Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 5G smartphone, with its iconic bendy screen, dropped at Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2022 on Aug. 10. I was lucky enough to play around with it for an hour at Samsung Canada’s office in Toronto. Here are my thoughts.

What’s new at a glance

  • Main camera now uses a 50MP sensor
  • An even more durable hinge and improved flexible glass
  • Tweaked aspect ratio for the main display, increased resolution for the cover display
  • New Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor
  • New 1TB storage option (not available in Canada)
  • Pricier, starts at C$375 more
  • A hair lighter

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 specifications

Device Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G
Display Main display: 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex, 120Hz, 2,176 x 1,820

Cover display: 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O, 120Hz, 2,316 x 904

Main display: 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex, 120Hz, 2,208 x 1,768

Cover display: 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O, 120Hz, 2,268×832

SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Camera Rear:

  • Ultrawide – 12MP
  • Main – 50MP
  • Telephoto – 10MP (3x optical, 30x digital)

Under display camera: 4MP

Pin-hole cover camera: 10MP

Rear:

  • Ultrawide – 12MP 
  • Main – 12MP
  • Telephoto – 12MP

Under display camera: 4MP

Cover camera: 10MP

Memory 12GB 12GB
Storage 256GB/512GB/1TB 256GB/512GB
Battery 4,400 mAh 4,400 mAh
OS One UI 4.1 One UI 4.1
5G connectivity Yes Yes
S Pen Support for S Pen Fold edition and S Pen Pro, both sold separately Support for S Pen Fold edition and S Pen Pro, both sold separately
Durability IPX8 IPX8
Dimensions and weight 263g

Open – 155.1 mm x 130.1mm x  6.3mm

Closed –  155.1mm x 67.1mm x 15.8mm

271g

Open – 158.2mm x 128.1mm x 6.4mm

Closed – 158.2mm x 67.1mm x 16mm

Colours Graygreen, Moon Beige, Phantom Black, Burgundy (Samsung exclusive) Phantom Black, Phantom Green, Phantom Silver
Price Starting at C$2,270 Starting at C$1,895

Side by side, you’d be hard put to tell the old from the new. Samsung told me that the hinge is now narrower. There’s an aspect ratio change for the main display, and the cover display’s resolution has increased slightly.

The new looks identical to the old. Credit: Tom Li

No one should be surprised by the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s extra bulk. The device is a good bit thicker than a regular smartphone when folded, and I definitely felt its extra grams when it sat in my pocket. With that said, it wasn’t heavy to the point of being obtrusive, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it fits, thanks to its narrow body.

The 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED display is as stunning as ever, providing an expansive view for consuming all kinds of media. With a 120Hz refresh rate, vibrant colours and sharp contrast, the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s display unleashes the best viewing experience of any smartphone. Like the last iteration, Samsung pre-applied a screen protector on the main display, which is covered under the one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

The absolutely stunning 7.6-inch main display boasts rich colours. Photo taken with the new 50MP rear main camera. Credit: Tom Li

Because the display folds, the phone can act as its own stand. Samsung has taken advantage of this feature and even dubbed it “Flex Mode.” For example, when the phone is folded at a right angle, YouTube can play on the top half of the screen. The same applies to the camera app; the operating system smartly divides up the preview pane and the control pane between the top and bottom half. I can see this being very appealing for streamers.

What about the crease? That remains to be seen. The demo units are still very new, so it wasn’t apparent. Samsung didn’t mention whether it has worked to reduce the crease’s prominence, and our hands-on time was way too short to test it. Reading other reviews of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 suggests that the crease is far less noticeable than people believe. If the glass is as good as the previous generation, then it shouldn’t pose much of an issue.

Multitasking that would be cramped on a regular smartphone feels natural on the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s commodious display. The capacious screen allows three apps to comfortably open simultaneously, reducing the frequency at which the user switches between apps during a busy day. For example, the user can keep the email app open on one side and still have enough room to jot written notes with the S Pen.

The screen has enough room to run three apps simultaneously. Credit: Tom Li

Here’s where the first major disappointment appeared. I was dismayed to hear that the S Pen will not be included with the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The inclusion of the S Pen was one of the most highly-requested additions from fans since the main display practically begs to be written on. To get it, users need to pay $50 for the passive S Pen Fold edition, or $100 for the active S Pen Pro with a Bluetooth connection.

I struggle to understand the logic behind this decision. The S Pen comes with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 tablet, a device that costs half as much as Samsung’s flagship foldables. It’s also included with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. To tack another $50 to $100 onto a phone that’s already this expensive feels a little greedy.

Although the S Pen now magnetically attaches to the back of the phone, it still isn’t as convenient as an internal storage slot. Users can buy a case with a pen slot if they’re willing to live with even more bulk and weight.

When it’s closed, users can still operate the Galaxy Z Fold 4 using its 6.4-inch front display. I believe this is one of the features that made Samsung’s Fold series so successful. Without it, there would be an annoying extra step, to have to open the phone just to check for a message, as it was with my experience with the Microsoft Surface Duo.

The narrow cover display features the same vibrancy as the main display. Note the pin-hole camera at the top. Credit: Tom Li

Although the front display may be too narrow for larger hands, it does make one-handed operation much easier. Boasting the same gorgeous colours and responsiveness as the main display, it can even be enjoyable for light gaming. The limited number of apps I tested at the hands-on event was able to seamlessly transition between the front display and main display. Testing with more apps will have to wait until the full review.

Under the hood, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 paired with 12GB of memory. The processor is a step up from the Snapdragon 888 of the previous generation and juggled multiple apps with ease. The large memory pool also helped to keep things snappy when faced with stacks of background apps.

Furthermore, the storage option has been expanded to include a 1 TB configuration in some markets (though apparently not in Canada, at least to begin with), double the maximum of the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

The gaming test will have to wait until the full review, but I’m not expecting anything less than excellent in that category either. Once again, there’s no MicroSD card slot or headphone jack.

Battery capacity remained the same gen-on-gen, raising the concern that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 may suffer the same lacklustre battery life as the previous generation. While the 4,400 mAh battery would’ve been ample for a regular smartphone, it struggled to power the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s large display. We’ll be able to dig into its endurance in the full review. The phone supports wired charging at 25W or wireless charging at 15W.

Samsung told me that the hinge is even more durable than the last generation, capable of opening and closing at least 200,000 times. Although I feel like Samsung has already surmounted the hinge issues that plagued the earlier versions, any improvement on a proven design is welcomed.

Not to brag but I’m something of an artist. I totally would’ve been able to draw better had Samsung included the S Pen with the phone. Credit: Tom Li
Doodle: Journalist with phone, Digital, 2022

The IPX8 rating returns on the Galaxy Z Fold 4. This means that the phone can survive a quick dunk in the pool and should have no trouble in the rain. Users still have to take care to prevent dust from breaching the device, however, as it isn’t rated for dust ingress protection.

The phone will ship with Samsung’s One UI 4.1 operating system, and will be updated to the One UI 5.0 once it releases. The OS worked well during my hands-on, seamlessly switching apps between the cover and main displays, and in other normal operations. Samsung said it has worked with Microsoft to optimize its productivity suite on the device, an important consideration for productivity.

In terms of cameras, the Samsung Galaxy has five: three in the rear camera array, one under the main display, and another in the cover display. Let’s start with the rear cameras.

It’s in this category that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has received a major upgrade. Whereas the Galaxy Z Fold 3 came with three modest 12MP shooters split among ultrawide, wide, and 3x telephoto cameras, the Fold 4’s main camera has been updated to a brand new 50MP sensor. It snapped detailed, vivid shots of the decor in Samsung’s showroom cast in studio lighting. Because of the time constraint, I was unable to test its performance in low light conditions.

You can barely spot the under-display camera in the main display unless you’re looking for it. Credit: Tom Li

One of the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s greatest flaws was its in-display camera in the main sensor. I can’t say whether the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a step up, but it held up fine with good lighting. Image clarity didn’t feel hampered by the low-resolution 4MP sensor.

This selfie was taken with the under-display camera in the main display. We’ll dig into a full quality analysis in the full review. Credit: Tom Li.

Interestingly, Samsung has installed a 10MP sensor for the  Galaxy Z Fold 4’s telephoto camera, an apparent downgrade from the 12MP sensor used for the previous generation. The sensor has the same pixel size as well so it seems like it’s just straight up smaller. Pixel size is just one of the many facets of camera quality, however. Maybe the new sensor has some technological improvement under the hood. We’ll have to do more testing to see how they compare.

For biometrics, there’s a fingerprint sensor embedded within the power button, and support for basic 2D facial recognition. The phone has also been hardened with “defence-grade” Samsung Knox security.

A parting glamour shot of the Galaxy Z Fold4. Credit: Tom Li

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 seems to hit most of the right points to push foldables closer to true mainstream. Aside from its faster processor and expanded storage, the new 50MP sensor should bring its camera performance close to that of other flagships. You’ll have to pay for that upgrade, however, as the starting price of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is C$375 higher than the previous version with the same storage.

Still, the Z Galaxy Fold 4 inherits a few old problems from the previous generation, mainly the concern around battery life and the lack of an included S Pen. It also sucks that Canada will not be receiving the model with 1TB of storage. It’s unclear whether Samsung will bring that option to the great north in the future.

What alternatives do consumers have? Not many for now, at least in the local market. Samsung is currently dominating the foldable phone market in North America. The closest competitor in Canada and the U.S. today is the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 which, in my opinion, is less polished in both design and software.

In Canada, The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is available for pre-order starting Aug. 10 and will ship on Aug. 26.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT Business. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at tli@itwc.ca.

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