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5 features Samsung's new foldable phones will need to make me want one

I'm expecting big things from Samsung's 2022 foldables. Here's a wish list of features and changes that would make me unfold my wallet.
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Written by June Wan, Technology Editor on
samsung-galaxy-zfold4-zflip4-hero
June Wan/ZDNet

It's that time of the year; Samsung will take the stage on August 10, during its bi-annual Unpacked event, and is widely expected to unveil the latest in its line of foldable smartphones, most likely the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4. 

ZDNet has high expectations going into Unpacked. Last year's bendy, shape-shifting iterations, the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, earned top spots within our best foldable phone rankings, Samsung saw record sales for foldables in 2021, quadrupling its numbers from the year before, and the Korean giant recently made it clear that it thinks folding phones are now mainstream

These five features, in particular, are the ones that I'm looking out for -- and will likely get me (and maybe you) to show Samsung the money.

1. "Flagship" cameras, please

Arguably the most sought-after smartphone feature, camera systems that are reliable, sharp-shooting, and pocketable are in demand more than ever before. (Heck, phone cameras are replacing our webcams now.) While the Galaxy Z cameras have never been bad per se, they've never been the best within Samsung's portfolio -- let alone its competitors.

Since the very first Galaxy Fold, Samsung has either put fewer camera lenses or leftover configurations from the previous year's S/Note flagship on the more-premium handsets. See below for a comparison between Samsung's flagship camera systems over the past three years. 

Galaxy S/Note flagship

Galaxy Z Fold

Galaxy Z Flip

2019

12MP wide, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide, 0.3MP depth

12MP wide, 12MP telephoto, 16MP ultra-wide

12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide

2020

108MP wide, 12MP periscope telephoto, 12MP ultrawide

12MP wide, 12MP telephoto, 16MP ultra-wide

12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide

2021

108MP wide, 10MP periscope telephoto, 10MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide

12MP wide, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide

12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide


You would think that Samsung's most expensive phone line would field the company's bleeding-edge cameras, but that hasn't been the case. It never has. But that could change this week. 

See also: Are foldable phones really the next big thing? Here's what you need to know

2. Battery fit for a foldable

Another high-priority feature, battery life is what makes or breaks the mobile experience. For all the Flex Mode photo and video capturing, multi-app browsing, and tablet-sized dreams that Samsung pitches, all-day battery life should be a given with the Z series -- but it's not.

Endurance has never been a strong suit with Samsung's foldables. The Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, for example, struggled to withstand the power draw from new, higher refresh rate panels. Frankly, the two phones just weren't set up for success: with 4,400mAh and 3,300mAh batteries on the Fold and Flip, respectively, insufficient and impractical battery life was to be expected. (For context, the recently-reviewed Asus Zenfone 9, with its miniature form factor, has a 5,000mAh capacity.)

samsung-z-fold-3
Shutterstock

If Samsung really wants foldables to take over the mainstream market, then it'll first have to put out phones that can withstand the merciless rehearsals of Gen-Z TikToks, and professionals who always have 3+ apps running at once. Otherwise, battery life alone will demote the foldable experience for all users. 

More: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review: Stunning display, numbing battery life

3. Function over form

For a company that strongly believes that tablets should be wider, the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip have always been...narrow and squarish. The one and only benefit of this taller aspect ratio is grip; you can place either phone in your palm and easily wrap your fingers around the edges. That's it. That's the argument. Now here's the counter. 

Ideally, the outer display of the Z Fold should follow the size and aspect ratio of a traditional smartphone. That means wider and shorter dimensions so that apps can be portrayed as developers intended, the UI never feels outstretched, and the keyboard is actually spacious enough to tap on. Oppo's done it with the Find N, Honor's done it with the Magic V, and Samsung should follow suit. 

More: How Oppo and Honor's latest phones show up Samsung's foldable shortcomings

honor-magic-v-screenshot.png

The Honor Magic V's outer screen looks less like a remote control and more like a phone.

Image: Honor

As for the Z Flip, give us more functionality in the outer display. When the original Z Flip launched, its mere 1.1-inch outer display was met with dissatisfaction and a whole lot of head scratching. The use cases with the limited surface area boiled down to the smallest selfie camera viewfinder ever and notifications that would cut off mid-roll. While the Z Flip 3 fixed the small-screen issue by upsizing it to a 1.9-inch diagonal box, functionality was still kept to a minimum; you could toggle through clock faces, control the media player, and access Samsung Pay. Here's hoping it gets a rethink.

4. Built-in S Pen written all over it

This one's probably the most specific ask out of the five, but it's one that simply can't be ignored. Since the very first Galaxy Fold was unveiled, the thought of fusing the Galaxy Note's siloed S Pen stylus into the two-in-one foldable left productivity geeks and power users like myself salivating. The enlarged interior screen of the Z Fold was everything that the S Pen deserved -- and Samsung knew that. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G | Best stylus phone | Stylus phone review
Image: Samsung

It wasn't until the Z Fold 3 that the company finally released the first-ever S Pen Fold edition, with a rounded pen tip to accommodate the softer, more fragile, glass display. But there was a catch: the stylus was an external accessory that you either had to carry separately or tuck into one of Samsung's bulkier folio cases.

A built-in S Pen would not only make the precision-enhancing accessory more convenient to use but would ultimately be more secure. It's a long shot of an ask, but consumers have all the reasons to remain hopeful.

5. Pricing that's enticing

Claiming that foldables have gone mainstream is like saying the Tesla Model S Plaid is for everyone; the technology is simply too expensive right now to appeal to all. I'll give Samsung some credit. The price of entry for its foldables have gradually declined over the past three years, with the Z Flip 3 finally breaking into the three-digit price range last year. It helps that US carriers continue to incentivize with trade-in offers and financing plans. Still, a little more affordability wouldn't hurt, especially at a time when consumers are less willing to splurge.

Are you planning on buying the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4? What feature(s) would entice you to make the switch? Let us know in the comment section down below. 

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