The best Galaxy Z Flip features that you need to try first

What to do first? Try this mix of Android settings and features exclusive to Samsung's newest foldable phone.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
4 min read

Though spilt-screen apps aren't new, the Galaxy Z Flip's screen makes them a bit more useful. We set the phone at a 90-degree angle with YouTube on the top half and a CNET story on the bottom half.

Patrick Holland/CNET

On Friday, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip foldable phone went on sale just days after it was formally announced at the Samsung Unpacked Event in San Francisco. It comes out a week after the Motorola Razr -- another foldable-screen clamshell phone -- hit stores. The Razr and Galaxy Z Flip have a lot in common, but they're also very different phones. Together they represent some of the biggest design changes to hit phones in years.

If you're lucky enough to get your hands on a shiny new Galaxy Z Flip, there are a lot of amazing features to explore, like the tiny 1.1-inch pill-shaped external display and Flex Mode. But there are a few Android 10 settings you can change to optimize the Z Flip even more, especially for better one-handed use.

Take a second to wipe the smudges off your Galaxy Z Flip, then take a moment to try these features.

Read: Galaxy Z Flip: 3 months later, I love it but still don't recommend it

Turn the Z Flip fingerprint sensor into a scroll wheel

The Galaxy Z Flip begs to be used one-handed. And even though Samsung's OneUI 2 interface makes buttons and windows easier to interact with, reaching the top of the screen for the notifications can still be a pain. Luckily, there's an Android setting that turns the fingerprint reader on the side of the phone into a capacitive scroll wheel to pull down the notifications drawer.

To turn this feature on:

1. Go to Settings.

2. Tap on Advanced Features.

3. Select Motions and Gestures.

4. Turn the Finger sensor gestures slider button on.

When your phone is open, draw your finger from the top of the fingerprint sensor to the bottom to pull down the notifications drawer. Do the same motion a second time to reveal the control panel. Swipe up on the sensor to close the panel and the drawer.

Take a selfie with the power button

When the Z Flip is closed, you can double-tap the power button to open the exterior camera for a selfie. The tiny 1.1-inch pill-shaped screen will show a cropped live preview.

To take a photo, either press the volume button, or raise the palm of your hand to the camera to trigger a camera timer and countdown.

Master the itty-bitty external display

Aside from letting you frame selfies when the phone is closed, the little external display has a few other uses. Tap the power button to show the date, time and battery status. Swipe your finger across the display to the right to reveal notifications. Tap any of the icons to see a brief part of the notification. If your phone is charging, the display will show the battery percentage and give you an estimate of how long it'll take your phone to be fully charged.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

The tiny exterior display can show time, date, battery status and some notifications.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Flex Mode turns the Z Flip into a baby laptop

The hinge on the Galaxy Z Flip is stiff enough to stay open in any position. Samsung has optimized a few apps to take advantage of the display when you have the phone open about halfway. For example, when you open the YouTube app in Flex Mode, your video will play on the top half of the screen, while comments appear on the bottom.

Here are other ways to use Flex Mode:

  • Make Google Duo video calls.
  • In the Gallery app, scroll through photos on the bottom half of the screen, like a trackpad.
  • Take a selfie hands-free.
  • Use as a tripod to take photos, videos and hyperlapses.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip impresses from almost every angle

See all photos

Z Flip split-screen apps

The tall, 6.7-inch screen with its 21:9 aspect ratio is perfect for displaying split-screen Android apps, one app on top of another.

1. Swipe up on the home screen to go into the recent apps view, or tap the recent apps button from the navigation bar.

2. Choose the app you want to appear on top and press and hold the app icon.

3. After a moment a menu will appear.

4. Tap Open in split screen view.

5. Next, choose the second app you want to appear on the bottom.

6. Once you're in split-screen mode, you can press and hold on the divider bar to resize how much room each app takes up.

Enable gestures for better one-handed use

I found trading the traditional Android navigation bar for gestures made the Z Flip easier to use one-handed.

To enable gestures:

1. Go to Settings.

2. Tap Display.

3. Select Navigation Bar.

4. Next, choose Full screen gestures.

To use gestures, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go Home. Swipe up and hold to go to view recent apps. And swipe from the right or left of the screen to go back.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

There's no need for a tripod. Just put the Z Flip into a 90-degree position and it'll act as its own base.

Jason Hiner/CNET

Claim your free YouTube Premium access

If you didn't already know, by purchasing a Galaxy Z Flip, you get four months of YouTube Premium -- that's YouTube without ads, plus YouTube Music -- for free. To take advantage of the offer:

1. Open the YouTube app.

2. Tap on your profile in the top right corner.

3. Select YouTube Premium.

4. Tap the blue Try It Free button.

5. Enter your credit card information to begin your free trial.

For more on Samsung's new foldable, here's our hands-on look at the Galaxy Z Flip and what impressed us about the new clamshell.

Originally published Feb.14, 2020.