did notice that the Galaxy S23’s photos have more contrast in the shadows, making the images look a little better than the Z Fold 4’s 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 that’s 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 great at taking photos in low-light scenarios, as the photos of my cat below show.

Those interested in a phone like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 likely aren’t overly 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 have a great camera, too. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 checks that box, but just 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 right to prove that there’s promise in a device that can function as both a phone and a tablet in one. But there are some 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 prove true, Samsung could address this with a new type of hinge in the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s successor. But companies like Huawei and Oppo are already ahead of Samsung in this regard, as my colleague Sareena Dayaram has written.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

The Galaxy Z Fold 4

James Martin/CNET

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 squarish aspect ratio shows. When taking photos, for example, the cover screen provides a smaller viewfinder than what you’d get when using a normal phone.

The phone itself is also still fairly heavy, weighing 263 grams compared to the 233-gram Galaxy S23 Ultra and 195-gram Galaxy S23 Plus. My 5-year-old nephew commented that it looks like two phones stacked on top of each other, and that’s an accurate characterization.

The Fold 4's hinge

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is still thick and heavy compared to a standard phone, despite Samsung’s improvements. 

Kevin Heinz/CNET

Although 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 trackpad when the phone is in Flex Mode. While that does make it easier to navigate the phone while in Flex Mode, the larger issue is that I never felt inclined to use Flex Mode in the first place, as I mentioned earlier. 

Taking a photo of a can of tomato paste

The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s Flex Mode

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Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold has come far enough to show that there’s a future for foldable phones. But most of all, I found myself using it as a regular phone. And maybe that’s the most telling takeaway of all. Right now, most people probably just want a really good phone. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t excited about the other gaps in our lives that phones like the Z Fold may fill in the future.