What is happening

Samsung has just announced the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the newest iteration of its foldable flip phone.

Why is it important?

Foldable phones have been widely available for about three years, but they still make up only a fraction of the smartphone market. The Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 are Samsung’s attempt to change that.

What’s next

Samsung will launch the Galaxy Z Flip 4 on August 26 with prices starting at $1,000.

Samsung It launched the Galaxy Z Flip 4 on Wednesday The unpacked event as part of their latest efforts to popularize folding phones. The Z Flip 4 has new software that takes advantage of its foldable design, improved cameras with better low-light photography, and a bigger battery. It goes on sale on August 26 and starts at $1,000 (£999, AU$1,499).

The Galaxy Z Flip proved to be the most popular folding yet according to market research. But high prices, inferior cameras and battery life, and a lack of attractive features compared to industry-standard phones hamper the overall appeal of foldables. With the Galaxy Z Flip 4, Samsung addresses some, but not all, of these concerns. More importantly, it makes progress in understanding the audience for foldable devices like the Z Flip.

Samsung is trying to prove that the Z Flip 4 has more appeal than its compactness. That’s why it leans toward Flex Mode — a feature that splits apps between the top and bottom of the screen when folded in half. You’ll now be able to use the bottom half of the screen as a trackpad to navigate the top half of the screen — this update will make it easier to navigate apps in Flex Mode.

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The feature is new to both the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4, though Samsung said it would consider bringing it to older folds as well. In my short time with the Z Flip 4, it worked pretty smoothly after enabling the feature in the settings menu.

The Z Flip 4’s cover display also gets a few new additions. You’ll be able to send quick replies to text messages, make phone calls and take photos in portrait mode from the external display.

Samsung folding

Cover screen of Galaxy Z Flip 4.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Taken together, these improvements are a step in the right direction for the Z Flip 4. It’s unclear whether the expansion of Flex Mode and the added functionality of an overlay display will be enough to convert those who aren’t interested in foldable phones. But it shows that Samsung is focusing more on software as well as hardware, which is crucial to prove the promise behind foldable phones.

Otherwise, the Z Flip 4 will get a number of the usual updates you’d expect to see in any new smartphone – foldable or not. This will continue Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor is a slightly improved version of the chip Galaxy S22 row. Although the main camera resolution is the same as before Z Flip 3 (12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lenses), the Z Flip 4 inherits Galaxy S22’s improved night photography. This means it will have a brighter wide-angle lens and larger pixel size, while supporting portrait mode photos in the dark. The Z Flip 4’s battery capacity has also increased to 3700 mAh compared to its predecessor’s 3300 mAh battery.

These are all positive changes that reduce the compromises you have to make when choosing between the Z Flip and Samsung’s non-folding Galaxy S phones. The previous Z Flip 3 had very poor battery life, and the camera system felt like, as my colleague Patrick Holland put it, “the equivalent of the cameras you’d find on a $700 phone.”

The Z Flip’s design hasn’t changed much, apart from some improvements. The hinge is slightly smaller and now has a brighter color than the Z Flip 3. The Z Flip 4’s internal display is 45% more durable, with the exterior coated with Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus Plus. Color options include Samsung’s new bora purple just launched for the Galaxy S22 along with rose gold, blue and graphite. These differences aren’t immediately noticeable when you pick up the device, but you can see them when you look at the Z Flip 3 and Z Flip 4 side-by-side.

Samsung folding

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Z Flip 4’s $1,000 price tag is still too high for many people, especially since there are very attractive standard phones on the market that cost hundreds of dollars less. With a few new software updates and regular upgrades to the camera, processor and battery, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 doesn’t seem like a monumental upgrade.

But it still represents a turning point for Samsung’s foldables. Samsung has simply ensured that apps run smoothly on bendable screens. Finally, it’s trying to find new ways to interact with apps that you can’t get with a non-folding phone.

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