Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: A flipping fantastic foldable for everyone
Over the last four years, the foldable smartphone market has gone from almost being dead on arrival thanks to the original launch of the Galaxy Fold, to a lineup that’s captivated the imagination of millions of customers globally. Samsung has led the charge on this, combining its brand appeal and vast marketing budgets to nudge the Galaxy Z line out of the shadows and firmly into the limelight.
The subtle changes to the width and aspect ratio, performance enhancements from the latest Snapdragon processor, an incredible camera array borrowed from the Galaxy S22 series, and productivity improvements through the latest One UI create an experience that, for the first time, can be widely recommended. Yes, it’s the most expensive phone on the market, but the Galaxy Z Fold 4 deals are fantastic, and it’s easy to recommend to most people. Simply put, it’s so good that everyone should buy it.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 has fewer compromises, is more durable and overall a much better smartphone than its predecessors. The battery may not last your full day and charging is slow, but it's one of the best phones you can buy today and one that I recommend to everybody.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Price: Save big with last-chance pre-order offers
I love the Galaxy Z Fold 4 so much that I bought one, but a deciding factor in this was the incredible trade-in deals. Pre-orders are still open until its official launch on the 26th, and you can save a bundle on the starting price of $1,799.99.
First, you can get 512GB of storage instead of the 256GB base at no extra cost (saving you $120), then there’s up to $300 pre-order credit if you also buy the excellent Galaxy Watch 5 (which I reviewed, and really enjoy) and lastly, you can get up to $1,000 off if you trade-in a recent phone.
Yes, a starting price of $1,799.99 is extremely high but Samsung’s secret to growing the market and mindshare of foldable has been the excellent deals it regularly offers. My total outlay for a Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Watch 5 was just over $1,000 before taxes, which puts it at the same price as any other flagship.
At $1,799.99, it’s hard to recommend any phone, but snag a good deal thanks to a trade-in and you should buy the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Specifications
|Specification||Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4|
|Dimensions & Weight||
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1|
|RAM & Storage||
|Battery & Charging||
|Security||Side-mounted fingerprint scanner|
|Software||One UI 4.1.1 based on Android 12L|
|Other Features||S-Pen support on the main display|
About this review: Samsung US sent us a Galaxy Z Fold 4 for review. This review is written after using the device for more than two weeks. Samsung had no input in the contents of this review.
How the design tweaks created a near-perfect form factor
If you’ve never used a Galaxy Z Fold before, you won’t notice the changes in design tweaks. But if you’ve used last year’s model, you’ll immediately notice how it’s subtly shorter and wider. The exact changes are minuscule but big improvements come in small iterations. Each Galaxy Fold has been slightly shorter and the screen wider than its predecessor, as Samsung continues to make changes in order to find the perfect size where it works for everyone.
The entire phone is 2mm shorter, and slightly lighter but the actual width hasn’t changed much at all. Instead, Samsung has narrowed the bezels further resulting in the main screen that’s 2.8mm wider, while the Cover Screen bezels are slightly smaller as well. The result is far more comfortable one-handed usage on the Cover Screen, while the main screen is more immersive.
Despite a more protruded camera bump, the slimmer hinge means that the entire phone weighs 8 grams less, and it’s surprisingly noticeable in everyday usage. Having returned to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for a day, it felt noticeably heavier, although this could also be due to the other design changes.
Beyond those changes, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 retains the successful design language used in the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The Cover Screen is the right size for one-handed usage and is very similar to the size of the Galaxy S22 Plus. The main screen is gorgeous, the camera bump is not too bulky and the side fingerprint sensor is excellent.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 displays are even better than before
The two displays on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 are also slightly improved this year. While they share the same technical specs as last year, each has had subtle improvements that make them better, although with some unintended consequences.
The Cover Screen has also been tweaked; it’s 2.8mm wider than the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and slightly shorter, meaning it’s far more comfortable to use one-handed. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is slightly cramped when typing on the Cover Screen but one-handed typing on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is superb. The wider display means that the on-screen keyboard has slightly wider keys, which in turn makes it far more comfortable to type on. The aspect ratio is now 23.1:9, but letterboxing is less of a concern with the Cover Screen.
Both displays are also slightly brighter and more vibrant, and the crease is not a concern on the Main Screen. Thanks to Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, both are far more durable than last year, and the main screen is 45% more durable than the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which adds a little reassurance when you’re using it on the move.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 battery can be great, but it’s inconsistent
The Galaxy Z Flip 4 saw an increase in battery size, but the Galaxy Z Fold 4 features the same battery capacity as the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The 4,400 mAh battery is an acceptable capacity but after using it for two weeks, I think it needs a slightly bigger battery. Samsung is relying on processor and software optimizations to make the battery life better than last year, but these can only go so far.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 had all-around great battery life, although the only caveat is that you probably didn’t want to use the camera that often. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 also has great battery life, but I noticed that extensive use of the camera has a substantial impact.
On average, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 lasts more than 24 hours on a full charge, with around 5-7 hours of screen on time with a mix of usage between the Main Screen and the Cover Screen. Prioritizing the Main Screen can reduce the battery life to 4 hours screen on time, while just using the Cover Screen results in the upper end of our findings. On a day when I was using the camera heavily, the battery dropped to around 3.5 hours, which would have likely been lower if I had been using the Main Screen.
Throughout my time with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, I’ve been using two SIMs, and especially when I was traveling, the network connection on the roaming SIM was questionable. As a result, I think some of this is not related to the phone as it is my specific use example. Similarly, I’ve had certain apps drain the battery thanks to poor optimization, and based on the results I’ve been seeing elsewhere, the battery life can be fantastic. Ultimately, like any phone, the battery life will depend heavily upon your own use cases. Use it primarily with the Cover Screen and you’ll get phenomenal battery life. But use it solely with the Main Screen and you will likely struggle. Combine the two and you’ll fall somewhere in between, and whether you game or use the camera a lot will also have an impact.
That said, we all have power banks and many of us spend enough time near a wall to quickly charge up. There are no insanely fast charging speeds here, and a full charge will take about 90 minutes, although it can charge to 45% in about 30 minutes. This is one area we would have to see an improvement. 25W is not fast charging in my opinion and given that the OnePlus 10T can charge to full in 22 minutes and costs just $600, Samsung has truly missed a beat by not upgrading the charging experience, especially on a phone that costs $1,799.99. There’s also fast wireless charging, although this won’t be as fast as wired charging (which is already slow enough, to begin with). Also, note that there is no charger included in the box, so you will need to buy a charging adapter separately.
Overall, battery life is acceptable, but not the best on the market and I think a slightly bigger capacity battery would help the next generation deliver consistently great battery life!
Premium hardware at a premium price
Like any flagship, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 comes with premium hardware and has just about every feature you could expect. Given it costs $1,799.99, there are also a few areas we would have loved to see improvements but ultimately, it has the flagship specs sheet you’d expect from any top-of-the-range smartphone.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is powered by the latest Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor and comes with 12GB of RAM alongside a choice of 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB internal storage. The 1TB storage option is new to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (the previous generation only offered the former two storage options) and will satisfy everyone who needs a lot of storage for media or takes a lot of photos.
Like last year’s model, there are also a host of other specs worth noting. There’s IPX8 dust and water resistance adding to the durability of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, while it runs Android 12L which is designed with the foldable form factor in mind. There’s an array of sensors including a side-mounted fingerprint sensor – which I absolutely love on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 – that you should be able to swipe down on to show your notifications.
Galaxy Z Fold 4 finally offers a flagship camera
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 finally fixes one of my biggest annoyances with every Galaxy Fold: the cameras. Previously, the camera was just an afterthought for the foldable, but this year Samsung is finally taking the imaging experience on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 seriously. Borrowing the same camera system as the Galaxy S22 Plus, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 finally delivers an imaging experience that delivers in every scenario.
The main camera is the 50MP sensor from the Galaxy S22 Plus and is far better than the 12MP sensor found on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It offers 4x the resolution of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, and the f/1.8 aperture lets in 23% more light resulting in better overall photos. There’s pixel binning in the main camera meaning you get 12.5MP photos with 2.4µm pixel size (vs 1.0µm pixel size at full resolution) and the OIS results in an overall smooth experience.
My favorite addition is the 10MP telephoto lens, which offers up to 3X optical zoom and 30X Space Zoom. As a user of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, I’m used to having a capable zoom lens in my pocket, and while the Galaxy Z Fold 4 doesn’t hit those lofty heights, it does finally deliver a capable experience. In the images below, you can see how the camera goes from ultrawide to wide to 3x to 30x space zoom.
I found myself constantly taking 3X zoom shots and the camera proved itself to be incredibly reliable. The 30X Space Zoom can take a few seconds to stabilize but the 3X optical zoom is perfect for most use cases and the main camera takes fantastic, vibrant, and detailed photos.
The ultra-wide camera is the same 12MP sensor we’ve come to know from other Samsung phones. It’s a 12MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture, 123° field of view, and 1.12µm pixel size. Like every Samsung camera, the images it produces are saturated and visually very appealing, and I love shooting with it. It takes overall very capable photos that you’ll love to share.
I absolutely love Samsung phones for one other camera feature: the portrait mode. Samsung has slowly been improving its portrait mode and the result is one that’s technically and artistically a joy to use. Like the Galaxy S22 series, Samsung has really identified how to extract a person or other subject from the background, and this means that everything, even a strand of hair, remains in focus while everything in the background disappears or can be tweaked.
This means that you can be very artistic with your portrait shots. Anyone who has read one of my reviews of Samsung phones knows that I adore using the Color Point mode which keeps the foreground in color while making the background entirely grayscale. The possibilities are tremendous here, and it allows you to take breathtaking photos that you’ll want to share.
Beyond that, you may also find the backdrop feature useful. This allows you to replace the background with a solid color, in a similar way to how you might use a greenscreen. I personally am more inclined to use Color Point or blur, but it depends on your artistic inclinations. The other modes – Blur, Studio lighting, Low-key, and high-key mono – all have various uses even though I didn’t use them much. What sets Samsung apart is the ability to take these photos in one mode, then entirely change the effect afterward and save it again, meaning all you need to do is shoot in one of the portrait modes then you can change them until you’re happy later.
The front camera on the Cover Screen is still a 10MP sensor but it’s a newer, better sensor. During optimal conditions, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 takes excellent photos while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 was rather lackluster, and at night, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is miles ahead of its predecessor. It now takes usable and enjoyable photos, vs being something you’d delete or just ignore for the rest of time.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is arguably a phone that you could rely on to replace a dedicated digital camera for professional tasks, but the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is not this. If you’re someone who plans to take photos with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 to then print, you might find yourself disappointed. However, for most people, this is a camera that’s capable of taking great photos that look great on either display and that you’ll want to share with friends and family.
Samsung gets smart with One UI on the Galaxy Z Fold 4
I’m a huge fan of the Galaxy Z Fold range because it allows me to be productive on the go, but the other reason is that Samsung is finally showing its software prowess. The much-maligned TouchWiz was replaced by One UI five years ago, and Samsung is consistently delivering new software experiences to take advantage of the unique form factors its smartphones offer.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a prime example of this. The biggest addition to the software is the new taskbar, which I use every time I use the Main Screen. Like a PC or Mac, the taskbar is a permanent (or semi-permanent depending on your choice) bar that sits at the bottom of the Main Screen to give you access to up to eight apps.
One UI is full of little tricks that make the Galaxy Z Fold 4 a joy to use, but some of these have the unintended consequence of affecting other areas. For example, the absolute best way to use the Main Screen is to turn on mirroring, which takes your first two home screens on the Cover Display and shrinks everything down to display them both side by side. This mode is fantastic and the best way to take advantage of all the screen real estate, but it has an unintended effect on the taskbar.
The apps displayed on the taskbar can’t be set independently. By default, it displays the first five apps on your home screen – which if you’re mirroring, basically means the first five apps on your main Cover Screen – and then either the next three from your home screen or your three most recent apps. Neither of these is a perfect implementation because likely you want access to your dialer and other apps on the Cover Screen that you’ll never use on the Main Screen, at least that was my use case. I really hope that Samsung lets us set these independently soon, as it would make the taskbar a transformational feature on the Main Screen.
Where the Galaxy Z Fold 4 really shines is the productivity, however. I say this with every generation of the Fold but since the early years of the Galaxy Note, I’ve wondered what Samsung’s long-term plan was for multitasking. Yes, the Galaxy Note range had a decent size screen but it wasn’t a transformative experience. Yes, it also came to the Galaxy Tab range which made for a good experience on the bigger display, but Samsung’s biggest strength wasn’t being properly utilized in its flagship phones.
The Fold 4 and the Folds before it are the culmination of more than a decade of perfecting mobile productivity. Samsung has stolen a huge march over any competitor when it comes to multitasking on mobile devices and with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the hardware can take full advantage.
The key part of the multi-window experience is the ability to run three apps side by side, with one main app taking up half the screen and the other two taking up a quarter of the screen each. Using two apps side by side is my norm and each takes up the average space of a regular smartphone screen, but I’ll often also run a third app. You can also run more apps that appear as pop-up windows and disappear into chat-head-like icons that are visible above all other apps but can be moved around the screen. When it comes to working on the go, there’s no better phone for it.
Last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 bought a lot of improvements, but one of the biggest additions was support for the S Pen. The Galaxy S22 Ultra this year bought an embedded S Pen slot, but the Fold 4 still relies on an external S Pen. With a bit of luck and engineering marvel, hopefully, we’ll have an embedded Galaxy S Pen in a future Fold. But aside from that, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is almost perfect for the S Pen.
Like any S Pen-enabled device, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 supports drag and drop between multiple windows, handwriting input and all the Air Actions features that we’ve come to know and love. Last year, Samsung created a case that stored the S Pen awkwardly in the hinge, but this year’s official Galaxy Z Fold 4 case still adds bulk but lets you swap out the S Pen holder for a kickstand. It’s not as elegant as an embedded S Pen, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The truth however is that you probably won’t use the S Pen that often. Once the novelty of using the S Pen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 wore off – and I got a little tired of the speed bump effect of using the S Pen on the main screen – I never really carried the S Pen. Yes, there were plenty of times when I missed having the S Pen because I needed to sign a document, but these were not enough for me to want to carry it full-time. If you’re more of a dedicated S Pen user, however, the Fold 4 supports both the S Pen Pro or the S Pen Fold Edition, with the latter being more streamlined and designed with the Fold 3 and Fold 4 in mind.
Ultimately, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the king of productivity and the improvements to the camera mean it’s going to stay in my pocket.
During the past fortnight, I’ve been planning two things that would have been considerably harder without the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The overriding theme of both is multitasking with Google Sheets and several other apps at once. First, I’ve been working on a transcontinental move ahead of the bitterly cold East Coast winters. This is where the big screen of the Fold 4 has been instrumental.
The other big thing has been an end-of-year month-long vacation that takes place in six cities and four countries. This has also required a spreadsheet, but it’s also needed a lot of cross-checking between various apps to check flights, reviews, locations, and pricing. On my laptop, I’d be running three-to-four apps side-by-side and on any regular phone, it would be a single-app-at-a-time experience, but the Galaxy Z Fold 4 brings a laptop-like experience on the go.
As a smartphone, it crucially doesn’t have to be put away when you’re taking off on a plane, which comes in handy when you’re delayed on the tarmac like I was for a few hours yesterday. Several folks who were working had already put their laptops away, but I was able to keep doing everything I was until the delay was resolved.
Should you buy the Galaxy Z Fold 4?
I highly recommend the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It takes a very good smartphone from last year and makes the right improvements to create something that’s bigger than the sum of just those improvements. Ultimately, it’s the phone you could recommend to anybody if you can stomach the price.
The new camera is a big improvement over the Galaxy Z Fold 3, and if you’ve been disappointed by the Galaxy Z Fold 3 camera, I would recommend upgrading to the Z Fold 4. I personally think the additional cost is worth it, especially if you plan to keep it for two years or more.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is also the best phone for getting things done on the go. When I’m in a taxi, on the couch, on a train or even walking down the street, I’m always firing open the Main Screen to jot something down, to tweet while watching something, or even as a Kindle book reader.
It’s not the perfect device, but the trade-offs made in the Galaxy Z Fold 4 aren’t big enough to take away from the overall experience. If you want a smartphone that can seemingly do it all, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the phone for you.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 takes the most productive smartphone on the market and makes it even better. The subtle changes to the size and weight mean it's far more comfortable to use in the hand, while the cameras have received a huge improvement meaning they're finally as good as the Galaxy S22 range. These changes aren't cheap but they take a very good smartphone and make it great! It's one of the best phones you can buy today and one that I recommend to everybody.