Galaxy Z Flip: Don't buy it, until you read this

Looking at buying Samsung's new folding phone? Read this first.

Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
4 min read
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Samsung's new folding Z Flip has impressed us in our full review process. CNET editor Jessica Dolcourt even went so far as to call it "the best foldable phone I've ever used." Big words, when the competition is heating up with the likes of the Motorola Razr, Huawei Mate X and Samsung's own Galaxy Fold . But if you're sold on this new bending technology -- and you can stomach the $1,380 (£1,300) price -- here are six things you should keep in mind before splashing your cash. 

Read more: Galaxy Z Flip 3 is $1,000 and no longer looks like a foldable drink coaster

1. People will ask you about it

The Z Flip is arguably the best-looking folding phone so far, particularly in the flashy purple color option. It folds into a lovely neat square and transforms into a vibrant, full-screen phone. That sort of thing catches the eye and I've already had multiple people asking me about it when I'm out and about, and I've overheard several whispers of, "Oh, that's that new folding phone." 

Does that matter? Well, depends on your sensibilities. On the one hand, if you're the shy, retiring type then you may find this a little embarrassing. However, you probably don't spend that sort of cash on new technology without wanting to show it off a little, so my suggestion would be to embrace it and use it as a conversation starter. See if you can impress a barman enough to get a free drink. 

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

Watch this: Galaxy Z Flip is the best foldable phone so far

2. The camera is only OK

The camera is, for me, one of the more disappointing aspects of the phone. With such a high price, I'd expect every element of the phone to be absolutely cutting-edge, with camera capabilities equalling any of today's top-end phones. That's not quite the case with the Z Flip. 

Its dual rear cameras offer a standard and a superwide view, and while both are fine for everyday snaps, they aren't up there with the best. Colors often look very oversaturated and the lack of a zoom lens means if you want to get close-up of your subject, you have to use the digital zoom -- at a huge cost to image quality. 

It lacks the dual-aperture mode of even last year's most affordable Galaxy S10E and at 12 megapixels, its superwide lens is lower-resolution than the S10e's 16 megapixels. It's not a bad camera by any means, but it's worth keeping in mind that you're not getting flagship-level photo capabilities for the flagship-level price.

3. You need to be careful of dust and water

Many recent flagships -- the Galaxy S10 and S20, the  iPhone 11 and various others -- have earned IP ratings that mean they're protected against dust and water. The folding mechanism of the Z Flip, however, means that no such protections are claimed here. We're back to the old days of having to obsessively protect your phone from the elements. 

That means you should think twice about taking that call in the rain, and it's worth making sure you don't have any general detritus in the pocket where you keep your phone. A recent test by iFixit showed that it's easy to get dust clogged up inside the Z Flip. Something to keep in mind once you've unboxed your pricey new gadget.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Sarah Tew/CNET

4. The outside screen is a bit annoying

The Z Flip has a small pill-shaped display on the outside of the phone. It's designed to show you incoming notifications when the phone is closed, and can even act as a small camera viewfinder for taking selfies. 

As Jessica puts it: "Unfortunately, it's too small, squat and narrow to really do anything meaningful with" and it's awkward to properly read any notifications on the tiny screen, making it much easier to just open the phone instead. As a camera viewfinder, its small size means it doesn't show the whole image you're taking, so composing a group selfie is difficult. 

Watch this: Galaxy Z Flip screen reportedly has problems

5. Battery life isn't great

In our looping video battery rundown tests, the phone achieved 15 hours of run time from a full charge. That's on the lower end of what we'd expect from a phone. By comparison, the Galaxy S10 Plus achieved 21 hours in the same test, as did the Galaxy Note 10 Plus.

With careful use you may be able to get a full day out of the phone, but if you're planning on hitting the town right after work, make sure you've given it a top-up if you want enough power to call a cab home at the end of the night. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Sarah Tew/CNET

6. There's no 5G

While 5G may still be a year or more away from becoming the standard network connection for all our phones, it's becoming increasingly widespread around the world. You may not be bothered about 5G right now, but when you're spending so much money on your phone, it's likely you'll want to hold onto it for at least a couple of years. (A $1,450 5G-enabled version of the Galaxy Z Flip was announced in July).

Will you be so ambivalent about superfast 5G at the end of 2020? As you enter 2021, will you look down at your pricey folding phone and wish that it could stream games as smoothly as your friends on their 5G connections? Maybe, maybe not. I won't say it's a deal-breaker but it's certainly worth considering, particularly as Samsung's 5G-enabled S20 Ultra is only marginally more expensive.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip impresses from almost every angle

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