On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is just an incremental update over the Fold 3. But the thing about phones is that what you see on paper usually doesn’t translate to what you get in your hands. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 may be “incremental,” but it’s also the best foldable device that exists today.
That isn’t to say the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (let’s call it the Fold 4) is perfect. Oh no, with any foldable right now, you have to make compromises. But in the world of foldables, it’s the leader of the pack. You can find an option or two with better specs here or there, but nothing that actually makes a better whole product. If you’re sold on foldables and don’t mind spending a boatload of money, the Fold 4 screams for your attention.
Here’s What We Like
- It folds!
- Pretty good cameras
- Great battery life
And What We Don’t
- Durability questions
- Super expensive
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Hardware and Displays: Still Thick and a Bit Clunky
- Unfolded: 155.1 x 130.1 x 6.3 mm
- Folded: 155.1 x 67.1 x 14.2-15.8 mm
- Inner Display: 2176 x 1812 7.6-inch AMOLED, 120Hz
- Outer Display: 2316 x 904 6.2-inch AMOLED, 120Hz
- USB-C, no headphone jack
- Fingerprint Sensor: Capacitive (side of phone)
- Networking: 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
- Protection: IPX8 water resistance
- “Ultra Thin Glass” front, glass back, aluminum frame
This may be the fourth generation of the Galaxy Fold, but it’s still a standout device. I walked my son to and from the bus, and one of our neighbor kids immediately spotted it and had many questions. This eight-year-old girl knows about my job reviewing tech and gadgets but seldom takes any interest in it. But in this case, the magic of opening up a phone to make a tablet was so fascinating that not only did she ask questions, she proceeded to tell her parents about it, and they asked me more questions later.
If you haven’t gone hands on with a Galaxy Z Fold before, it’s pretty much unlike any phone you’ve ever held. Its closed “phone” mode is narrower than any smartphone on the market. And thicker. A lot thicker. That’s not surprising, considering you’re essentially closing two phone halves onto itself. I have pretty decent sized hands, so I don’t think it’s hard to hold, but if you have smaller hands, you’d probably disagree with me.
But that narrowness does limit the usefulness of the cover screen. Sure it’s a little bigger this year, but not by much. And so I found myself making constant typos as I couldn’t quite get the key I wanted. And while webpages looked fine, plenty of apps ended up looking scrunched. To be clear, I’d rather have this cover screen than not—but, I wish it were more “average smartphone” proportioned.
The inside screen suffers from similar “nothing is shaped like this” problems. On the one hand, unfolded, the Fold 4 is epically thin and feels nice in the hand. On the other, it’s a bit large for one-handed use, and some apps don’t play well with it. The mobile Rocket League game looks like it has a funhouse mirror effect. And 1Password is utterly unusable on either display. I can’t search for passwords properly, and I have trouble closing the app’s side screen. It’s just bad.
But when an app does play well (usually at full screen) with the interior display, it’s pretty amazing. You can multitask, and I’ll talk more about that later, but a fullscreen app experience is wonderful when everything works. I could almost see myself not bringing a tablet when I have this phone. And that’s honestly the promise of the Fold; it’s a phone when you need it and a tablet when you need that.
You can, of course, see and feel the crease when you open the main screen. Right now, there’s no getting around that, but it’s less noticeable during use than the Flip 4. Dragging your finger across the display horizontally is just something you’re less likely to do. And after a while, I stopped noticing the crease for the most part. It’s never not there; you forget about it.
On the right side of the phone, you’ll find an antennae “window,” volume rocker, and a combined fingerprint sensor and power button. I wish the antennae “window” were somewhere else, as it forces the volume rocker and fingerprint sensor down. That means the natural holding position forces my middle finger to the volume buttons and my ring finger to the fingerprint sensor. The Flip 4 placement is better.
I thought I’d teach the fingerprint sensor to recognize my ring finger, but that hasn’t worked well in practice. For whatever reason, you can’t teach the sensor new fingerprints while the phone is in the closed position. You have to be open in “tablet” mode. I don’t understand it, because how you hold the phone when it is closed is very different than when it’s open.
Software and Performance: Making Progress
- Android 12L (One UI 4.1.1)
- Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
- 12GB RAM + 256GB or 512GB storage
Like the Flip 4, the Fold 4 runs Android12L and One UI 4.1.1. But you’ll find more differences here than on the Flip 4 iteration, especially with the main screen open. Samsung continues down its path of a bright and cherry Android interface with plenty of influence from Microsoft’s launcher and keyboard. The latter two are so close in appearance that initially, I thought my restore process downloaded the Microsoft Launcher and Swift keyboard and enabled them, but that wasn’t the case.
But the Fold 4 does depart from the Flip in critical ways. The changes are mostly centered around making the most of the main screen, including a new taskbar courtesy of Android 12L. This honestly feels like one of the key missing components of previous Fold devices. I don’t find the multitasking gestures to add more apps to the screen intuitive; I can’t make them work half the time. Last year’s model had a taskbar, but it was off by default and nowhere near as good. I don’t need those gestures with the new taskbar (and Samsung’s addition of a mini app drawer). Adding a second or third app to the screen is easier than ever. It’s a game changer for multitaskers.
I don’t find myself opening side-by-side apps extremely often, however. To be honest, the Surface Duo remains the best “foldable-like” device for multitasking. It has practically two smartphone sizes halves, whereas the squarish shape of the Fold’s main display isn’t quite big enough. You get two (or three) cramped windows that don’t quite show enough. It’s useful enough to be handy in a pitch, but I prefer full-sized apps.
Thanks to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 paired with 12 GBs of RAM, the Fold 4 absolutely flies. It easily handled any game I threw at it and any number of tasks I tried to complete. It didn’t even slow down when I ran those apps simultaneously with the main screen open. And yet the phone never seemed warm, even after a long gaming session. It’s pretty impressive stuff that a phone so “thin” (when open) stays so cool to the touch.
Still, I do have questions about durability down the line. The main screen continues to be a plastic-covered “Ultra Thin Glass” that you can easily scratch. You’ll get a sense of that when you first turn the Fold 4 on and immediately get a raft of “don’t do this” warnings. Usually, “don’t press the screen with sharp objects” seems like advice for any smartphone, but Samsung means “sharp as in fingernails.” Only time will tell if Samsung’s latest improvements will make this the Fold that lasts.
Cameras: Not Ultra, But Close
- Main Cameras: 50MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide), 10MP (telephoto)
- Selfie Camera: 10MP
- Under Display: 4 MP
All foldables call for certain compromises right now, and in the early days, cameras were definitely one of them. That’s still arguably the case with the Flip 4, but the Fold 4 has come a long way since the first model. It may not be quite as good as taking photos as the Galaxy Ultra S22, but it sure is close.
Samsung’s photos continue to be colorful, almost to the point of exaggeration. They never look “true to life” and match up to what your eye sees, but the content almost always turns out to be “social network worthy.” That’s not surprising since it shares the same 50-megapixel primary camera as the S22 and S22 Ultra. That bump gives it an advantage over the Fold 3, and in the right conditions, you can get some pretty spectacular photos out of the Fold 4.
Of course, things fall apart when you zoom, but more so than the S22 Ultra. As has often been the case with my recent reviews, I went to the top of the Kings Island Eiffel Tower and took some photos with the main, ultrawide, and zoom lens. And while the main and ultrawide images look good, the zoom is a blurry mess. Try as I might, I couldn’t get a steady enough photo for better clarity. That’s not a problem I had with the S22 Ultra. These extreme zooms are indeed digital crops, but I can’t overlook that the less expensive S22 Ultra did a better job at the task.
The selfie camera is serviceable but nothing too exciting. It gets the job done; frankly, that’s all you can say for most selfie cameras these days. But the Fold 4 has one additional camera you won’t find on most phones—an under-display sensor buried in the main screen. I can’t see myself ever using it. At best, it might be useful for video calls, but I feel like that’s a stretch. Just use the selfie camera or, better yet, your webcam on a desktop or laptop. Even a laptop webcam will get better results.
Do I wish this $1,799 phone had even better cameras? Of course, I do. But at the same time, I don’t think you’d be too disappointed in what you get here. It’s pretty close to the best Samsung has to offer.
Battery Life: All Day Strong
- Battery: 3,700mAh
- Wired Charging Speed: 25 watts
- Wireless Charging: Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
- Reverse Wireless Charging: Yes
We called the Fold 3’s battery life decent at best. I’m happy to say the Fold 4 improved on that outcome. You can easily get through a full day on a single charge, and I often saw myself ending the day with 40% or more battery life. I’m not saying you couldn’t kill the Fold 4 before the day is out: stream some video on the big screen for a few hours. But I don’t think you need to worry about it too much.
I was honestly expecting to find things in a worse state, as Samsung didn’t make any changes to the battery between the Fold 3 and the Fold 4. The difference seems to be down to some fine tuning to the displays and the new processor, which does a better job of sipping energy. If things continue progressing at this rate, it might be possible for Samsung to stick an even smaller battery in future Folds to achieve something thinner yet still long-lasting.
If you do find yourself looking at a low battery, getting topped up isn’t too difficult. The Fold 4 fast charges at 25 watts over USB-C and 15W wirelessly. The S22 Ultra charges faster over USB-C, but 25 watts is still good enough to recharge your phone in short order.
Should You Buy The Galaxy Z Flip 4?
You know I’ve done a lot of nitpicking here—wishing the multitasking fit my needs better, that fullscreen apps didn’t squash so often, and about that fingerprint sensor placement. So it might be easy to think I don’t actually like the Galaxy Z Fold 4. But here’s the strange thing, I really do.
As a reviewer, the proof of whether a product succeeds really comes through when it’s time to send the device back. Do I pack it away and declare, “good riddance!” Or do I try to delay things a bit, buy myself more time with the gadget, just one more day? The Fold 4 fits into the latter. It may seem strange because no single part of the Fold 4 is perfect.
But the Galaxy Z Fold 4 proves that a good phone is more than just individual pieces; it’s the sum of everything together. And I find myself enjoying it more every day I use it. And I don’t look forward to giving it up at all. But I do need to address a couple of elephants in the room.
First, the Fold 4 is essentially an iterative update to the Fold 3. It’s a refined smartphone that nips and tucks a few issues and specs. But it’s not revolutionary or massively different. If you already own a Fold 3, you probably don’t need to upgrade to the Fold 4.
And then there’s the price. The Fold 4 starts at $1,799, which is a gigantic sum of money for an imperfect phone. Most people probably shouldn’t drop that much money on a smartphone, and if you really want a foldable, then the Flip 4 is far more reasonable.
But if you’re an enthusiast who wants the flashiest technology and doesn’t mind spending a pretty penny, you’ll find no better option than the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It’s simply unlike any other phone you can easily obtain. Xiaomi and Oppo have a couple of contenders, but those are hard to get a hold of and may not work well with your carrier. If you want the best foldable phone on the market, I can only point you to the Fold 4. Samsung found its stride with this one, and we’ve moved from “revolution” to “refinement.”
Here’s just hoping the next Fold won’t make you choose between buying a phone and paying the mortgage.
Starting At $1,600
Here’s What We Like
- It folds!
- Pretty good cameras
- Great battery life
And What We Don’t
- Durability questions
- Super expensive