The Flip and Fold turned a corner last year. Previous versions of Samsung’s folding phones were more tech demos than anything — awkward, very expensive, and too fragile for just anyone to consider against a garden-variety slab-style phone. That started to change in August 2021 when Samsung learned how to waterproof folding phones.
This year, Samsung has made key upgrades that bring even more parity to the foldable line versus the S-series flagships. Picking a Z Fold 4 over the S22 Plus doesn’t require you to make as many sacrifices as it did in the past (except for, you know, an extra $800 or so). But there’s still a lot to prove if foldable will go mainstream.
For starters, screen repairs for the Flip and Fold are a bit less expensive this year — that is, if you subscribe to Samsung’s Care Plus service. Previously, Samsung charged a $249 deductible to repair a screen on an out-of-warranty Flip or Fold. What's with the $11 per month Care Plus subscription? This year, Samsung lowered the deductible cost to match the standard phone screen repairs fee, so a cracked folding screen could cost you as little as $29. It’s a small thing, but it’s one less consideration if you decide between a foldable and a slab-style phone.
The camera hardware is closer to what you get on the main flagships this year. The Fold 3 had a 2x telephoto lens, while the main series S21 Plus offered a 3x zoom. (It was a hybrid 1.1x optical/digital combo, but it was good.) This time, things are more straightforward: the Z Fold 4 has more or less the same rear camera specs as the S22 Plus, including a 3x telephoto lens (what even is the point of 2x?) and a 50-megapixel primary rear camera.
Another camera feature on this year’s Fold wasn’t available last year: space zoom and digital zoom. The Fold 4 offers up to 30x digital zoom; the Fold 3 only allows up to 10x. Sure, it’s no replacement for good old-fashioned optics, but Samsung’s digital zoom technology isn’t bad in a pinch.
So those are a few pain points addressed, but Samsung hasn’t quite achieved parity yet. Right at the top, there’s the cost. Yes, the $999 Flip 4 costs roughly the same as the main S22 phones, but it also misses out on the telephoto lens. If you want the very fanciest, flagship-iest foldable, you’ll have to shell out $1799, which is out of reach for many people. It makes the $1199 S22 Ultra look like a bargain.
It’s also unclear how the phones will hold up in the long run. There’s the problem of screen protectors coming unglued, which Samsung has tried to address in the Flip and Fold 4. And waterproof though they may be, neither phone is dustproof. It’s impossible to say how a Fold 3 or 4 will be holding up in a couple of years — is dust intrusion an inevitable reality after four years of use? And what kind of problems will it cause? We don’t know because this is an entirely new product category.
Samsung has to convince us that the unique form factor is worth the added cost and the long-term durability unknowns. So far, it hasn’t. Its foldable is the bestselling device in the game, but the 10 million(ish) units it sold last year are still a tiny fraction of the 270 million-plus phones it shipped in 2021. Given its dogged persistence through the Fold’s early troubles, I’m willing to bet that Samsung will keep trying for the foreseeable future.
John Ravenporton is a writer for many popular online publications. John is now our chief editor at DailyTechFeed. John specializes in Crypto, Software, Computer and Tech related articles.