The new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the South Korean phonemaker’s attempt to recover from the disastrous launch of its Samsung Galaxy Fold, but is it enough to usher in the new age of the folding screen?

SINGAPORE (March 27): Most of us have fond memories of the old-school flip phone. The height of sophistication back in the early 2000s, flip phones like the Motorola Razr or the Nokia 6085 were the ‘it’ gadgets of their time. Then, in 2007, the first Apple iPhone was released, and it revolutionised the touch screen smartphone.

From then on, the touchscreen form factor became the norm, slowly but surely driving the poor keyboard phones (like those by Blackberry and Nokia) out of business. Sadly, the once-popular flip phone was also sacrificed along the way.

Fast forward to today and somebody had the idea: What if you could fold a touchscreen? Surely it would make the minds of gadget-crazy millennials simultaneously explode! Well, the brains over at Samsung were not wrong. Their latest offering, the Galaxy Z Flip, did indeed make this millennial’s mind explode with delight. But after the initial thrill, it becomes clear that this phone — impressive though it is — has one crucial flaw (which we will get into in a bit).

We were given the opportunity to handle this phone for just one day — 24 hours, no more — and in this limited time, the phone showed promise. But it also has some downsides.

When you first open the box, the mirror-effect, glossy purple back of the Z Flip is dazzlingly pretty. But then it instantly becomes a serious fingerprint magnet, so much so that it detracts from the overall look of the phone. It is also obvious from the start that the phone is dangerously slippery, especially without a case. A special case is available for it, but the review unit we had did not come with one. Unfolded, the 6.7-inch display is a long, rectangle shape that is awkward to hold at first. But it folds into a square, making it more compact. The display is, without a doubt, stunning, especially since it is a foldable phone with sturdy hinges and a very useful hands-free mode where the display stays on at a 90-degree angle.

After the initial fear of snapping it in half, you realise that it is solidly-built and feels very premium — as it should for something that costs a whopping $1,998. It runs on a Snapdragon 855+ processor with a 12MP wide-angle Camera and 10MP front-facing camera. The display is Samsung’s own FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Display (21.9:9) Infinity Flex Display, which — to be fair — has no direct competitor or comparison (the closest is the new fold-screen Motorola Razr) at this point.

To the casual user, it works as any Android smartphone would, with the Android 10 OS and with all the apps you’d come to expect. It feels snappy, runs smoothly, but having had the phone for such a short period of time, we could not take it through its paces to benchmark for performance. The camera also works as it should, perhaps not as dazzlingly sharp or clear as some of the other high-end Galaxy series phones, but still takes some nice selfies. What I did truly like about the camera was the hands-free mode — it made video calls, video recordings and selfies a breeze.

However, we come now to the one crucial question: Who is this phone really for?

If one were to shell out almost $2,000 for a phone, why get one which is comparable to every other mid- to high-end smartphone out there in terms of performance and specifications, with the sole exception of the fact that it folds? Gadget geeks may enjoy this, but for everyone else — is it truly worth the price tag?

The Z Flip feels like a novelty, one which would absolutely enchant some but deter others. This phone does mark a major achievement and — one could even say — a milestone for Samsung and for phone design. However, it costs a pretty penny for a mere premise, even for one as exciting as a foldable screen.