Samsung's foldable Z Flip has something Razr doesn't: A bendable glass screen

The Galaxy Z Flip marks Samsung's latest effort to dominate the foldable phone market.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
3 min read

Samsung welcomes the foldable Z Flip to its Galaxy lineup.

Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung's newest foldable is real. The company on Tuesday officially unveiled its Galaxy Z Flip smartphone after months of leaks, hints and even a teaser commercial played during the Oscars.

The device, Samsung's second foldable after its Galaxy Fold, features a clamshell design similar to Motorola's new Razr . The Z Flip , like the Razr, is essentially a high-tech flip phone, with an interior, 6.7-inch bendable screen and a small, exterior notifications panel.

Watch this: Galaxy Z Flip is the first phone with foldable glass

"We're changing the shape of the future," said Rebecca Hirst, Samsung's marketing director. "The Galaxy Z Flip is the statement smartphone."

By comparison, the Galaxy Fold has a 4.6-inch display when closed and a separate 7.3-inch display when opened into a tablet. The Razr's exterior Quick View display is 2.7 inches, while the internal screen stretches to 6.2 inches.

The use of glass in the Flip, which goes on sale Feb. 14 at a starting price of $1,380, is a first for the foldables market and is something that could give the devices a boost. Glass doesn't scratch as easily as plastic, is generally more durable and also will give the Flip a more premium feel than other foldables available for sale. 

Samsung is using proprietary bendable glass it calls Ultra Thin Glass. The company says the glass gives the Flip "a sleek, premium look and feel that has never been seen with a foldable device before." The design also does away with the notch that some phones have incorporated to accommodate cameras and sensors. 

The Flip comes in three colors -- mirror black, mirror purple and mirror gold -- that subtly change as light hits the device.

Watch this: Galaxy Z Flip first impressions

Most companies don't even have one foldable phone, but Samsung now has two. And they're very different from each other. The Flip is more like a smartphone that becomes more pocketable when closed, while last year's Galaxy Fold is a phone that opens up to reveal a bigger tablet. The hope for Samsung is that the Flip avoids the many problems faced by its predecessors, including high pricing and lack of apps. 

Foldables are an attempt to get people excited about phones again. They come at a time when people are holding onto their devices longer than ever before. Last year, people waited an average of 26.6 months before upgrading their Galaxy phones, Samsung said, while in 2016 they waited only 22.2 months. The company is counting on foldables -- along with 5G throughout much of its product line -- to get us shopping again.

Angela Lang/CNET

A year ago, foldable phones had captured everyone's attention. They were something never seen before, devices with expansive screens that actually can fold in half to become more compact. Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi had shown off their designs, and essentially every other major handset maker was rumored to be working on a foldable. 

But every device faced delays and missteps, and it's unclear how well the first batch has sold. Samsung, for its part, delayed the launch of its $1,980 Galaxy Fold by five months after some reporters found screen defects in their review units. When it finally went on sale in September, the Fold was difficult to find in stores, and its $1,980 price tag was high for many buyers. Five months after it became available, there still aren't enough apps that transition well between the Fold's small front screen and the large, interior display. And reviewers criticized that smaller front screen, saying it wasn't large enough to actually be very useful.

Motorola, the only other major handset maker with a foldable available in the US, delayed its Razr multiple times before finally unveiling it in November. The $1,500 device hit stores last week. It's tough to find in stores, is back-ordered online and includes less-advanced technology -- like a weaker processor and more-limited camera capabilities -- than what most high-end smartphones boast. 

The Galaxy Z Flip, with its familiar interior smartphone screen, could attract a lot of buyers right away, unlike the Fold, which mostly seemed geared toward early tech adopters.

Originally published Feb. 11 at 11:06 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:27 a.m.: Adds pricing, availability, colors.
Update, 11:38 a.m.: Adds more information about the glass used.

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