Galaxy Z Flip ongoing review: Samsung's glass screen, crease and battery life so far – CNET

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The Galaxy Z Flip isn’t only the first foldable phone to have a glass screen. It’s also the first with a hinge that can stand up on its own.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Spending a day with the Galaxy Z Flip  is like submerging yourself in a mud bath for the first time. You have strong immediate thoughts, but you know it’s going to take a little while to get used to. Samsung gave professional phone reviewers like me a mere 24 hours with the novel device — enough to form a cursory opinion, but not long enough to make a final assessment on the incredibly exciting and novel features that this foldable phone design brings.

Luckily, CNET was able to purchase several Z Flip devices that my colleagues and I will use to test the foldable flip phone’s cameras, battery, durability and features. Especially against the similar Motorola Razr, which currently sells for $119 more — $1,499 versus $1,380.

The Galaxy Z Flip is one of the world’s first commercial foldable phones, keeping company with the alluring Razr, the tablet-sized Samsung Galaxy Fold, convivial Huawei Mate X and Royole FlexPai developer device. There are also plenty of wizzbang and cheap concept phones in the works. 


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Galaxy Z Flip is the first phone with foldable glass



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Crucially, the Galaxy Z Flip is the first of its clan to ever have a foldable 6.7-inch glass screen. This is a huge technological achievement. The Z Flip is the first of its kind whose hinge is stiff enough to prop the top half of the device upright at an impressive number of angles. 

As a reminder, foldable phones exist as a way to expand your phone’s screen size while keeping the device small enough to carry around without busting through your pocket. 

So what is the Z Flip really like use? I’ll tell you exactly how I feel about it — and how my view changes the more time I spend with the device. Keep coming back over the ensuing days. This ongoing assessment will turn into a final rated review when I’ve had enough time to thoroughly test the device.

Look at it shimmer in purple. Can’t. Tear. Our. Eyes. Away.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Is the Z Flip’s glass screen really all that?

Let me just say for the record that under 24 hours into a review period, I’m reluctant to make any sweeping or definite statements. These things need time to cook. A good review takes about a week of live-in time, and even that sometimes feels fast, but necessary.

So to answer the question as best as I can right now, I think so! Glass so thin it can bend is amazing. Foldable phones up until now have used a plastic material to cover the delicate electronic display beneath. Press on it too hard, or expose it to rough substances, and it’ll fail, leaving you without a usable phone.

The Z Flip’s glass screen is meant to shield the display from the more raucous elements, while also providing a smoother surface that more convincingly conceals that telltale crease where the screen bends in half. The Z Flip is subject to Samsung’s one year warranty in the event of damage, as well as Samsung’s premier concierge help for foldable phones

That said, both the Z Flip and the Motorola Razr both broke on the first try in CNET’s drop tests (with purchased devices).

Star feature: A phone that can stand on its own

Since the first time I saw it earlier this week, I’ve been enamored with the Z Flip hinge’s ability to hold itself upright. In practical terms, the phone can stay open at a variety of angles before it automatically opens fully or snaps closed with the help of magnets in all its corners. 

That rigidity takes a bit more effort to close (but you’re not straining against the phone), yet the result is that you can prop the Z Flip on its base and tilt the screen at any number of angles to take a selfie photo with a friend — or a portrait shot — watch a video, or so any number of things. 

The same goes for slightly bending the phone in half while watching a video so it can become its own stand. When you bend it, some apps dynamically shift into a split screen mode so you see the action on the “top” and the controls, or comments on the “bottom”. Not enough apps take advantage of the feature straight out the gate, but it’s one I hope to see Google and others embrace for the sheer convenience factor.

All about the Z Flip’s hinge

The Galaxy Fold suffered some pretty public and embarrassing trauma with early review units to journalists, which caused Samsung to delay the phone’s launch by about 4 months and completely redesign it. The good news is that those learnings have been carried into the Z Flip.

The hinge is protected by elements like interior vinyl fibers (these remind me of nose hairs) to keep dust out of the mechanism. There are also plastic caps bordering the inside of the phone at the hinge, which help keep out dust. I run my fingernails around the thick plastic bezel and note that my nails failed to purchase the very edge of the screen — a failing of the first Galaxy Fold design. That’s good.

Read moreGalaxy Z Flip is a beautiful phone, until you touch it

The purple shade in particular is alluring, but so far all colors are prone to terrible smudging. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Using the cameras

On paper, the Galaxy Z Flip challenges the Motorola Razr with two exterior cameras and one internal sensor. 

  • Z Flip: Dual 12-megapixel sensors (wide-angle, ultra wide-angle) and a 10-megapixel internal camera
  • Razr: 16-megapixel exterior sensor, 5-megapixel interior camera (e.g. for initiating video conferencing calls)

My colleague Patrick Holland reviewed the Motorola Razr and declared the camera system to be “just OK“. Meanwhile, I’ve taken some photos with the Z Flip that I’m pretty excited about. I also took shots side by side on the Razr, but got some results that confused me, like selfie shots with drastically different white balance. I’m going to have to look into that.

The Z Flip has a new photo mode that it shares with the Galaxy S20 trio of phones. Called Single Take, it captures up to 10 different still photos and four different videos. I was initially worried that I’d spend a lot of time deleting photos I don’t like or don’t care about, and in the initial testing process, I was right. 

But there are some usable shots I got too, and it didn’t take a lot of obsessive focus to get them, which is also good. Let’s consider the jury still out in deliberation.


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But what about the crease?!

Look. Every foldable phone I’ve ever seen has a crease. When the light shines directly on it, you see it. When you run your finger down the seam, you feel it. When an exciting thriller or documentary movie plays, or when you’re sucked into an engaging article or game, you hardly notice it at all.

I do feel the Z Flip’s glass cover material helps minimize the hated crease. So does the fact that the width of the bend is actually pretty minimal — just shy of 3 inches — compared to the Galaxy Fold’s 6.34-inch vertical seam.

Battery life so far

For my final review (which again, this is not), I’m going to judge battery life by two main criteria. The first — and most important in my mind — is real world testing. The second is a lab test that runs down the battery using specific media.

I’ve been using the Galaxy Note 10 Plus every day for months, and I know exactly how much battery life I need to get through a typical day of tethering the phone for two hours during a working commute, and then all day needs, including streaming video on Netflix.

Everything that comes in the Z Flip box.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Z Flip has a 3,300mAh battery, which is fine, but it’s split into two, which does lift my eyebrows in inquiry. Dual batteries are known by experts to be less efficient than a single large battery cell, which makes me wonder how well this battery will hold up. 
On my first testing day, the Z Flip’s battery was fully charged at 11:18am PT. At 10:18pm PT (11 hours later), it tallied in at 33%, and that’s after a day of hard use and about an hour and a half of streaming video. 

However, I’m usually using my phone from 6am to 10pm at least (18 hours), and often have that much left on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, so I’m going to keep a close eye on our purchased Z Flip unit in the coming days as I take it through my more typical day.

What’s next in the Galaxy Z Flip review:

  • The Z Flip’s outer screen pros and cons
  • Camera, camera, camera
  • Watching video (especially YouTube and Netflix)
  • Fingerprint reader placement
  • Selfie camera quality
  • More hinge assessments
  • Additional battery testing, including lab results
  • Design: Sexy or actually frumpy?
  • One-handed use
  • Quick app shortcuts

This story will be updated with more findings throughout the coming days.

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