chasing perfection.

It will cost about $220(N92,000) to fix a broken Flip 4 or Fold 4 screen

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 figured out how to waterproof folding phones.

This year, Samsung has made some significant improvements that bring the foldable line even closer to parity with the S-series flagships. Choosing the Z Fold 4 over the S22 Plus doesn’t necessitate as many sacrifices as it did in the past (except for an extra $800 or so). However, there is still much to be proved if foldables are to become mainstream.

A CRACKED FOLDING SCREEN MAY ONLY COST YOU $29
To begin with, screen repairs for the Flip and Fold are slightly less expensive this year if you subscribe to Samsung’s Care Plus service. Previously, a $249 deductible was required to repair a screen on an out-of-warranty Flip or Fold. That includes the $11 monthly Care Plus subscription This year, Samsung reduced the deductible cost to match the cost of standard phone screen repairs, so a cracked folding screen could cost as little as $29. It’s a minor detail, but it’s one less thing to consider when deciding between a foldable and a slab-style phone.

The camera hardware is also more similar to what you’ll find on this year’s flagships. The Fold 3 had a 2x telephoto lens, whereas the S21 Plus had a 3x zoom. (It was a 1.1x optical/digital hybrid, but it worked well.) This time, things are simpler: the Z Fold 4 has nearly identical rear camera specs to the S22 Plus, including a 3x telephoto lens.

The Fold 4’s rear camera array matches what the S22 Plus offers.

There’s another camera feature on this year’s Fold that wasn’t available last year: space zoom, aka digital zoom. The Fold 4 offers up to 30x digital zoom; the Fold 3 only allowed 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. 

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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’re going to have to shell out $1799, which is out of reach for a lot of people. It makes the $1199 S22 Ultra look like a bargain. SAMSUNG HAS TO CONVINCE US THAT THE UNIQUE FORM FACTOR IS WORTH THE UNKNOWNS — SO FAR, IT HASN’T

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. Given its dogged persistence through the Fold’s early troubles, though, I’m willing to bet that Samsung is going to keep on trying for the foreseeable future.