Samsung has managed to make folding phones feel quite old—in a good way. It feels like it was just yesterday that the company showed off its first-ever folding phone. But it was actually 2019, and we're already at the fourth generation of foldables.
At today's second annual Galaxy Unpacked event, Samsung unboxed the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4, which bring more refinements than ever to a still nascent category. Joining the pair are the Galaxy Watch5 and Watch5 Pro, two new smartwatches powered by Google's Wear OS, and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro wireless earbuds.
Here, we break down what's new with all of these devices, which officially go on sale on August 26. If you're already enticed, you can preorder them today.
Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4
If you were expecting a new style of folding phone today, or even a new look, you'll be disappointed: Samsung is sticking with the tried and true design of previous Galaxy Flip and Galaxy Fold phones, though this is far from a bad thing.
The Z Flip 4 ($1,000), like its predecessors, is Samsung's most popular foldable. It's like a normal phone, but you can fold it in half like a clamshell—a boon to anyone who hates how massive phones have become over the years. The book-shaped Z Fold 4 ($1,800), on the other hand, has a screen on the exterior, but you can open it up to expand your screen space, offering more of a tablet experience.
For its fourth-generation foldable designs, Samsung has slimmed down the hinge and the bezels around the screen(s), making the devices a tiny bit more compact than their predecessors. Both employ Gorilla Glass Victus+, which is some of the most durable glass currently being used in phones today. Samsung also says it has further enhanced the durability of the main screens by 45 percent over the previous generation. (They're still IPX8 water-resistant.)
Both are also powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, so you should experience some of the smoothest performance around, especially paired with the fluid 120-Hz screen refresh rates on all the AMOLED display panels. There's support for fast charging, which will juice them up to 50 percent in 30 minutes (a far cry from the ultra-speedy fast charging we've seen from OnePlus), but that requires a 25-watt charging brick that's not included in the box.
Samsung says it's made the 1.9-inch cover screen on the front of the Z Flip 4 more useful this time. The tiny screen can now be used to send quick replies, start phone calls, access Quick Settings, and pay with Samsung Wallet, all without having to open the phone. (You can authenticate purchases via the capacitive fingerprint sensor on the edge of the handset.)
You've always been able to take photos while the Flip is closed, but with the Flip 4, it's now possible to start a video using the exterior cameras and continue recording when you open up the phone. You can also take Portrait Mode photos and see a preview right from the cover screen. Speaking of, the Z Flip 4 has a 12-megapixel primary camera and 12-megapixel ultrawide camera on its exterior, and you'll see a 10-megapixel selfie hole-punch camera when you unfold the 6.7-inch screen. The primary sensor can pick up 65 percent more light than the Flip 3, and Samsung says it has improved image stabilization to minimize shakiness, so expect better videos and low-light photos.
The Flip 3's biggest weakness last year was its lackluster battery, which barely made it through a full day of average use. Samsung's answer? A beefier 3,700-mAh cell, which is 400 mAh bigger than the battery in last year's model despite an overall reduction in the phone's size. Samsung claims this can add three hours of screen-on time, but we'll have to wait until we test it to confirm that. (The Fold 4 has the same 4,400-mAh capacity as before.)
The Z Fold's 6.2-inch front display has slowly been increasing in size since the original, and in this version, it's wider by 3 millimeters, allowing for a more natural phone experience when you're using it in its folded state (or so Samsung claims). It shaves off about 8 grams of weight from its predecessor, so it's a little lighter too. Over on the back, it retains a triple-camera array, with a 50-megapixel primary camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, and a 10-megapixel telephoto with 3X optical zoom. The main sensor can take in 23 percent more light than before, which should offer up brighter nighttime photos.
Once opened up to the sprawling 7.6-inch screen, you might not notice that the under-display selfie camera now blends in more elegantly with the onscreen content around it, but the more important improvements are in the software. This is the first device to ship with Android 12L, which features enhancements to make large-screen Android devices more intuitive to use. That includes broader drag-and-drop support and a permanent task bar that sits at the bottom of the screen. Samsung says more apps are optimized for the larger screen, and more apps support launching two instances on the same app side by side.
The Flip 4 and Fold 4 both have improvements to Flex Mode, which is when you bend the phone's screen at a 90-degree angle and set it down so the lower half of the screen is parallel with the table and the top half is perpendicular. More apps are optimized for this mode, like Google Meet, which will show video call controls at the bottom of the screen and the feed at the top. You can also convert the bottom half into a touchpad for a more PC-like experience.
These updates are all quite iterative, but based on some hands-on time I had with the devices, I can report that both phones look and feel more refined, with software that just might make them easier to use than ever before. You'll be able to customize the phones via Samsung's Bespoke Studio to get a unique color combination (there are some 75 combinations available for the Z Flip 4), though this will extend shipping times. We'll be testing these phones over the coming weeks to see if they're worth the high prices.
Galaxy Watch5 and Watch5 Pro
Need a watch to pair with your new phone? Samsung's got two new options: the Galaxy Watch5 and Watch5 Pro. The Watch5 comes in a 40- or 44-mm size and starts at $280 for the Bluetooth model and $330 for the variant that can connect to LTE networks. The Watch5 Pro is only available in a 45-mm size and is $450 for the Bluetooth and $500 if you want LTE connectivity. As a preorder bonus, Samsung says you can get its Wireless Charger Duo for free (which charges both a phone and a watch at once), get $75 or $125 off if you trade in an eligible smartwatch, and receive $50 in Samsung credit.
Both watches have swappable 20-mm straps, are IP68 dust- and water-resistant, and are also rated to 5 ATM, meaning they can survive underwater as deep as 50 meters. They're also protected by a sapphire crystal display, but you're paying more for the Watch5 Pro because it has an enhanced crystal that's even more durable along with a titanium casing and a more rugged sport band. Neither have the popular rotating bezel found on previous Galaxy Watches that was used to navigate the interface. You can still slide your finger around the bezel to digitally cycle through the onscreen tiles, but it's not the same.
These watches use the same BioActive Sensor for tracking health and fitness as the previous Galaxy Watch4, but Samsung says it has reshaped the curvature of the back glass to allow for better contact with the wrist, which should help the watch deliver more accurate health readings. The newest addition is an infrared sensor to monitor your body temperature. (Some of the health features, like the electrocardiogram, are still restricted to Samsung phones only, and the FDA has yet to clear Samsung's app for tracking blood pressure, so it's not available in the US.) Samsung says you can expect a more helpful sleep-tracking experience, as the watches can now detect snoring, blood oxygen levels, and the various stages of sleep. You'll get a Sleep Score and a month-long Sleep Coaching program that will offer tips for improving your sleep habits.
The Watch5 series supports GPX, which lets you share GPS data more easily with other apps. You can share hikes through Samsung Health, download hiking and cycling routes, and find your way back to your campsite with a feature that guides you go back the way you came. Eventually, Google Maps will let you navigate without needing a smartphone connection too.
Arguably the best upgrade? The Watch5 has a 13 percent larger battery and the Watch5 Pro has a 60 percent larger battery than the Galaxy Watch4, which translates to 40 and 80 hours on a single charge, respectively. Take those numbers with a grain of salt, but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see two-day battery life (if not more) on these watches. Both can recharge faster too.
You can also use Samsung's Bespoke Studio to customize the watch the way you like, and the company says there are eight new watch faces and improvements to 10 existing ones. Unfortunately, the Watch5 series only works with Android phones—they still won't work with iPhones.
Galaxy Buds2 Pro
Like the aforementioned hardware, the Galaxy Buds2 Pro are an incremental update to Samsung's popular premium earbuds.
Aesthetically, the newest buds mirror the clean-lined earbud design Samsung has been producing for years. The active-noise-canceling earbuds now boast 360 Audio—Samsung's version of Apple's spatial audio feature—which should make them even better for watching movies. Battery life, though, remains the same, with five hours of listening time with active noise canceling enabled, and eight hours with it off. You'll get a total of 3.5 hours of talk time; good for people who are on the phone a lot.
Samsung's previous flagship earbuds were very impressive when it came to sound, thanks to an excellent dual-driver design. That audio quality will now be bolstered by a new 24-bit audio codec, which promises even more pristine digital audio than before. It should also mean clearer overall sound in the high end, but we'll have to wait until our review unit arrives to test that theory. (This high-bitrate audio feature is only supported when the buds are paired with Samsung phones.)
These aren't just for stoic listening though. They have three microphones to reject outside voices and enhance your own when you're speaking, and an IPX7 water-resistance rating, so you should be more than capable of taking them on sweaty adventures. Our only gripe? The only means of voice control is Samsung's Bixby smart assistant, which we likely won't use at all.
It's worth noting that some buyers had allergic reactions to a material in the case of the previous Buds Pro, which caused them some skin irritation. We've asked Samsung if it has remedied this issue in the new Buds2 Pro but haven't received any confirmation.
We're suckers for any kind of tech that employs sustainable practices during manufacturing, so it's encouraging to see Samsung make some changes that are considerate of the environment. The packaging for its foldable phones is now made of 100 percent recycled paper, and Samsung says some parts of the Galaxy Z phones and Buds2 Pro are made with repurposed fishing nets, which often end up in the ocean and cause ecological harm. The company made similar improvements when it launched the Galaxy S22 series earlier this year. More than 90 percent of the Buds2 Pro is made of recycled materials, including bio-based resins and post-consumer materials.
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