It has been around since late 2022, but the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 remains the gold standard of compact folding smartphones, and I say this even after extensively using its biggest rivals.
However, it’s not because of power, price, looks, or because I think I prefer it over the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It’s something much more important, and it’s where Samsung’s experience in the world of foldables gives it an advantage over everyone else. I’m talking about the hinge.
Not all hinges are alike
Over the past months, I’ve enjoyed using the Oppo Find N2 Flip and the Motorola Razr (2022), two of the most recent compact folding smartphones to be released, and last week I returned to using the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. I wanted to see if it could still be considered the one to buy — or if it had fallen behind its newer rivals. I wasn’t expecting to immediately see why it’s still the best, but it was clear right from the outset.
The Galaxy Z Flip 4’s hinge is superb. Samsung has got almost every aspect of it right, whereas the other phones still have noticeable issues in what is probably the most imperative part of the overall design. You may be thinking that, surely, hinges can’t have that many differences between them. And that even if there are, it can’t drastically change the user experience. But this is wrong, and when you think about it, it makes sense.
Every hinge ever made feels different from one another. Whether it’s the hinge on the door of a 2023 Mercedes Benz or one on a 1972 Buick Skylark, the hinge on the door of a 15th-century mansion or the toilet door at an airport — the tactility, sensation, sound, and dampening will be entirely different for each one. While the Find N2 Flip, Razr 2022, and Galaxy Z Flip 4 are all folding phones, they’re made by different companies using different methods, and all have differing degrees of experience in producing them too.
With the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4, Samsung introduced a new hinge design that ditched the interlocking gears used for the previous generation models for linear, rotating components to reduce size and weight without affecting durability. But what I’m interested in is the feeling. This matters, as you’re going to be opening and closing small folding phones all the time, as they aren’t really made to be used when closed up.
There’s exactly the right amount of resistance built into the Z Flip 4’s hinge, where it never resists being opened but never feels loose or floppy either. It doesn’t need effort but also never springs open or snaps closed at any time. The resistance is linear and constant, and when you stop exerting pressure on it, the hinge holds the phone open precisely at that point. There’s no slop, no looseness, and no sound. It feels incredibly high quality, and that means you trust it.
I open the Galaxy Z Flip 4 by holding it in my right hand while gripping the left of the top half of the phone, then pulling it open. The flat metal chassis has enough natural grip to it, plus a very subtle curve where there two sections meet means I can open it with minimal effort in a single, fluid motion. It’s immensely satisfying and doesn’t add frustration to the process. Remember, it takes a beat longer to get a closed folding phone ready to use than it does a non-folding phone, so the act of opening it needs to be flawless.
At no point using the Z Flip 4’s hinge — whether that’s opening, closing, or holding it open at an angle — does it feel anything other than fantastic, and this is where it succeeds over its rivals.
Where the others go wrong
Neither the Oppo Find N2 Flip nor the Motorola Razr 2022 get every aspect of the hinge right. Both get close but fail to provide the seamless, frictionless experience you have with the Galaxy Z Flip 4.
Let’s start with the Oppo Find N2 Flip and its Flexion hinge, which is shaped in a way that eliminates the gap between the two halves of the phone when it’s closed and reduces the visibility of the screen’s crease.
That’s great, but it makes the Find N2 Flip a pain to open, due in part to the design of the chassis. It requires a strong grip and some effort to separate the two halves, and it’s nowhere near as satisfying or simple as the Z Flip 4’s motion. It borders on frustrating, especially if your fingers are damp or freshly moisturized. It can hold the phone open at different angles, but there’s a lot more play in the hinge than the Z Flip 4, which affects the way it feels and reduces trust. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as expensive or reliable as the Z Flip 4, and that’s assuming you’ve not lost your temper battling to open the phone in the first place.
But the Find N2 Flip’s hinge feels like a finely finessed piece of precision equipment next to the Razr (2022)’s hinge. It holds the phone open, but in such a halfhearted way that it seems like an afterthought. There’s so much slop in the hinge’s motion I assume it has been dampened using strawberry jelly.
Then there’s the sound. It doesn’t grind, but you can hear it moving, and that’s rather disconcerting when the other two phones are soundless. It doesn’t inspire confidence, and it feels cheap next to the Oppo and Samsung phones.
Don’t go and ruin it, Samsung
Samsung has had four generations of folding smartphones to get its hinge right, while its rivals haven’t had the same amount of R&D time, but this excuse shouldn’t mean you should accept a less-than-perfect user experience. All three phones are similar enough in price and specification to mean if you are interested in one, they should all be options (provided you live where all three can be purchased), and you shouldn’t be tempted to buy one where the big, reason-to-buy standout feature feels a bit rubbish.
All is well in the Galaxy at the moment, but there is something that’s slightly concerning about the future. Samsung is rumored to adopt a hinge that gives the screen a “waterdrop” design for the Galaxy Z Flip 5, which is the same approach Oppo has taken with the Find N2 Flip. This may mean the end of the gap between the sections on the Samsung phone, but it must not affect the ease of opening or introduce any dreaded slop. I’m not absolutely sure Samsung will make a new hinge, as it has only just redesigned the hinge, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, if you’re out to get a compact folding smartphone and the hinge and its motion matter (which they really should), the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 is still the best you can get.