Samsung's Z Flip has a cool hinge and a helpful split screen UX

Find out how Samsung's new foldable phone, which goes on sale on Valentine's Day for $1,380, compares to Motorola's Razr.

Samsung jumped right in with the most anticipated news at Unpacked and put the Z Flip at the top of the show. The foldable phone changes the shape and size of the smartphone as well as how we use it, a Samsung spokeswoman said. 

"The Z Flip is smooth and sleek in my hand and snuggly in my pocket," she said, taking it in and out of her pocket throughout the presentation.

The screen is ultra thin glass that will fold up to 200,000 times, according to Samsung. The hideaway hinge connects both halves of the phone and prevents dust and sand from getting into the phone.

The phone goes on sale Friday, Feb. 14 with a $1,380 price tag. Buyers will get a subscription to YouTube premium.

When the phone is folded, a small screen shows the time, date, and alerts. Users can also take a selfie when the phone is closed and use the cover screen as a view finder. The phone has a 6.7-inch screen and comes in mirror purple, mirror black, and mirror gold in some markets.

"When closed, it lets you disconnect without checking out as all the essential texts alarms and calls display on the cover screen," she said.

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Samsung's One UI 2 is built to take advantage of the phone's form factor. The most interesting new feature of this interface is the split screen; half is for viewing, and half is for interacting.

For example, a user can watch a video on the top half and type a comment on the bottom half. This interface could make the expensive phone more productive for business users when traveling. The One UI 2 interface making it even easier to multitask. A user can lock the phone at its 90-degree angle and have a video call and still have the laptop free for taking notes, referring to files, or adjusting a presentation.

Users also can hold a video chat or take a selfie handsfree. Samsung has optimized some apps to take advantage of this design, including the photo gallery app. Users can scroll through photos on the bottom half while viewing individual photos on the top half.  

Here are the specs for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip:

  • 6.7-inch screen
  • Rear cameras: 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle f/2.2 123-degree; 12-megapixel wide-angle f/1.8 78-degree
  • Front camera: 10-megapixel f/2.4 80-degree
  • 8 GB memory
  • 256 GB storage
  • Folded: 87.4 x 73.6 x 17.3 mm
  • Unfolded: 167.3 x 73.6 x 7.2
  • 183 g/6.46 oz
  • Nano-SIM, eSIM
  • Samsung Pay
  • Always-on display
  • Foldable dynamic AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
  • Android 10.0, One UI 2
  • Qualcomm SM8150 Snapdragon 855+
  • No memory card slot
  • No headphone jack
  • Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
  • Wireless charging
  • Non-removable Li-Po 3300 mAh battery 

Samsung is leading the pack in terms of flip phone options, with the Flip being the company's second folding phone after last year's Galaxy Fold. That phone was an uber-luxury device, selling for $1,980 (£2,000, AU$2,950).

Motorola's Razr is the closest competitor to the Z Flip. Samsung's new foldable phone weighs a little less than the Razr and has a little more RAM as well.

What the Razr has to offer

CNET's Patrick Holland gave the Motorola Razr a test drive for a week, and it survived "snow, two airplane trips, half a dozen cabs, a hotel, various pockets, a backpack, and a house with a cat." The hinge does squeak when it opens and closes, but after seven days, there was no damage to the screen, just lint and dust on the screen.

Holland said that he found it hard to use the phone with one hand, but the tall screen makes it hard to reach the top of the phone to close it or to click a button. He said that Samsung's One UI 2 interface would be a good solution for this problem. 

The second version of the interface brings better reachability, moving icons, and smaller notification windows to Samsung Galaxy phones, wearables, tablets and folding phones. The design also splits the phone's display into two sections with the top part for viewing an the bottom part for interacting.   

Holland had mixed feelings about the phone and said, "If this phone didn't fold in half, it would feel like a mid-tier Android phone." He also found one unexpected benefit of the phone's design: "I became more purposeful about what I did. The slight moment it takes to flip the phone open prevents me from constantly checking social media or 'bored using' my phone."

Motorola offers a decent warranty on the Razr. If a display develops defects from normal use, Motorola will repair or replace the devices for free. Otherwise, it's $299 to replace the display.

The Razr specs are:

  •     Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 Octa-core chipset
  •     6 GB of RAM
  •     128 GB of storage
  •     Splash-proof with water resistant nanocoating
  •     Fingerprint reader
  •     2,510 mAh battery with 15W TurboPower
  •     6.2-inch pOLED main display (21:9, 2,142 x 876)
  •     2.7-inch gOLED Quick View display (4:3, 600x800)
  •     Folded size: 72 x 94 x 14mm; Open size: 72 x 172 x 6.9mm
  •     205 grams
  •     Bottom speaker
  •     16MP rear camera, f/1.7 with EIS
  •     5MP front-facing camera, f/2.0
  •     802.11ac Wireless, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
  •     eSIM
  •     Android 9 Pie
  •     Supports Moto Actions

Also see

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Samsung Z Flip: When the foldable phone is shut, the cover viewer displays alerts and the time.

Image: TechRepublic