ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review - 7 things to know

Bend over backwards to get hold of this one.

Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review - 7 things to know
Basil Kronfli
12 February 2020

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, Samsung's second foldable phone, has unfurled onto the scene and into our hearts. After weeks of leaks, culminating in an Oscars-like reveal, we've tried it. And we like it, a lot... in case you couldn't tell.

This time around, Samsung's bringing foldable glass to the market; yep, you heard right - foldable glass. All bend and no snap, this new screen should mean better scratch resistance than plastic foldables. And it works beautifully on first use with this Motorola Razr-style clamshell phone.

Available in three colours, Mirror Purple, Mirror Black and Mirror Gold, the Z Flip's almost holographic finish is pure retro chic. It takes you back to Samsung's flip phone heyday with one mightily satisfying snap shut, but with a very modern twist.

At $1,380 in the US, and £1,300 in the UK, with a Valentine's Day 2020 release, how much love the Z Flip gets when it launches is yet to be seen. But one thing's for sure, as far as foldables go, it's already our boo.

1. Polite company

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

Having your phone on the table when you're with friends or colleagues is a distraction. Some think it's rude. Others don't. But when one lights up on a table with a WhatsApp or Hinge message for all to see, the conversation gets derailed. Your trail of thought is lost, you stumble over awkward conversation for the remainder of your time together and you realise you're a slave to tech and can't truly disconnect. Cue existential crisis.

Not so fast - Galaxy Z Flip to the rescue. This phone's front display is ridiculously teeny, at 1.1 inches. Even if the whole thing lights up, you'll barely acknowledge it in a bustling room. It won't butt in when the conversation is flowing if its silent mode is active. A silent mode that isn't just audibly silent but visually silent too - excellent.

2. Pocket square

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

Who doesn't love a thing pronounced differently across the pond? At the phone's launch event, Samsung cleverly got a Brit, Rebecca Hirst, Samsung UK's head of product marketing to deliver the Galaxy Z(ed) Flip keynote. She reliably got a chuckle out of the audience when she poked fun at her accent, but while the audience was lolling at her 'Zed', we were cooing over how pocket-friendly the Z(ed) Flip looked in her hand.

At just 7.36cm tall when folded, Samsung's new clamshell's incredible squatness ensures nothing will be poking out of the top of your shallow jean pockets as you shimmy through your day. To put that height into context the Z Flip's screen is a giant 6.7 inches when opened up.

Compare that to the 6.5-inch-screen, 157.6mm-tall iPhone 11 Pro Max, at the upper end of what you'd realistically class as pocketable. Fold the Galaxy Z Flip down to size, and you get a smartphone that clocks in at less than half the height of Apple's finest - 7.36cm.

There is a catch: thickness. Like anything foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip is basically a sandwich, or a calzone, making it 17.3mm thick when closed. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is a super-slender 7.8mm.

3. Who needs a tripod anyway?

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

Mobile photography is a big deal. The currency of a 2020 smartphone snapper seems to be how many cameras adorn its back. Things aren't looking good for the Flip, with just two main cameras, but not so fast. Thanks to Samsung's clever UI wizardry, the Z Flip's front and rear cameras operate when the phone is partly folded, and the sensationally sturdy hinge can hold the top half in place at any point throughout its range of motion. In short - the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is its own tripod!

Rest it on a surface, set the phone to night mode or take a longer exposure shot in manual mode, and you can use the fact it doesn't have to contend with hand shake to eke out the crispest picture possible from its 12MP rear camera.

There's also an ultra-wide-angle lens, so the foldable phone can grab all-encompassing landscapes. If you want to get zooming, however, check out the slightly more affordable Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, with 10x hybrid optical zoom and 100x "Space Zoom".

4. Split-screen selfies and gallery

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

The Galaxy Z Flip has Samsung's tried and tested 10MP selfie camera, as found on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. What makes it so unique is that it can capture 2K video and it has autofocus, a rarity for front cameras.

It's elevated even further on the Z Flip. As we mentioned, Samsung has optimised the foldable phone's interface to operate when half folded - whether in hand or on a surface. That means you can see the viewfinder in the top half of the display, while in the bottom half are the shooting controls - shutter release, etc. And you can take a crystal clear selfie while holding the phone like a compact mirror, or resting it on a surface.

This neat screen splitting carries through to the gallery too. Your photos are showcased in the top half of the display when the Z Flip is partly folded, but you can swipe through them by thumbing over the bottom half - perfect when you're keen to showcase more photos and fewer thumbs or fingers.

5. Flagship specs

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

The Motorola RAZR (2019) was a corker when it was announced. Its nostalgia factor hit new heights for a smartphone not seen since the Nokia 3310 renaissance a couple of years ago. Motorola's phone also introduced a style of foldable much more practical than the Galaxy Fold or Huawei's Mate X - we're not surprised Samsung has gone and copied it. That said, Moto's masterpiece was, and is, seriously expensive despite its internals being painfully middling.

Thankfully, Samsung's not messing about here. The Galaxy Z Flip has a flagship processor, the Snapdragon 855+, combined with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. This might not be the very best money can buy from a specs point of view, but it's as nippy as any power-hungry techy will need for the next year or two at least, and a lot better than the RAZR.

6. Sounds as good as it looks

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

Okay, a crease may develop over time in the middle of the Galaxy Z Flip screen. Samsung has fessed up. But that shouldn't detract from the fact its Dynamic AMOLED display is a fantastic panel for watching HDR content like Prime Video and Netflix, in the dark. AMOLEDs don't illuminate blacks the same way LCDs do, so the Z Flip's going to be cracking for a bit of low light entertainment, whether you're on a night flight or in bed.

If you're in the comfort of your own home, you can also bank on the phone's stereo speakers. They are tuned by AKG and sound half-decent - not a given in a smartphone.

There's no headphone jack present (boo), but, luckily, even if you don't have Bluetooth headphones, Samsung has included a pair of USB-C AKG headphones in the box (wahay), so whichever way you look at it, you're sorted.

7. Oh, snap

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on

We couldn't end our time with the Galaxy Z Flip without confirming that it does indeed deliver that satisfying clamshell snap when clapped shut. The hinge feels nothing short of masterful in the flesh, and it reminds us of the Microsoft Surface hinge - it feels secure throughout its entire movement.

What's more, it's easier to open up one-handed than the Motorola RAZR (2019), giving us a bit more confidence that our butter fingers won't fumble our pricey foldable all the way to a crashing encounter with an unforgiving pavement.

Even at £1,300 we're already feeling the love for Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip. It's the first foldable we've used that doesn't have deal-breaking caveats, making it feel less like a proof of concept, and more like a futuristic throwback to the days of clamshells past.