Two months with Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 as a daily driver: It's only getting better
- I used the
Galaxy Z Fold 4for two months as my daily driver. It's also my first time with a foldable for so long.
- The Fold 4 brings the exclusivity of having a rare piece of tech in hand that once came with the latest iPhones.
- It has surely become a full-fledged daily driver, but it's still not meant for everyone.
AdvertisementSamsung launched its new set of foldable smartphones in August. The hype and excitement remain high, but since the Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold series have now been in the market for over four years, it's not as much as it was for the first.
However, two sentiments are attached to the Z Fold 4 - the first is that it's not a phone for everyone, and the second is that it's the only usable folding phone in the Indian market apart from the smaller Z Flip 4. Globally, there are a few foldable alternatives from Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi and others, but Samsung's generational lead gives it an upper hand in its software game.
My encounter with foldable phones has been minimal. Although I've seen and tried most of them, I've never used one as my primary device. For the first time, I used the Z Fold 4 as my primary device for precisely two months while writing this review. My curiosity was to find out whether it can be a daily driver and, if so, what its limitations are. So I have put down my thoughts on whether it's a worthy investment for those who want to use it as a primary phone, who it is for and who shouldn't buy it. For now, I can say that it's my favourite phone overall if you like exclusivity and having rare tech in your palm.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 price and variants
This smartphone is available in Beige, Grey Green and Phantom Black colours. It is priced at ₹1,54,999 for the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage variant and ₹1,64,999 for the 12GB RAM and 512GB storage variant. Moreover, the 12GB RAM and 1TB storage variant costs ₹1,84,999 in India.
The Z Fold 4 is a chunky phone, but is it a problem?
Since its launch, I have been using the Z Fold 4 daily for most of my needs, like calling, texting, social media, camera and others. It took me a week or two to adjust to the form factor, weight, and narrow outer screen. After that, I have not had any issues with the form factor. Of course, it's also true that any regular phone (OnePlus 10 Pro and an iPhone 13 Pro, in my case) will feel much lighter and handier. But I enjoy using tall and narrow screens more than wider displays—something I realised only after using the Fold 4.
The Z Fold 4 weighs 263 grams, and its competitor iPhone 14 Pro Max, weighs 240 grams. Both are big-screen phones and heavy in regular smartphone terms. It's definitely a con for people with smaller palms, it's also commendable how Samsung has cramped all that tech in such a small case, made it IPX8 waterproof and is still just 20 grams heavier than slab style iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The Fold 4 is 16mm thick on the hinge side when closed; while there's no denying that it's thicker than regular phones, it's also true that wider sides give a better grip. But again, smaller hands may feel discomfort handling it. For them, Flip 4 is a better option. Unfolded, it's just 6.4mm thick, that's great for a tablet-like experience when held with two hands and the weight is also evenly distributed.
This time, the hinge feels even more smooth and lets you open it at any angle. It's the best hinge mechanism on any folding phone yet. The build quality is also solid. It's slippery but intact despite dropping off my pocket from over 3 ft. However, I'll advise you not to try this with yours as it's costly and repairs also cost a lot.
The buttons are neatly placed and fall right under the thumb for right-handed users and the index finger for left-handed users. The fingerprint sensor is baked into the power and lock key, which is flawless. But I often unintentionally touched the sensor, which it rejected with a small pop-up, saying 'fingerprint doesn't match'.
Overall, it's a stunning phone that is comfortably usable like a regular phone. The build quality and finish are as top-notch as seen on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, just in new colours. It's well made, refined and doesn't feel flimsy. The added weight and thickness come with the extra screen real estate hidden inside. It's something that might get better with the future iterations of folding phones.
The screens and the crease
The Fold 4 comes with two screens. No surprise there, but it's one of the significant improvements on the phone. Both the displays are snappy and bright and look stunning.
The outer display has gotten taller and broader; hence bezels around it are also slimmer. It's a 6.2-inch panel with 2316x904p resolution and a narrower aspect ratio. When I started using it, I couldn't find a flaw as it looks as good as the one on the S22 Ultra. It supports up to 120Hz refresh rate and feels silky smooth.
The folding display on the inside is 7.6-inches - the same size as last year, and so far, I find this the perfect phablet size to carry around. However, the resolution is different at 2176x1812p. Also, while Samsung says it has strengthened the glass, I noticed a few scratches in the long term despite taking care of it.
The using and viewing experience is top-notch, as you expect from a Samsung flagship. Be it watching videos, editing documents, reading or using social media. It's worth mentioning that it became my go-to device for watching videos because of the expansive display. It's crisp, has punchy colours and details pop out.
Now coming to the controversial element since the first Fold device—the crease. It's still there, although less prominent, but not enough to be called ignorable. It's visible when the display is off, from side angles and can be felt when you scroll over it. It could've been ignored if there was no solution for this, but competing OEMs like Oppo and Vivo have managed to minimise it to negligible levels.
I am using it daily to watch countless videos and read articles, it hasn't annoyed or distracted me yet. It doesn't harm the experience, especially when looked at from angles closer to 90 degrees. But Samsung should do something about it in the next iteration. It will be a deal breaker if it remains on the next one, mainly because the competition will catch up.
Software is getting better with time
My main concern was software bugs when I first started using Fold 4. It was the first phone to ship with Android 12L - the version optimised for foldables and tablets. I was a bit unsure about the software as there were several issues, but Samsung has worked well to polish it within a month to make the experience seamless in most parts.
My only issue is with third-party apps, as a lot of them are not efficiently optimised for the aspect ratio of the screens. Instagram, for example, cuts both sides of Reels on the outer display, and on the inner one, you can either watch it with black bars on the sides or make it full screen to see content cropped from top and bottom to fit the squarish format. I wish developers find a way to fix this.
I really liked the new taskbar for the inner display. It makes opening and switching apps for multitasking and using split screen mode. In addition, it allows you to use three apps simultaneously and more as an overlay. What's good is that you can use a split screen in horizontal and vertical orientations. This, combined with powerful hardware, makes it a reliable multitasking tool.
You can pin up to eight apps in the taskbar. It can also be customised and disabled if needed. Not only that, One UI brings tons of customisation options for all the other elements like the home screen, font, icons and more. Note that it also comes with tons of bloatware and Samsung apps. However, most of these apps can be removed.
Overall, the software experience feels polished, and hardly anything sticks out to spoil the experience. So it's a ready phone for daily usage.
It's made to multitask
The Z Fold 4 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC, supporting 16 5G bands. It supports two physical SIM cards, or you can use a single SIM and one eSIM. Wireless connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC with Samsung Pay, and Ultra-Wideband (UWB).
The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 combined with the inner display makes it a beast at multitasking. In addition, it's so reliable that I could go out without carrying a laptop to write and edit articles (something I've not done in a long time). Instead, I used Slack, WhatsApp and Google docs simultaneously on the same screen and got the work done without a hiccup. Spreadsheets, in particular, require a lot of scrolling on regular displays, and since my job is to juggle between a lot of them, I found this size to be a blessing to work on sheets while on the go.
I waited two months to form my opinion on the Z Fold 4 to see how it would hold up after it's put through the real-life stress that I would give my smartphone as an aggressive user. I genuinely expected it to show issues during the period, which it initially did, but as I mentioned, for the software, it only got better for me. Despite putting it through tasks like gaming, extreme multitasking, recording and rendering 8K files, I did not face a single performance issue.
While multitasking is a treat, I couldn't make it my gaming phone for two reasons. First, I am accustomed to playing on my iPhone, and none of the Androids has given me smoothness and consistency. Second is that the battery takes a considerable hit, which I avoid on my primary phone. The gaming performance is top-notch but doesn't feel as smooth as on the newer iPhones.
It also has a great set of loudspeakers, making it a great video-watching companion. So you can actually watch a video, chat and shop on a single screen, and that's what's so unique about foldables that I realised only after using it for the first time.
Cameras are surprisingly good, but not as good as other flagships
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 has five cameras in total. That sounds ridiculous, but the placement and use case simplifies it. There's a front camera on the outer screen, an in-display front camera on the inner screen and three primary cameras stacked at the back. Technically, you can use all three cameras to click selfies.
The cameras on this phone have seen significant improvements over its predecessor. Specifically, the two rear cameras have been upgraded, where the main camera now uses a 50-megapixel sensor which pixel bins photos and saves 12-megapixel stills by default. It also gets optical stabilisation (OIS), a wide f/1.8 aperture and supports 8K video recording. In addition, the telephoto camera now has a 10-megapixel sensor with higher 3X optical and 30X digital zoom.
In terms of performance, it is equivalent to the non-Ultra S22 phones. I consider myself a decent photographer, and I find these cameras capable enough to shoot some great photos and videos. It is definitely not as good as the S22 Ultra, but that is not a major tradeoff.
The daylight shots capture ample details, good dynamic range and vibrant colours. It does tweak the skin tones a bit but not to an extent where the skin looks fake. It brightens skin tones and clears blemishes to make the object look good. I enjoy clicking landscape shots, pets, sky shots and even portraits. The 3X zoomed photos also look good, and the autofocus is very snappy.
I was not very impressed with the ultrawide, though. While the exposure and details are adequate, the dynamic range suffers from inconsistency, especially in challenging light conditions.
The low-light camera is also surprisingly good. Stills, videos and even hyperlapse videos look great if you keep the phone on a flat surface to shoot. Handheld, it suffers the prevalent issue of shaky and noisy photos. Here are some samples (note that all the images are compressed):
The front camera on the cover screen is decent for selfies and video calls, but the in-display camera is just about average and not the preferred option for selfies. I like the back cameras for selfies as it uses the outer screen when unfolded as the viewfinder. While clicking photos is fine, it's a bit uncomfortable to shoot selfie videos in that mode. But, overall, no complaints so far.
The Z Fold 4 can shoot 8K videos at 24fps and 4K at 60. Both the formats look good in daylight and are very well stabilised too. But note that you can't switch to telephoto and ultrawide cameras at 4K 60fps, so the best mode is 4K 30fps, as it allows you to switch between them while shooting. I am pretty satisfied with the audio and video quality in both day and low light, but at its price, it's not as good as the iPhone 14 Pro or even 13 Pro.
Battery and charging need attention
While the SoC has improved the battery life of the Z Fold 4 over the Fold 3, it's still not at par with the competition. It easily lasts a 9-6 work day on a single charge with around 20% power to spare, but on weekends, when I doomscroll Twitter, Reddit and Instagram, watch videos and play games alongside other things, it asks for a charge within 8 hours. That's the battery life I was getting on the OnePlus 10 Pro. It's not bad as per industry standards, but at over 1.5 lakh, competing against the Pro and Pro Max iPhones, it is behind the competition. So if battery life is a major concern for your work or lifestyle, it might not be the best option.
The charging speeds of the Z Fold 4 are also behind the competition and industry standards. It supports up to 45W charging, which needs to be bought separately as you don't get one in the box, just like the iPhones. Using a supported 45W PD charger charges slightly over 45% in 30 minutes and takes about one and a half hours to charge fully.
What's good is that it has wireless charging support and reverse wireless charging as well. You can charge other devices using the Fold 4, which is very handy.
The key takeaway is that you must invest in a 45W charger and a wireless charger for your work desk with the phone if you're considering it as a daily driver. It will save time and make charging more convenient. However, since most phones offer up to 80W charging, and many customers are habitual to plugging in phones for 20-30 minutes, this feels slightly slower. This isn't a deal breaker for me as I carry a secondary phone; it is something to consider if you're planning to carry just one phone and your work demands commuting.
AdvertisementVerdict: Who is it for?
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is ready for all daily drivers and is an excellent phone for your entry into the foldable realm. It is more refined, practical and usable than I expected. However, the weight and form factor of the phone is unusual, so you must consider if it fits your lifestyle. As I mentioned earlier, someone with small palm might find it challenging to adapt to the size. It is a carry-in-hand or bag device if your pants have small pockets. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a better option in that case.
It's best suited for three types of users-
- Those who love to stay updated with the latest gadgets and have a flexible budget. It's a head-turner for sure, but it's highly functional and does everything a regular phone can do. Of course, with the big screen advantages. In a nutshell, it brings the exclusivity that was once felt with having the best iPhone available.
- Those who find a use case of Fold 4 to make it a time-saving tool or simply be more productive. Its multitasking prowess and big screen allow you to do a lot of work on the fly. It is not a laptop replacement for someone like me, but I could do more than half the work on this phone without compromising convenience.
- Also, those who like watching videos and playing games on the phone but have no problem with the chunky form factor.
- If you are uncomfortable using big phones.
- If a long-lasting battery is your priority.
- You want the best camera phone for photos and videos.
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