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The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is kind of better but still too expensive

Samsung, purveyor of the only serious foldables available on a global scale, is taking a victory lap with the Galaxy Fold 4. As is tradition, the company has announced full details after a parade of teases and leaks, confirming what we strongly suspected: it’s not a huge update.

With a slimmer hinge and bezels, the overall design is slightly sleeker. This is mostly cosmetic and makes little difference in how compact the phone folds down — just a fraction of a millimeter (15.8mm thick at the hinge and 14.2mm where the sides meet). It weighs slightly less: 263 grams versus 271 grams for the Z Fold 3. It’s still a big phone, which is to be expected for something that can function as both a phone and a small tablet.

I wouldn’t say it was noticeably slimmer or lighter than I had anticipated, but the finish is commensurate with a flagship device. It also doesn’t feel like a prototype. It’s reassuringly sturdy, and I don’t believe it requires special handling. I’m curious how it will fare in the dusty environment that is the bottom of my purse, but there’s only one way to find out, so stay tuned.

A slimmer hinge for a more polished look.

The hinge is still somewhat stiff by design in order to stay in Flex mode, but the opening-closing motion feels smooth, at least in the demo units on display last week. The Fold 4 retains its IPX8 water resistance rating. And, like a true 2022 flagship, it features a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset with 12GB of RAM, as well as storage options ranging from 256GB to 1TB.

The Fold 4 now has a 50-megapixel main camera, a more useful 3x telephoto camera, narrower bezels, and a slimmer hinge. Because it’s a few millimeters wider, the front display has a little more real estate. Since it’s a few millimeters wider. It’s not much, but it does make the display feel a little less cramped and a little more like a normal phone. There’s still a gap when the phone is folded closed; Samsung hasn’t achieved optimal foldable flatness yet.

A handful of software updates aim to improve the multitasking experience, and some changes to the display structure and its all-important screen protector should make it more durable in the long run. But that’s the gist of it; the $1,799 price is sticking around another year, making it an expensive, slightly more mainstream flagship option.

The rear camera array gets some important, if boring, updates.

With this update, the Fold 4 finally has a camera array fitting of a flagship phone. Last year’s 12-megapixel main camera has been swapped out for a 50-megapixel sensor that matches what’s available on the S22 and S22 Plus, including an f/1.8 lens and optical stabilization. It should be a noticeable improvement, but it’s not yet up to the level of what you get in the S22 Ultra.

The Z Fold 3 included a 2x telephoto lens, which has thankfully been upgraded to a 3x optical zoom — 2x doesn’t get you very far. Space zoom is available now, too, so you can use digital zoom all the way out to 30x even though you probably shouldn’t. These aren’t so much upgrades — more like the Fold 4 catching up to what the rest of Samsung’s flagships offer.

The cover screen on the Z Fold 4 is still 6.2 inches diagonally, but it’s three millimeters wider to give the display a little more breathing room. The main screen remains 7.6 inches in size, but it is more durable — 45 percent stronger, according to Samsung, thanks to stronger ultra-thin glass. The crease is still visible. With the phone fully unfolded, it’s not a distraction, but you’ll notice it if you look for it. The adhesive on the preapplied screen protector is stronger this time around in an attempt to eliminate the nasty bubble problem that owners of previous Fold models frequently experienced.

Both screens are still OLED panels with 120Hz refresh rates that can be adjusted. The main screen is still compatible with Samsung’s foldable-specific S (sold separately).

foldable-specific S Pen — still no Note-style silo, though, just an S Pen-friendly case. And you still can’t use the S Pen with the cover screen. The Fold 4’s under-display camera is hidden a little bit better this time around. It’s still a 4-megapixel sensor, but Samsung says that changes to the pixel array on top of it make it less of a distraction and also improve image quality. 

It’s there if you look for it, but the under-display camera is less distracting this time around.

The Fold 4 ships with One UI 4.1.1 based on Android 12L, with some software tweaks aimed at improving the multitasking experience. The taskbar has been moved from the side to the bottom of the screen. There’s a new touchpad feature in Flex mode, too, which gives you a little cursor to drag around the top half of the screen like a tiny laptop. It’s cute, but I’m not sure I’d ever use it.

Pre order starts today with availability on August 26th from Samsung, carriers, and third-party retailers — everywhere all at once. There will be gray-green, beige, and phantom black colors, with an extra burgundy option sold only by Samsung.