The flip phone is dead, long live the flip phone
With enough force, almost every smartphone can fold in half. But only a few can do it without suffering terminal damage. Think folding phones are just a hinged gimmick? Think again: the best foldables are about as versatile as handsets get in 2022.
From retro clamshell revivals to smartphones that transform into sizeable tablets, all but one of the blowers below feature bendable screens. And besides the obvious wow-factor, each offers innovative flexibility that could change the way you use your mobile.
But with price tags that make other flagships look cheap, is it worth buying a folding phone in 2022? Or should you wait for a next-gen foldable which might iron out some of the compromises? We’ve tested the top options to find out, as well as highlighting the upcoming foldable models to look out for.
There’s no escaping its astronomical price tag, but Samsung’s latest foldable flagship sets a new bar for folding smartphones. Visually the spit of its predecessor, the Z Fold 4 is marginally more manageable in the hand, yet reassuringly sturdy and as stylish as you’d expect.
Performance from the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor is predictably impressive, delivering eye-blink speeds. Longevity gains are a little more modest, relying on increased chip efficiency to squeeze more life out of the same 4400mAh cell.
Bigger wins are found in productivity features borrowed from desktop software: a slick in-app taskbar means side-by-side multi-tasking is effortless on the bright, sharp and slightly wider main display. That panel now suffers from a less noticeable crease as well – although it’s still there if you go looking for it.
Inheriting the camera setup from the Galaxy S22 also gives the Fold 4 top-tier shooting skills. There’s impressive consistency across all lenses: detail from the main sensor is seriously good, while zoom clarity with the telephoto is similarly superb. Low-light results are stand-out, too.
Streamlined styling, improved cameras and slick software upgrades make Samsung’s latest flagship the premium foldable to beat
Like its successor, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an absurdly expensive yet compelling device. With a durable, water-resistant design, it was the first to make a genuinely convincing case for folding smartphones – and it remains a tempting proposition.
Despite its thickness and weight, the Z Fold 3 is easy to handle, whether you’re swiping on the 6.2in external OLED or the 7.6in screen inside. And while the central crease remains, you soon learn to look past it while enjoying the spacious display.
Its feature set is similarly generous. You get 5G connectivity, solid stereo speakers and an under-screen selfie camera (in addition to the one on the cover). Build quality is stellar as well, with aluminium sides and Gorilla Glass Victus shielding the front. Under the hood, a Snapdragon 888 chip runs everything pretty much seamlessly.
The cameras are the only major compromise. They’re good, but not Samsung’s best, especially when it comes to the secondary sensors. You can definitely get more photography chops for your money from a flagship that doesn’t fold.
It costs an absolute fortune, but the Fold 3 does a fantastic job of making an unusual form factor feel normal – and proves foldables are more than just a hugely expensive gimmick
Sorting some its predecessor’s snags while retaining the same pocketable proportions, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 looks like a winning foldable for the mainstream. Virtually the twin of the Z Flip 3, it remains a well-made, water-resistant clamshell – now with a slightly flatter frame.
Flipped open, the main 6.7in OLED panel is sharp, detailed and bursting with colour. And Samsung’s done plenty to improve its multi-tasking potential: a two-finger swipe opens multi-window, while third-party apps have been optimised for the folding screen. The dinky external display is also more useful, mirroring your theme and offering more widgets.
Camera hardware hasn’t changed from the Z Flip 3. Only real-world testing will tell whether processing tweaks will help the Flip 4 keep pace with flagship rivals. A clearer upgrade comes from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, which first impressions proved to be as potent as you’d expect.
Battery life also looks promising, with a 400mAh increase in capacity. The final verdict will have to wait for our full review, but early conclusions suggest the Z Flip 4 could be the top folding option for most people.
With upgraded specs and fresh customisation options, the Z Flip 4 shapes up as a stylish folding alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy S22
An attractive design, robust build and accessible price tag make the Z Flip 3 the first mainstream foldable. Sure, you can still get more performance from a similarly priced standard handset, but the Flip 3 captures the fun essence of a folding clamshell. And with the arrival of its successor, there’s every chance it will soon be even more affordable.
Improved materials make it a sturdy device: whether flipped open to resemble a normal smartphone, or neatly folded like a Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, it feels as solid and premium as you’d expect.
The main 6.7in AMOLED display is a beaut, while the external 1.9in screen is twice the size of the original Flip’s, making it genuinely useful for showing notifications.
The camera setup is unchanged from the first Flip. Its dual 12MP sensors are perfectly capable, but there are handsets which cost a lot less and do a lot better. More impressive is the blistering performance delivered by the Snapdragon 888 processor, while the battery is good enough for a full day’s usage.
Beautifully made and delightfully quirky, the Flip 3 is a more affordable gateway to the world of folding phones – even if its camera specs could be better
Oppo’s first foldable makes the case for pocket-friendly folding phones. It’s not tiny: the AMOLED centrefold measures 7.1in and the Find N remains substantial at 275g. And while it snaps shut satisfyingly, the package still feels like two smartphones stacked together. But at 133mm tall, it’s significantly shorter and more manageable than the Z Fold 3.
Its sturdy hinge design does a solid job of hiding the screen’s crease, while the panel itself is wonderful – even if its squared aspect ratio results in black bars sandwiching videos. Peak brightness hits 1000 nits, with LTPO tech allowing refresh rates to span from 1 to 120Hz for enhanced efficiency.
Power’s not a problem: a Snapdragon 888 chip zips through tasks, helped by 12GB of RAM. Oppo’s simple, attractive ColorOS interface also sits light on Android 11, while battery capacity is par for the course at 4500mAh.
The serviceable triple-cam setup is led by a familiar 50MP Sony sensor. It captures sound results without much fuss, although images tend towards over-processed. Identical 32MP sensors mean selfie performance is the same whether the Find N is open or shut.
Well-built, responsive and easier to pocket, Oppo’s first foldable proves that folding phones don’t have to be huge. Or it would, if you could actually buy one
Software updates have transformed Microsoft’s second-gen Duo into a solid productivity tool, if not something to replace your personal smartphone. Performance from the Snapdragon 888 CPU isn’t flagship spec, but it provides enough grunt to load apps quickly and make multi-tasking slick – meaning the Duo 2 broadly fulfils its business brief.
Like the first version, the Duo 2 sports two 5.8in screens held together by a sturdy hinge. Folded flat to create a ‘single’ 8.3in panel, there’s no crease in sight, but a narrow gap to look past instead. Bezels have been strategically slimmed, although they remain chunky top and bottom.
Glass front and back gives it a premium feel, while thin halves render the Duo 2 just small enough to slip in a pocket. OLED screen tech is sumptuous to look at, while 90Hz refresh rates make scrolling a smoother experience. A new glance bar shows notifications without flipping it open, too.
Three rear cameras can produce reasonable snaps, but noting to trouble the latest handsets. Likewise, battery life falls short of most flagships – although there’s enough fuel to get you through an average work day, which is what the Duo 2 will spend most of its time doing.
Improved with regular updates, Microsoft’s split-screen foldable remains a niche, pricey device, but one that nails its multi-tasking brief
Successor to the original Fold, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 gave hope that folding phones could be great – and it’s still a solid option. Ditching much of what made the first Fold a fun but flawed phone, Samsung refined the formula to create a much more convincing device.
Gone is the dinky front display, in favour of a frame-filling 6.23in AMOLED panel that does a stellar impression of standard smartphone. Engage the smooth hinge mechanism and a bold, notch-free 7.6in screen is revealed, complete with 120Hz refresh rates and HDR10+ support – although there’s still a crease.
Performance is punchy, courtesy of a Snapdragon 865+ processor and 12GB RAM, while the 4500mAh battery comfortably lasts a day. Plus there’s 5G connectivity.
It’s still not perfect: not all apps work seamlessly with the folding setup, while the camera array can’t rival the show-stopping sensors on Samsung’s standard Galaxy flagships. But there’s nothing it does badly – and everything it does do, the Z Fold 2 does well. Realistically, the biggest stumbling block continues to be its cost.
Still prohibitively expensive and still not the best at everything, the Fold 2 remains the first great foldable smartphone
Huawei’s Mate Xs 2 is complicated. Its outward-folding design deftly bridges the gap between smartphone and tablet. But it’s held back by trade sanctions which limit hardware and software. Given its high price, most will be better served by cheaper, more user-friendly alternatives.
But for well-heeled tinkerers, there’s still a lot to love. Folded, the Xs 2 is slimmer than an iPhone 3G. Unfurl the wraparound panel and the package becomes a paper-thin yet rigid slate. Contrast is excellent, brightness is good and the crease subtle. Camera quality is likewise impressive: detail, colour accuracy and noise control proved competitive across all three rear cameras, even in low light.
What you don’t get is Google Play Store support, 5G or the latest silicon. Its Snapdragon 888 chip packs enough grunt to zip through most apps, but it’s beaten in benchmarks by many of its contemporaries. Huawei’s home-grown Android overlay does make it easier to realise the screen’s potential with swipe gestures, but you’ll need to side-load titles missing from the App Gallery. The pixel count also impacts battery life, which is bottom of the foldable table.
Slimline and neatly designed, the Mate Xs 2 is a distinctive fold-out phone held back by mediocre battery life, outdated hardware and a painful price
When it launched in 2020, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip became our top foldable pick: it was nicely designed, nippy and delightfully novel. Two years later, it still offers plenty for those who’d like a folding smartphone with a clamshell form factor.
Its specs hold up well enough: a Snapdragon 855 processor and 8GB RAM mean it’s no slowpoke, while its dual rear cameras have the edge over those of its Motorola Razr rival. Look past the plastic coating and the 6.7in AMOLED display inside also offers a respectable resolution. Plus Gorilla Glass protection gives its glossy shell a welcome dose of durability.
Downsides? The dinky external display is properly low-res, while its 3300mAh battery isn’t the biggest by modern standards. But more than that, the only thing which truly goes against the Galaxy Z Flip is the same thing that holds back almost every foldable: its prohibitively high price tag.
With solid specs and a solid build, the Flip’s still well worth considering if you crave a compact clamshell that unfolds into a full-screen smartphone – provided you can afford it
Unlike its X2 successor, Huawei’s first foldable made it out of China and over to the UK. And if you can find one, it remains a tempting proposition – albeit with some notable limitations.
The Huawei Mate Xs adopts a different design approach to dual-display devices: it features just a single wraparound screen on its exterior. So you can use a 6.6in portion when it’s folded shut, or unfurl it to reveal the full 8.8in panel. It’s a neat solution that feels very natural.
Power comes from a capable Kirin 990 processor and 8GB of RAM. The Xs also benefits from a 4500mAh battery, 5G connectivity and a subtle quad-lens camera setup with Leica smarts. All specs which measure up well against today’s flagships. And the main 40MP sensor also doubles up as the selfie shooter.
So what’s the catch? There are two: the whopping cost and the absence of Google apps and services. The former is the price of early adoption. The latter, a problematic omission that doesn’t look likely to change any time soon.
With proper flagship performance, top-spec cameras and a unique design that puts the foldable display on the outside, the Mate Xs is limited only by its price and the absence of Google’s software
Motorola’s first effort at reviving the iconic Razr handset in 2019 had its fair share of foibles. The second-gen does plenty to address those: besides adding 5G connectivity, it streamlines the throwback design while retaining the nostalgia value of an all-screen smartphone that you can flip shut.
A slimmer chin, repositioned fingerprint sensor and restyled camera are the most obvious physical changes. More significant are the internal tweaks: there’s twice as much storage space, 2GB more RAM, a speedier Snapdragon 765G processor, slightly larger battery and a 48MP sensor (versus 16MP on the first Razr reboot).
Frustratingly, there are still plenty of niggles: the plastic OLED display inside has a relatively low resolution, while performance doesn’t come close to the latest flagships. And you can’t partially unfold the device. The Razr’s biggest selling point remains its satisfying flipping action – and its price tag only makes sense if you value that.
Improved across the board, Motorola’s second attempt at a flip-top foldable adds 5G and various refinements, but makes sense only if you buy into the design nostalgia
Okay, so technically the Google Pixel Fold isn’t even real. But there have been enough rumours about an upcoming Google-made folding phone that it wouldn’t make any sense to omit it from this article. At the very least, we can have a little fun imagining what a potential folding Pixel phone might bring to the table.
Initially tipped to launch in late 2022, more recent rumours point to a delayed 2023 launch. Very little else is known about the mysterious handset beyond some scraps of info spotted in various bits of code which point to a Pixel foldable device, but we expect it’ll have a similar design to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, albeit a bit squarer.
Coupled with the expected next-gen Tensor processor under the hood, the Pixel Fold could be the first mainstream foldable to knock Samsung off its pedestal. For now though, we’ll have to make do with rumours and speculation instead…
The foldables above aren’t the only models in production – but most of the alternatives aren’t officially available in the UK. Several impressive folding smartphones have been released in the last year, but most are only available in China at the moment.
We got hands-on with the landmark Huawei Mate X2 last year. Conclusion? It’s a seriously special smartphone – one which proves that foldables can be both awesome and durable. It’s well-made and features stellar camera kit, but it’s also crippled by a lack of Google software support. It looks unlikely to ever make it outside of the Chinese market.
It’s a similar story with Honor’s first foldable, the Magic V. Equipped with a creaseless 7.9in OLED main panel, it looks to be a proper performance powerhouse. Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor runs the show, with the help of 12GB of RAM. It also features three 50MP rear cameras, two 42MP selfie cameras and 5G connectivity. There’s still no word on international rollout.
Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold is likewise China-only. Which is a shame, because its spec sheet suggests it could be a compelling foldable. Think Snapdragon 888 silicon, a 108MP main camera, Harman Kardon speakers and a 5020mAh battery, all complemented by an 8.01in WQHD+ OLED folding display.
Save money on flip phones and gaming monitor’s with Samsung’s Black Friday Festival
From affordable flagships to folding smartphones, there’s no shortage of exciting upcoming phones for the next few months
How to get a wheel boost
The Galaxy Note is dead, long live the S22 Ultra
Camera cleverness and some style tweaks cement the Pro’s place at the top of the Pixel food chain
Apple revamps its flagship phone in many meaningful ways – but it comes at a significant price
OnePlus’ latest flagship is finally available after its initial new year reveal. Was it worth the wait?
An absolute stunner of a smartphone with an Achilles’ heel that may (or may not) be a dealbreaker
Get the Stuff newsletter in your inbox!
Kelsey Media, The Granary, Downs Court, Yalding Hill, Yalding, Kent ME18 6AL. © 2021 Kelsey Media Ltd, kelsey.co.uk