Galaxy Z Fold 4: Samsung gets a better idea of ​​who foldable phones are for

What is going on

Samsung announces the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the latest foldable phone in large format.

Why it matters

Samsung sees foldable phones as the key to the future of its mobile device lineup. As one of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers, Samsung influences the wider market.

What’s next

Samsung will release the Galaxy Z Fold 4 on August 26 for $1,800.

Samsung promotes being foldable phone ambitions with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which goes on sale on August 26 and starts at $1,800 (£1,649, AU$2,499).

The new book-style foldable phone announced on Wednesday Unpacked event has a custom design that should be easier to manage in phone mode. It’s also getting new software that takes advantage of the foldable screen and routine processor and camera upgrades.

Samsung was an early entrant to the market and launched its first Galaxy Fold device in 2019. According to estimates from Display Supply Chain Consultants and Omdia, it leads the foldable phone market by a wide margin in terms of shipments. But foldable phones still account for a portion of the wider mobile phone market. The new Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 are Samsung’s latest attempt to change that by removing some of the biggest criticisms of previous models, potentially making foldable devices more appealing to a wider audience.

For example, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has a wider cover screen that looks more like a regular non-foldable phone when closed. The change makes apps look more natural, as the Z Fold 4’s screen isn’t as narrow. The difference is certainly noticeable compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but the screen is still not as wide as a standard phone like the Galaxy S22 or iPhone 13.

Samsung is also doing more to make the Galaxy Z Fold 4 useful when the screen is half folded. Flex mode, which splits an app between the top and bottom of the screen when the Z Fold is open, is getting a new feature. You can use the bottom half of the screen as a trackpad to control the content on the top half, similar to the touchpad on a laptop.

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That should make navigating apps in Flex Mode easier, as you don’t have to hide the top portion of the screen with your finger as you scroll. The newly announced Galaxy Z Flip 4 will also get this feature, and Samsung says it will evaluate to bring it to older Galaxy Z Fold and Flip devices. Samsung also says that the Z Fold 4 is the first device to ship with Android 12L, the version of Android optimized for tablets. One of the most notable Android 12 additions is the Z Fold 4’s new taskbar, which should make switching between apps easier.

The overall design of the Z Fold 4 is generally the same, but Samsung claims that the Z Fold 4 is built sturdier. The exterior is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, while the tablet-sized internal screen is 45% more durable. Samsung also says that the Z Fold 4’s interior display is brighter than its predecessor and that the interior camera is less noticeable. Like the previous version, the Z Fold 4 is also compatible with the S Pen.

Otherwise, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 gets the camera and processor upgrades you’d expect from an annual phone update. The camera in particular is remarkable; Samsung upgrades the Z Fold 4’s triple-lens camera system to a 50-megapixel main sensor, 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor and 10-megapixel telephoto lens. That telephoto lens supports optical zoom up to 3x and digital zoom up to 30x. Samsung also brings the Galaxy S22’s improved low-light photography to the Z Fold 4 and Flip 4.

Samsung foldable

The cover screen of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is wider than that of the Z Fold 3.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Most people interested in the Galaxy Z Fold probably care more about the phone’s gigantic interior screen than the camera. But for such a high price, the Z Fold 4 should have a camera that at least matches or beats Samsung’s non-foldable phones. The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s cameras are certainly a step in the right direction, representing a remarkable upgrade over the Z Fold 3’s 12-megapixel wide-angle, telephoto and ultra-wide-angle lenses. Galaxy S22 Ultra is still Samsung’s best camera phone.

The Z Fold 4 will also run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor, a newer and slightly improved version of the chip in the Galaxy S22 lineup. The battery capacity also remains the same at 4,400 mAh, which is a shame – Patrick Holland of CNET was disappointed with the battery life of the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung foldable

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a more refined and polished version of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Samsung seems to be getting a better understanding of who these devices are for, having been around for about three years now. With its large screen and S Pen compatibility, Samsung positions the Z Fold 4 as a productivity device, much like the extinct Galaxy Note. By establishing that direction, Samsung can focus on adding new features that are unique and specific to the Z Fold, rather than just making sure apps run smoothly on the Fold’s various screen sizes.

At $1800, the Z Fold 4 is still a tough sell. And while these new features are a sign of progress, they may not be enough to entice users of non-foldable phones. But it’s one step closer to figuring out what role, if any, foldables can play in our lives.

Look for more on the Galaxy Z Flip 4, galaxy watch 5, Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and everything else Samsung has announced.

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