Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: incremental innovation

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: incremental innovation

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I person a confession: I’m not truly into tablets. The past 1 I bought was successful 2012, and I deliberation my feline technically owns it now. They consciousness excessively overmuch similar a neither-here-nor-there instrumentality to maine — excessively underpowered to bash machine stuff, excessively large and cumbersome to bash telephone stuff.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 tricked maine into liking a tablet.

There’s a seeing-is-believing facet to utilizing the Galaxy Z Fold 4. I get what it is successful theory: tiny erstwhile you request to bash telephone worldly and large erstwhile you privation to bash tablet stuff. But it wasn’t until I utilized the Fold 4 to compile and taxable an disbursal study that I really understood the powerfulness of this device. It’s the powerfulness of not having to get up disconnected the sofa to spell get my laptop. It’s glorious.

How we complaint and reappraisal devices

This is each existent of the Fold 3 (and the erstwhile versions, but those had much important problems). So what precisely does the Fold 4 bring to the table? As champion arsenic I tin archer aft a week surviving with the phone, not much. This isn’t a fundamentally antithetic experience, but it is simply a tiny spot better. Take the screen surface — it’s lone a fewer millimeters wider, but it’s ever truthful somewhat nicer to usage than the surface connected the erstwhile version, which felt much similar a distant control. The screen surface is the happening you look astatine and benignant texts connected a 100 times per day, truthful those fewer millimeters marque a difference.

That’s the full gist of this phone. Lots of things are a small nicer; thing is radically better. In immoderate aspects, that means playing catch-up to what virtually each different flagship telephone offers, similar a decent telephoto camera. In different ways, it’s a refinement of the unsocial features this foldable brings to the array — it’s conscionable a small much intuitive and comfy to use. The Fold 4 is inactive precise expensive, and it’s inactive a gadget person’s gadget. But if you’ve been funny successful the Fold and watching for Samsung to enactment the bugs retired of the system, past this is the foldable telephone you’ve been waiting for.

There is 1 insignificant catch: the price. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 costs $1,799, similar the Fold 3 did erstwhile it was introduced. Yes, it is simply a singular innovation. Yes, it could regenerate a telephone and a tablet. But adjacent so, that’s a heck of a batch of money. We besides don’t cognize however good the plan volition clasp up 4 oregon 5 years from now. Sinking eighteen 100 dollars into a telephone is conscionable not an enactment for astir radical earlier we adjacent see the semipermanent durability concerns.

A small much phone-like, a small little of a distant control. Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Let’s commencement with screens. The hinge and bezels are a small smaller than connected the Fold 3, which gives the 6.2-inch screen surface a spot much room. It has a solution of 2316 x 904 solution and a 23.1:9 facet ratio — a small wider than the Fold 3’s 2268 x 832 show with 24.5:9 ratio. Coming from a standard, ample slab phone, it felt a small cramped astatine first, but aft astir a day, I was utilized to it. The keyboard inactive requires a small much attraction than I’d similar to deed the close keys. But this acquisition feels astir 90 percent of the mode to a mean telephone with thing person to a 19.5:9 screen.

Likewise, the main surface inactive measures 7.6 inches similar past year’s, present with a 2176 x 1812 solution and 21.6:18 facet ratio compared to 2208 x 1768 and 22.5:18. The surface is truthful large to statesman with that the flimsy displacement successful facet ratio truly doesn’t marque a difference. It is, was, and (probably!) ever volition beryllium a big-ass surface for a phone. The interior and outer screens each connection up to 120Hz refresh rates, truthful scrolling is creaseless nary substance however you’re utilizing the phone.

At 263 grams, the Z Fold 4 is simply a heavy, chunky telephone compared to adjacent the biggest slab-style phones: the iPhone 13 Pro Max weighs 240 grams, portion Samsung’s ain S22 Ultra is 229 grams. These are each much than fractional a pound; Pop Sockets are having a existent moment!

I tin usage it one-handed for a infinitesimal if I request to, but it’s excessively dense and unwieldy to effort that for overmuch longer. It’s besides prone to tumbling retired of the pouch of my joggers erstwhile I beryllium down, and proceeding this $1,800 telephone thud onto a hardwood level makes maine sick to my stomach.

Samsung didn’t supply a lawsuit with my reappraisal unit, and I’m not usually a lawsuit gal, but for the Fold, I’d marque an exception. As it was, I ended up mounting it connected a antagonistic alternatively than keeping it successful my pouch passim the day. It’s technically smaller than the Fold 3, but conscionable barely: 8 grams lighter — astir the value of a 4th and a penny — and 0.2mm thinner.

When unfolded successful tablet mode, there’s inactive a salient crease connected the interior screen. Depending connected the viewing space and what’s connected the screen, though, it’s not precise noticeable a batch of the time. It’s thing I got utilized to easily, and adjacent erstwhile I could spot it, it didn’t fuss maine — not adjacent erstwhile my thumb ran implicit it portion gaming.

The under-display camera (or UDC) connected the main surface is simply a small amended hidden than erstwhile models — Samsung rearranged the pixel furniture connected apical of it to effort and disguise it better. It has a weird benignant of unsighted spot effect. If I’m not looking close astatine it, I don’t spot it astatine each successful my peripheral vision. But arsenic soon arsenic thing connected the surface draws my oculus to it, it’s glaringly obvious.

This is decidedly a maine thing, but it looks akin to the ocular aura I spot close earlier I person a migraine. I’m definite I person immoderate low-level PTSD effect to it, truthful possibly it’s not each that noticeable to astir people. In immoderate case, the representation prime from the 4-megapixel UDC is inactive bad, but thankfully, determination are plentifulness of overmuch amended cameras you tin usage connected the Fold 4 for selfie purposes. The UDC volition bash successful a pinch for video calls, but it’s champion thought of arsenic a past resort.

Samsung has tweaked immoderate of the big-screen bundle features connected the Fold 4, starting with relocating the taskbar from the broadside of the surface to the bottom. It’s connected by default, too, which is simply a alteration from the sidebar behaviour connected the Fold 3. Tapping and holding the taskbar volition fell it from view, and repeating the aforesaid motion volition bring it back. You tin besides crook it disconnected wholly if you don’t similar it. Again, these are subtle moves, but they marque the acquisition close retired of the container much similar what you’d expect from a laptop oregon an iPad.

The taskbar on the bottommost of the surface stays enactment by default.

The Fold 4 besides provides much ways to participate divided surface mode to commencement doing what this telephone was made for: multitasking similar there’s nary tomorrow. With an app unfastened connected the main screen, you tin inactive initiate divided surface by dragging and dropping different app to the display. This clip around, you tin besides commencement divided surface presumption by swiping with 2 fingers from the bottommost oregon sides of the screen.

This is disconnected by default, truthful you person to alteration it successful settings, and it works good enough, but personally, I didn’t find it arsenic utile arsenic the aged drag-and-drop method. You tin besides person apps ever amusement a fastener for multiscreen options — that’s a small grip astatine the apical of an app model that usually appears erstwhile you’re successful a divided surface view. With the grip ever visible, you tin conscionable pat it for divided surface oregon to unfastened the existent app successful a pop-up window.

Samsung was non-committal erstwhile we asked whether these bundle features would beryllium ported to erstwhile Fold devices, but it seems highly apt that the taskbar will astatine least. I anticipation they do. They don’t radically alteration however you usage the phone, but they consciousness intuitive to me, a first-time Fold user.

It didn’t instrumentality agelong to fig retired the multiscreen interface, and erstwhile I did, my full knowing of the Fold changed. I person a intelligence database of tasks that I’d alternatively implicit connected my laptop alternatively than connected my telephone — things that necessitate cross-referencing an email and a browser model oregon jumping betwixt apps frequently. While utilizing the Fold 4, that database got mode shorter. I enactment unneurotic a market order, comparison-shopped babe gates, and adjacent published a blog station astir the Fold 4 while utilizing the Fold 4.

Take that disbursal report, for example. That would usually spell connected the “must bash connected a laptop” database since it requires cross-referencing my Starbucks app bid history, my recognition paper statement, and Concur. I kept each 3 apps unfastened on-screen astatine once, and it was a reasonably pleasant acquisition — I mean, arsenic pleasant arsenic compiling an disbursal study tin be. Best of each — and this bears repeating — I didn’t person to get disconnected of the sofa to get my laptop. I besides didn’t person to acceptable down my laptop and prime up my telephone erstwhile a two-factor authentication substance arrived. It was each conscionable determination successful my hand.

Of course, the Fold 4 has to present the show to support up with each of those tasks, and it does. It uses a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor, similar each different caller Android flagship not made by Google, and each variations travel with 12GB of RAM. In my testing, it ran Genshin Impact without a problem, and it handled aggregate apps astatine erstwhile with ease.

The $1,799 basal exemplary comes with 256GB of retention — there’s nary paper slot for enlargement (not that you’d request 1 with each that space), nary headphone jack, and nary charging ceramic successful the box. All par for the people these days. As connected the Fold 3, the Fold 4 supports Samsung’s S Pen stylus — specifically, the foldable variation of the S Pen designed for the delicate interior surface connected the Fold series. The screen surface doesn’t enactment the stylus, which would beryllium truly utile for taking speedy notes, and the S pen itself is $49 — sold separately, of course.

I didn’t find overmuch usage for Flex mode connected the Fold, but it looks neat, I guess? Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

The Fold 4, similar its predecessor, has a 4,400mAh battery. There’s nary alteration to wired charging speeds — inactive 25W — but wireless charging is simply a small speeder astatine 15W versus 11W (provided that you’re utilizing 1 of Samsung’s ain accelerated wireless chargers).

In my experience, the artillery got maine done a time of dense use, but I wouldn’t number connected much than that. I got 5 hours of surface clip during a demanding day, including 30 minutes of video streaming, immoderate navigation, and astir clip spent connected wireless information alternatively than Wi-Fi, and the telephone was close down into the azygous digits by bedtime. If you’d similar the Fold 4 to regenerate a tablet, past this is 1 happening to carnivore successful caput — you’ll get bully artillery show for a phone, not the days-long artillery beingness of a tablet.

There’s nary alteration successful IP standing this twelvemonth — the Fold 4 is IPX8 rated, meaning you tin submerge it successful freshwater, but it’s not dustproof. Dust is thing to interest about, too. Particles getting into the surface by mode of the hinge would wreak havoc connected the screen, arsenic we learned with the Fold’s archetypal (doomed) iteration. The hinge present includes sweeper brushes to effort to support particulate out, but it’s hard to accidental however effectual they’ll beryllium implicit the people of 3 oregon 4 years of regular use. On the aboveground level, there’s a pre-applied, non-user-replaceable surface protector. Samsung says it’s utilizing stronger adhesive this twelvemonth to support it successful place, apt arsenic a effect to reports from anterior Fold owners of the protector coming unglued and creating “bubbles” betwixt it and the screen. Fingers crossed it works better.

The Fold 3 whitethorn person marked a superior measurement successful taking foldables mainstream, but its camera strategy inactive fell abbreviated of the mainline flagships. The question this twelvemonth is whether the Fold’s cameras are fitting for a flagship phone, and I deliberation the Fold 4 gets a passing people this clip around. The main camera sensor gets a bump from 12 to 50 megapixels, but the champion betterment mightiness beryllium the summation from 2x to a 3x telephoto. There’s nary 10x zoom, but possibly Samsung’s redeeming that for an (inevitable?) Fold Ultra.

The portrait mode improvements we saw connected the S22 bid are here, too, and that’s a large thing. The 3x tele lens connected the S22 produces immoderate of the champion representation mode shots I’ve ever seen, and the Fold 4 is susceptible of fantabulous portraits, too. Photos from the 3x zoom taken successful the modular photograph mode look good, too. And anyway, a 2x lens conscionable doesn’t get you overmuch person to your subject, truthful I’m gladsome to spot the bump up to a much utile 3x here.

Otherwise, there’s thing singular astir the Fold 4’s rear cameras. The phone’s representation processing goes for a punchy look with vivid colors and sometimes gets a small overzealous with the HDR, conscionable similar immoderate different Samsung flagship. The screen screen’s 10-megapixel selfie camera does conscionable fine, adjacent successful dim light. The 4-megapixel UDC inactive looks reasonably smeary, and I’d lone usage it arsenic a past resort.

The Fold 4 lacks immoderate superior contention successful the US market.

In my mind, determination are a fewer things holding the Fold 4 backmost from being an unthinkable device. The archetypal is the terms — it is conscionable excessively high. I anticipation the absorption of Samsung’s foldable innovation successful the aboriginal volition beryllium connected making this benignant of merchandise accessible to much people. And past there’s the Android tablet app ecosystem. When I encountered problems utilizing the telephone successful multiscreen mode, the Fold didn’t fto maine down — Android apps did. Most of them are inactive conscionable telephone apps stretched retired implicit a bigger canvas alternatively than tablet apps. This leaves a batch of unused blank space, and I recovered myself opening much apps conscionable to usage the bare abstraction for something.

Even with the flimsy size adjustments this year, there’s inactive a spot of a Goldilocks concern — immoderate apps consciousness a small excessively cramped connected the screen surface but don’t instrumentality up capable abstraction to warrant utilizing the main screen. Instagram feels a small excessively tiny connected the screen screen, but it opens up successful the mediate of the main surface successful a 16:9 model with letterbox bars connected either side. You tin alteration it successful settings to unfastened astatine 4:3 oregon crossed the afloat screen, but past you won’t beryllium capable to spot the afloat contented of immoderate posts astatine once. Just physique a tablet app already, Instagram.

Apps are besides prone to the occasional bug I don’t person to interest astir erstwhile I’m completing the aforesaid task connected my laptop. I encountered a mates of these portion trying to propulsion the limits of what I’d comfortably bash connected a phone. While putting successful an Amazon Fresh order, each clip I tried to hunt Fresh for an point and usage the hunt barroom autocomplete, it returned results from Amazon, not Fresh. That would beryllium good if I wanted 140 frozen meal sandwiches successful 2 days, but I conscionable wanted 4 of them the adjacent morning. I stopped utilizing autocomplete and conscionable typed retired full words, and it worked fine. None of this is the Fold’s responsibility exactly, but it’s 1 mode that the tablet acquisition inactive falls abbreviated of a bully ol’ idiosyncratic computer.

The Fold 4 inactive feels excessively heavy and cumbersome erstwhile folded (maybe Samsung tin copy Xiaomi’s homework connected the adjacent procreation Fold). I can usage it arsenic my regular phone, but it’s conscionable dense and chunky capable that I don’t privation to. I couldn’t rather fig retired a comfy mode to ticker video hands-free either, which seems similar thing you should beryllium capable to do. In its L-shaped Flex mode position, contented moves to the apical fractional of the surface with controls — including a caller touchpad — connected the bottom. It works good enough, but the apical fractional of the surface is truthful constrictive it’s similar looking done a letterbox. It’s good for 1 YouTube video portion I’m eating lunch, but I decidedly wouldn’t privation to ticker a full movie that way.

More than erstwhile during my clip investigating the Fold 4, I caught myself marveling that the instrumentality I was utilizing was also a phone. Maybe I was cross-referencing an email from my mother-in-law with Amazon reviews of babe gates. Or I was hitting “submit” connected an disbursal report. I americium thing abbreviated of amazed astatine what this instrumentality tin do, and I’m impressed astatine however mature it feels. Using it doesn’t consciousness similar utilizing a benignant of supercharged prototype. This feels similar a merchandise that has deed its stride.

Multitasking similar there’s nary time doesn’t travel cheap. Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

The Fold 4 is an achievement, but it’s besides a luxury item. The precocious price, the question people astir semipermanent durability, and the occasional fussiness of the Android tablet app ecosystem marque it a instrumentality you person to truly privation to use. And personally, I’m excessively hard connected my telephone to comfortably marque this my regular driver. The bottommost of my purse is the dustiest situation successful the world, and I don’t emotion the main screen’s chances against my toddler if helium ever got ahold of it.

This is the constituent successful a reappraisal erstwhile I’d usually steer you toward alternatives to the telephone I’m reviewing — devices that person X diagnostic that this 1 doesn’t oregon bash Y better. Samsung has made my occupation precise casual this clip around: if you unrecorded successful the US, past I person nary alternatives to suggest. For a superior multitasking folding phone, this is the lone crippled successful municipality (sorry, Surface Duo 2, but you’re conscionable excessively awkward arsenic a phone). If you’re a Fold 3 owner, there’s nary crushed to upgrade — it’s a marginally amended acquisition but not worthy the terms of trading it in, adjacent with Samsung’s assertive incentives.

If you’ve been sitting connected the sidelines waiting for the Fold bid to mature, past I deliberation now’s the clip to get in. But earlier you plunk down $1,800 of your hard-earned wealth (or merchantability your psyche to your wireless carrier), conscionable committedness maine that you’ll spell distant with unfastened eyes, knowing its shortcomings. It’s dense and chunky. It sometimes feels similar overkill for basal tasks, and you person to unrecorded wrong the boundaries of the Android tablet app ecosystem. It’s not for the faint of heart. But if you hold to those terms, past the Fold 4 is conscionable the gadget-y gadget you’ve been looking for.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge