Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review: Admire it, don't buy it

Practically speaking, there are only two notable shortcomings. First, its resolution: at 2636×1080, it’s far less pixel-dense than a Galaxy S20, but you’ll probably never notice the difference unless your nose is pushed up against the screen. The other is that, presumably because of its odd, 21.9:9 aspect ratio, some apps don’t scale to fit the screen properly. Instagram, for instance, displays its Stories with big black bars along the top and bottom, and some of them are cut off along the sides. Uber, meanwhile, just runs with some dead space along the bottom. Beyond those relatively minor issues, I have no complaints here.

Even so, this smartphone’s screen is shaping up to be pretty controversial, all because of what’s on top of it. Samsung has made a lot of noise about its ultra-thin, flexible glass since the Z Flip was announced a few weeks ago, to the point where the development sounded like a material science miracle. A glass screen! In a foldable! Someone finally figured it out!

I’ll admit it: When I was at the Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco, I just took Samsung’s word for it. What the company never bothered to make clear is that, glass or not, the Z Flip’s screen still doesn’t seem anywhere near as durable as a traditional smartphone display.

For one, it’s still highly susceptible to scratches — our Z Flip’s screen has already picked up a handful of them, and I can’t for the life of me tell you how they got there. As it turns out, those scratches are appearing so readily because you’re not directly touching the glass, but a thin layer of protective plastic sitting on top of it. (Like on the Galaxy Fold, it stretches under the display’s raised bezels so it’s near-impossible to remove accidentally.) It’s not quite right to think of this as a mere screen protector, either. In a chilling YouTube teardown, Zack Nelson of JerryRigEverything peeled back the plastic and destroyed the display in the process. No, this plastic is an essential part of the screen itself, so be ready to see your fair share of nicks and gouges.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review

And then there’s the ultra-thin glass itself. Our contacts at Samsung wouldn’t directly confirm how thick this glass layer is, but the company’s display division shed some light on its approach in a recent press release. The glass here is 30 microns, or 0.03mm thick — that’s probably thinner than a sheet of paper you have sitting in your printer right now. To put that in perspective, Corning’s widely used Gorilla Glass ranges from, 0.4mm to 2mm. No matter how you look at it, you’re getting less protective glass here than you would with basically any other phone. It shows, too: That same YouTube teardown revealed that the Z Flip screen doesn’t resist puncture damage very well, so god forbid you ever drop the phone face down on something. (For what’s with worth, our unit survived a few accidental landings on hard, clean floors without issue.)

In day to day use, the main benefit of this ultra-thin glass is that it just feels better. Apart from the crease, which is both mildly annoying and currently unavoidable for foldables — the Z Flip’s screen feels just like a regular smartphone; there’s no screen flexing or plastic squishiness here. That’s important, for sure, but doesn’t mean you should expect this screen to handle daily life as well as a traditional smartphone.

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