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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: A no-compromise folding phone vying for mainstream status

May the 4th be with you.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: A no-compromise folding phone vying for mainstream status
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 starts at Rs 1,54,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The world of Android phones thrives on showmanship. The bigger the show, the better they’re assumed to be. We expect brands to conjure something new with every new instalment and we’re quick to judge and frown upon those who don’t fit into that box.

Every once in a while, someone comes and changes the game. The clock is reset. Like Samsung did with the Galaxy Fold in 2018. Who knew displays could bend like that, right? Android phones would never be the same again.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review in PHOTOS: Quick first look at design, specs, features, and more

Despite a rocky start, Samsung did not stop making folding phones. It got better. Last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 (review) was almost perfect. It brought a sturdier design, smoother touch response and water resistance. It was a little more pocketable, too, than the older models. Samsung had achieved its goal and the Fold had met its purpose.

The question is, where do you go from there? The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is here to answer that.

DESIGN & DISPLAY(S)

Samsung has taken the Fold 3 base design and added some Galaxy S22 (review) elements to it to make the Fold 4. The outer frame, for instance, is more striking to look at. It is much shinier and sharper than the Fold 3’s relatively more restrained and stealthier approach. The hinge is a bit smaller.

All this together make the Fold 4 slightly more compact –and easier to lug around— than its predecessor. It measures 15.8mm when folded (versus 16mm in the previous generation) and weighs about 263g (versus 271g). The overall fit and finish have been improved though it’s hard to say by exactly how much since the last model wasn’t particularly shabby. You’ve got to hold it to believe it.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
The 7.6-inch folding screen has a 21.6:18 aspect ratio. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The body is made of upgraded Corning Gorilla Glass Victus Plus. The frame and hinge are made of armour aluminium. It still isn’t resistant to dust and debris. You do get water resistance like before. The hinge gap and crease in the middle remain as is.

But be that as it may, everything from unfolding and snapping it shut to propping it up at an angle, feels solid and satisfying. It is quite something and even though there are some speed bumps along the way, the experience remains as exhilarating, if not better.

Samsung has made similar subtle –but effective – changes on the display side. You get the same 7.6-inch QXGA dynamic 120Hz AMOLED folding screen as the Fold 3 but it’s slightly wider (21.6:18) and it can peak 1300nits (versus 1200nits in Fold 3).

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
The cover screen is 23.1:9. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The cover screen is also essentially the same – 6.2-inch dynamic 120Hz AMOLED –but here too, the aspect ratio has received a slight refresh. It is now 23.1:9. Does that mean, it’s become nicer to type on? Well, no, but it is a nice upgrade nonetheless and a step in the right direction.

All in all, there’s a little more screen real estate at both ends without any big jump in size and that’s appreciated. As for the quality, both the displays are fantastic to look at with rich contrast and slick performance. There is support for S-Pen stylus but once again, there is no garage to park it and it is an optional purchase.

PERFORMANCE & CAMERAS

While much of its design is incremental, the Fold 4 is all brand-new on the inside. Easily the biggest update is coming in the camera department and that’s nice because Samsung has kept top-shelf camera hardware outside the purview of these devices so far. The Fold 3 had the same cameras as the Fold 2.

This is the same company that makes absolute killer camera phones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra (review), why not use that here?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
Flex mode in action. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

While it isn’t doing exactly that per se, it’s nice to see the Fold 4 getting some attention in this regard. Samsung is using the same setup here as the S22 and S22 Plus (review) which is to say you get a 50MP main sensor behind an f/1.8 lens with optical image stabilisation. This is paired with a 12MP ultrawide-angle and another 10MP telephoto for combined 30x “space” zoom (3x optical).

That’s a powerful combination and the output is impressive. Like the S22 phones, the Fold 4 takes stunning photos with good amount of detail and nice and punchy (but not overtly saturated) colours. HDR performance and dynamic range are simply off the charts. Night mode also sees a considerable step-up over the last generation.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
The physical fingerprint reader is fast and reliable. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

But what stands out more is that the ultrawide and telephoto are not mere spec fillers but actually competent with the main sensor on almost every level, be it colour science, detail, or sharpness. Video recording (which can go up to 4K@60fps), too, is spot-on even more so in low-light.

The cover display has the same 10MP camera as the Fold 3. It can pull ample detail especially when lots of light is available and takes some outstanding portraits in ideal conditions.

The 4MP under-display camera from last year is also getting an update with a new scatter-type sub-pixel arrangement so it’s a little less distracting than before. Picture quality isn’t a whole lot better though. It is best kept for quick video calls.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
The dual speaker setup gets nice and loud. Haptics are solid. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Driving the whole thing is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 and we have only good things to say about it. The Fold 3 with the Snapdragon 888 was prone to heating when pushed and even though the Fold 4 can get warm sometimes, when playing a graphically demanding game like Genshin or running a benchmark, it’s simply on another level when it comes to efficiency. Same reason why, the same 4,400mAh battery lasts longer in the Fold 4 than it did inside the Fold 3. There is no perceivable throttling either.

That’s key for a device like the Fold 4 which is being marketed as a productivity powerhouse. We can go out on a limb and say that it delivers on that promise.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
Fold 4 brings a new dock at the bottom. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Samsung has been making some sound choices in software ever since it released the first Fold and every year, there’s something more notable to talk about. The Fold 4 is running a customised version of Google’s large-screen-oriented Android 12L called OneUI 4.1.1. Not that the earlier versions were a slouch, but this new version adds even more ways to multitask including a bottom-seated task bar that fires up every time you open an app for seamless switching.  

You can— additionally— dock a vertical row of frequently used apps that stay on regardless of where you are on the home screen/app drawer or any app that you’re using.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
The crease is a little more bearable but it’s there. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

App Continuity allows apps running on the cover screen to automatically switch to the inner display when unfolded. Flex mode lets you run two apps simultaneously or get you an extra set of controls for one of them when your phone is folded upright (at 90-degrees). Multi-window lets you run three apps together, resize and even pair them for quick launch later while floating windows can add up to five more apps to the list.

There is just so much to explore, so much to do on this phone, it won’t be wrong to actually call it a byte-sized computer in your pocket. What’s amazing is, despite features galore, not one of them feels like a gimmick. Everything works without lag or stutter, too.

SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FOLD 4 | SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

It’s easy to tell where Samsung has put its money on this year to try and give you a more holistic hardware and software experience. That would be the performance— especially software and battery life – and cameras. In both these areas, the Fold 4 comes out winning with flying colours. Those were the only big shortcomings of the Fold 3. So, you can say, the circle is –now— complete.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review
Fold 4 is a better folding phone than Fold 3. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Fold 4 is a better folding phone than its predecessor in every sense of the word but one – pricing. Samsung has launched it at a starting price of Rs 1,54,999 for a version with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. A version with 12GB RAM and 512GB storage will set you back by Rs 1,64,999. You can also get the Fold 4 with 1TB of storage for Rs 1,84,999. The Fold 3, in comparison, cost Rs 1,49,999 (12GB/256GB) and Rs 1,57,999 (12GB/512GB) at launch.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, Galaxy Z Flip 4 first impressions: Small steps make big changes happen

Does that mean the Fold 4 is overpriced? Certainly not. There are several reasons behind why it costs the way that it does including depreciation in the value of rupee against the US dollar but even in the US, the Fold 4 is priced same as the Fold 3. Samsung makes a big deal about how it wants to make folding devices commonplace. Several generations in and no significant changes to core design, one would think, Samsung would have figured out a way to make these devices a little cheaper. But that is not the case, at least at the time of writing. Maybe, the Fold 5 would do that, or maybe, it would introduce a fresh design. We’ll see.

As for the Fold 4, there is nothing quite like it in the market today and for that Samsung deserves all the credit.  

Pros Cons
Premium build Still big and bulky
Folding display No dust resistance
Fast performance Long-term durability concerns remain
Slick software Pricey
Great cameras
Good battery life

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