Decades ago, when mobile phones started appearing in the hands of average consumers, a dominant form factor was the flip phone. It was handy to close your phone to end a call and also shut the display to protect the screen when you threw your phone in your pocket or bag. We’ve seen technology advance so far that devices we used to see in science fiction movies are now available for everyday use by all consumers.
Foldable displays are an engineering marvel and while Royole was first out of the gate with the FlexPai in late 2018, Samsung has been the dominant player in the foldable phone market, with no end in sight.
While the future looks flexible and use cases for foldable phones are still being developed, ZDNET’s panel of mobile experts has rounded up the best folding phones that are available now.
- First foldable with Android 12L software
- Reliable flagship cameras
- Brilliantly bright display with up to 1,000 nits
- Pricey at $1,799
- Form factor takes some getting used to
Features: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 | Phone-to-tablet form factor | Most refined Galaxy foldable yet
We’ve tested a lot of foldables phones at ZDNET but none come close to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4, which offers a unique tablet experience while being able to fit snuggly in your jean and pants pockets. The Z Fold 4 represents the fourth generation of Samsung’s industry-leading foldable, meaning you can expect incremental updates that add up to a well-rounded and polished foldable experience.
On the technical side, the Z Fold 4 finally comes with what we consider to be a flagship-level camera system, with its 50MP wide lens at the helm — the same one that delivers sharp and vibrant imagery on the Galaxy S22 Plus — putting it toe to toe with the industry best. Samsung has also trimmed down the framework from inside out to make the newer Z Fold lighter and easier to handle.
- Less expensive than the Galaxy Z Fold 4
- IPX8 water resistance
- S Pen support
- Improved software that’s optimized for foldables
- S Pen is sold separately
- Still a chunky handset
- Insurance should be a priority
Features: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Large 7.6-inch main screen | S Pen support
The new Galaxy Z Fold 4 may be the foldable champion, but last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 is no less worthy of your consideration. Like the Fold 4, the predecessor can expand from a narrow 6.2-inch outer screen into a wider 7.6-inch main screen. It’s quite a magical experience if you’ve never used a phone-to-tablet foldable.
In addition to the innovative form factor, Samsung packs a series of features like a triple-camera array for you to flex across different shooting modes, OneUI software to enhance your productivity and split-screen interactions, and a decent-sized 4,400mAh battery to keep the lights on. The Z Fold 3 is also the first foldable to support Samsung’s infamous S Pen stylus for precision input.
- Compact, portable form factor
- 3,700mAh battery is greatly appreciated
- Bespoke Edition color options
- Fairly priced at $999
- Lack of dust resistance
- Cameras are still a step below flagships
Features: Improved durability and battery | Bespoke Edition colors | Compact design
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 may represent the pinnacle of folding phones but it’s the Z Flip 4 that will appeal to a wider range of users. Not only does it bare remnants of the old-school, clamshell, flip phone, but Samsung offers the latest foldable with a variety of colors — including a Bespoke Edition that lets you customize the finish of the top and bottom plates and the hinge.
At a starting price of $999, the Z Flip 4 is an easier pill to swallow than the Z Fold 4 and there’s no shortage of useful and practical features, too. For example, ZDNET’s Jason Hiner put the flip phone to the test and found its compact shape beneficial for staying put in bags and pockets, as well as for being a portable hotspot hub.
- Folding design makes this the most compact phone
- Least expensive foldable that’s not discontinued
- Powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor
- Lack of telephoto camera lens
- Middling battery life
Features: Least expensive foldable | Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | 1.9-inch Cover Screen
While this year’s Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 has stolen all the thunder from the Z Flip 3, the latter is still a formidable pick-up if you’re in search of a less-expensive foldable. In fact, the Z Flip 4 only sees minor improvements to its predecessor, which explains Samsung’s strategy of pricing it the same as last year.
In turn, the Z Flip 3 can now be had for as low as $849 — while still offering its durably-built, water-resistant design, Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 prowess, and whimsically addictive, clamshell form factor. It also has the same 1.9-inch Cover Screen on the outside of the device for quick access to toggles, widgets, and camera tools.
- Unique, outward-folding design
- 4,600mAh battery
- Ultra-light at 255 grams
- Not sold in the US
- Lack of Google services
- Expensive at $2,499 (US estimate)
Features: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888| Quad-camera array | 4,600mAh battery
Huawei’s first big foldables, the Mate X and XS, were interesting in that they incorporated a foldable form factor with displays opposite of what Samsung tried with the Z Fold. Instead of folding inward, the displays expanded outward (like a 2-in-1 laptop) and were always exposed, but looked amazing. Fast forward to today, the latest Huawei Mate Xs 2 builds on that premise with a new Falcon Wing design.
The Mate Xs 2 is clearly a direct competitor to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and it certainly edges out the Galaxy in a few areas. For one, the main, large screen spans 7.8-inches diagonally, with a PPI of 424. It’s a high-resolution panel that, get this, has no noticeable crease — a problem that has plagued Galaxy foldables since the very beginning. The Mate Xs 2 also sees a larger 4,600mAh battery for better endurance.