Samsung now has two folding phones in its armoury, the original Galaxy Fold and the newer Galaxy Z Flip. It's the start of a Galaxy Z family, with rumours that the Galaxy Fold will get updated later in 2020. 

But if you're looking at folding phones with interest, the immediate question might very well be which is the better of these two phones. Fortunately, we're here to help you answer that question.

Design

  • Z Flip: 167.9 x 73.6 x 6.9-7.2mm (open); 87.4 x 73.6 x 15.4-17.3mm (closed), 183g
  • Fold: 160.9 x 117.9 x 6.9mm (open); 160.9 x 62.8 x 15.7-17.1mm (closed), 276g

There's a lot that's common in the look of the Z Flip and the Fold, but they are fundamentally different in format. The Z Flip - as the name suggests - opens like a clamshell flip phone with the hinge on the horizontal. 

The Galaxy Fold opens like a book, with the hinge running vertically. The hinge design is very similar but there's a big difference in size, naturally. Simply put, the Z Flip is like a normal phone that folds in half, the Galaxy Fold is like a small tablet that folds in half in the other direction. 

The result is that the Z Flip folds into a small square, easily pocketable, while the Fold turns into a bar. Both have the displays on the inside, so it's protected when the phone is folded. Neither has waterproofing, both have a fingerprint scanner on the side.

The Fold has two speakers, one on each end and these are pretty good; the Z Flip has a single speaker which doesn't really deliver the same experience, it’s a little lacking. 

The materials are similar, with a metal frame backed with glass, so the exterior can be scratched too, but both have a two-piece cover in the box.

The other thing to consider is that the Galaxy Fold is a lot heavier than the Z Flip - it's a bigger device overall and that becomes a two-handed experience. 

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Display

  • Z Flip: 6.7-inch, 2636 x 1080 pixels, 425ppi, 21.9:9
  • Fold: 7.3-inch 2152 x 1536 pixels, 362ppi, 13:9

Both phones are centred around the folding displays and in many cases they are the same. They are both flexible OLED panels, but the Z Flip comes with what Samsung calls Ultra Thin Glass, designed to add protection to the surface - although both the Z Flip and the Fold have a plastic top coat that will scratch just as easily as each other. 

These displays are a completely different shape. The Z Flip has an aspect ratio like a conventional phone, while the Fold is more like a tablet. While the diagonal measurement isn't hugely different, the display area is, with the Fold having a lot more screen space. It's worth remembering that the Z Flip is actually taller overall than the Fold when open, and the Fold is a lot wider - it's a two-handed experience.

The Z Flip has a higher pixel density overall, although you're unlikely to see much of a difference in the visible quality. Both displays are bright and vibrant, exactly what you expect from Samsung and both remain visible in strong sunlight. 

The fold in each display is similar too - it's permanently there on the display and while you can see it, it doesn't downgrade the quality of the visuals. If you're watching movies, it won't get in the way, for example. 

There's a slight difference in the experience, however. Because of the way these devices fold, on the Z Flip you'll stroke your fingers or thumb over the fold when scrolling content - on the Fold, you're less likely to do that, because you're stroking up the side of the display and not crossing that fold. 

The Galaxy Fold has a strange notch in the top right corner with the front cameras in it, whereas the Z Flip has a single punch hole camera and that's a lot less intrusive and looks way better.

Both phones have an external display. The Z Flip has a small 1.1-inch notification and status display that doesn't really do much; the Galaxy Fold has a 4.5-inch display on the outside that's fully functional, giving you full access to the phone and all its features. It could be larger, but it's a lot more useful than the Z Flip's tiny display. 

Hardware and performance 

  • Z Flip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+, 8/256GB, 4G, 3300mAh
  • Fold: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 12/512GB, 5G, 4235mAh

Both of these folding phones are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, with the Z Flip getting the slightly more powerful version, the 855+. That gives it slightly more GPU power, but in reality, both are close. The Fold has a headline-busting 12GB RAM, although it's hard to see that this extra RAM really enhances the experience, although some will argue that it powers the multitasking experience, with the ability to have three apps open at the same time on the display - something the Z Flip can't do. 

Neither of these devices has support for microSD, but the Fold gets double the storage. That's extra useful if you want to carry a lot of music and movies, perhaps to keep yourself entertained - at which point the larger display is a benefit. 

The Fold comes as a 5G phone only and the Z Flip is only a 4G phone so there's the suggestion that the Fold is better suited for the power user - if you've got access to 5G, of course. The Z Flip, however, offers eSIM, which the Fold doesn't, which could be great for those travelling.

When it comes to battery life, the Galaxy Fold actually performs pretty well. It has the larger battery, but it's also powering a larger display. That said, we found the Z Flip didn't last quite as long, on heavy days you might need to top it up in the evening. 

In truth, the performance of these devices is similar. They're both fast and fluid, offering a smooth Android and Samsung One UI experience, but the Fold takes the edge in battery life.

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The cameras 

  • Z Flip:
    • Main: 12MP, 1.4µm, f/1.8
    • Ultra-wide: 12MP, 1.22µm, f/2.2
    • Selfie: 10MP, 1.22µm, f/2.4
  • Fold:
    • Main: 12MP, 1.4µm, Dual Aperture (f/1.5, f/2.4)
    • Ultra-wide: 16MP, 1.0µm, f/2.2
    • Telephoto: 12MP, 1.0µm, f/2.4, 2x
    • Selfie: 10MP, 1.22µm, f/2.2 8MP RBG depth sensor
    • Cover selfie: 10MP, 1.22µm, f/2.2

When it comes to cameras the Z Flip is the more conventional. There's a dual camera arrangement of a main and ultra-wide camera on the outside, with a selfie camera in the display on the inside.

The Galaxy Fold throws in a lot of cameras. There's main, ultra-wide and telephoto on the outside; there's two cameras on the inside (one is a depth sensor) and there's another selfie camera on the cover. It basically makes sure there's a camera to use however you're holding the phone. 

There's a wealth of specs you could compare here, but the big omission on the Z Flip is any sort of optical zoom. You get 8x digital and that's it, whereas the Fold gives you 2x optical zoom, with OIS, or 10x digital.

In truth, both devices have the same downsides - the low light performance isn't the best, the depth separation isn't as accurate as rivals, but it's great at giving you a shot in good light with plenty of colour pop. In general, the performance from the main camera is similar - it's only really the telephoto lens that makes a huge difference to the features available. 

The Z Flip launches with the latest camera app and that has some features that weren't on the Fold at launch, like Single Take and Night Hyperlapse, but we're sure these things will level out via updates in the future.

So which is the better phone? 

Choosing between these two devices really comes down to a preference for the format and what that gives you. The Galaxy Z Flip is like a regular phone that folds, but it doesn't actually give you anything you wouldn't get from any other phone, like the Galaxy S10 Lite for example. All you get is the novelty of the folding display and a smaller bump in your pocket.

The Galaxy Fold, however, dreams bigger. It offers a lot more display space, so when unfolded it becomes something totally different, giving you a small tablet experience, with a much larger display - and that's what makes it appealing.

The Z Flip is more practical - you can use it one-handed - but the Galaxy Fold is more of a lean back experience. You sit yourself down, you open it up and you dive into the bigger screen experience - which will, most of the time, require two hands.

Of course there's a big price difference too, but both phones are expensive. The Z Flip does feel a little more streamlined and refined: it's learnt the lessons from the Samsung Galaxy Fold, reducing the cameras and bringing in a slightly tighter design, but if we had to choose from the two, we'd take the Fold.