The market for foldable smartphones is expanding rapidly as more and more models are introduced. These devices are increasingly popular due to their ability to fit easily into a pocket while still competing with larger format smartphones. In 2023, there are several models worth considering.
Foldable screens are a relatively new technology that was previously only seen in tech showcases. However, they are now available to the general public and are becoming more affordable. While these models are among the best smartphones, they also come with a higher price tag due to the innovative technology involved.
Currently, there are two main form factors for foldable smartphones. The first is the “flip” format, which folds horizontally and offers a large screen while maintaining a compact appearance when folded. This hybrid solution is ideal for many users. The second format is the “fold” or book format, which folds vertically and provides a large, almost square screen. While it is not smaller than a conventional phone when folded, it conceals a much larger screen when opened.
Foldable screen phones have a bright future and are gaining in popularity. However, it is important to remember that these are high-end smartphones. As more manufacturers enter the market and refine their fold and hinge mechanisms, prices are expected to become more competitive.
If you are interested in exploring the world of foldable smartphones in detail, here are the best models to consider in mid-2023. The selection is based on our tests.
Top foldable smartphones in mid-2023:
samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4
The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is widely considered to be the benchmark for folding smartphones with clamshell design. While the oppo Find N2 Flip is technically a competitor, it is difficult to find in stores. In several important ways, the Z Flip 4 outclasses its rivals, such as its IPX8 waterproof rating, which makes it the only foldable smartphone on the market that can withstand immersion in water.
Samsung has been continuously refining the Z Flip concept over the years, though the fold is still visible and can be felt under the finger. Similar to the Z Fold 4, there is also a small space present when the phone is folded. However, the Korean firm's folding model stands out in many other aspects, particularly in its screen quality. Thanks to Samsung's OLED technology, the display is sumptuous and the colors are flamboyant. The screen stretches over 6.7 inches with a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz and a 22:9 aspect ratio. However, the elongated ratio can be a disadvantage as black bands are visible on both sides when watching a video.
The camera performance is not as powerful as the Z Fold 4, and the absence of a telephoto lens is regrettable (as found on the Oppo Find N2 Flip). Nevertheless, the portrait mode is accurate, the Night mode offers a beautiful rendering, and the shots taken in normal lighting conditions have a beautiful sharpness. The battery life has been improved from the previous model, but it still only lasts for a maximum of one day of use.
Where the Z Flip 4 truly shines is in its excellent software management. The Flex mode, which divides the screen in two, is very practical when using the phone folded at a 90 ° angle, such as when it is placed on a desk. The small 1.9 inch external display is also very useful, similar to a smartwatch. You can view all of your notifications, change music, check various widgets, and even make calls directly. Overall, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is an impressive phone that sets a high standard for folding smartphones.
motorola Razr 40 Ultra
The Motorola Razr 40 Ultra boasts a sleek design with a foldable clamshell structure that has been improved for better ergonomics. The device has been refined to make it less wide and more comfortable to hold, along with excellent finishes. The hinge is designed to allow the device to close completely without leaving any space. However, it cannot open completely at 180 degrees. The device is also IP 52 certified for added durability.
The interface of the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra features a 3.9-inch external screen on the back that blends seamlessly with the phone. The highlight of this phone is the ability to open all available applications on this interface. Even games like Vampire Survivor can be played on this screen. On the classic interface, there is an OLED panel with a refresh rate that ranges from 1 to 165 Hz. The measurements revealed a maximum brightness of 1239 cd/m2.
Unfortunately, the camera of the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra is its weakest aspect. The device features a dual back sensor that takes shots that are below average for a phone in this price range. The images lack sharpness, are sometimes too saturated, and the night mode is non-existent. This is a significant drawback for the phone.
The Motorola Razr 40 Ultra is powered by a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, which is a little dated but still capable of providing good performance on a daily basis. The device also has a 3800 mAh battery that offers decent endurance, particularly if you use the external screen. All in all, the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra is a well-designed foldable clamshell smartphone that offers good performance, but its camera needs significant improvements.
Motorola Razr (2022)
Motorola ventured into the realm of foldable smartphones with two iterations of its Razr series. Unfortunately, neither model made a significant impact, but the Razr 2022 is a decent phone nonetheless. In terms of design, Motorola opted for rounded edges, which doesn't necessarily give it a modern look. When closed, the phone is slightly thicker than its counterparts. The fold is subtle and inconspicuous, but the hinge seems a little loose. This can be concerning as hinges tend to become softer over time and usage.
Moving on to the screens, the foldable panel measures 6.7 inches, with a resolution of 2400 × 1080 pixels. Although the color temperature is slightly cold, the screen has good qualities, with a particularly satisfactory maximum brightness of 1200 cd/m² in HDR. The external screen is 2.7 inches, but Motorola did not adopt the same approach as Samsung and Oppo regarding its use. The external screen can't display as much as the internal screen, and it lacks a Flex mode to use the phone at 90°.
Under the hood, the manufacturer relied on a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, which performs well even during gaming, without overheating. The battery life is on par with other clamshell competitors, providing a day of autonomy. The phone offers 30W charging, but wireless charging is not available.
On the photography front, the Razr 2022 performs decently with only two lenses, a 50MP wide-angle, and a 13MP ultra-wide-angle. The wide-angle lens is satisfactory, but the ultra-wide-angle lens is less impressive, with less vivid colors and less sharpness. It's better to use the primary lens whenever possible. One major issue to note is the absence of a telephoto lens, which is a common problem with clamshell smartphones.
To conclude, there is a significant drawback on the software front, as the phone only offers two years of major android updates and three years of security patches. This is a significant limitation for a high-end device, meaning that Android 14 will be the latest version available.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
Samsung's adventure into foldable phones began in 2019 with the so-called “Fold” format. Fast forward to 2022 and we now have the 4th generation of Samsung's foldable phones, boasting beautiful improvements. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 shares a lot of similarities with its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 3, starting with its almost identical design.
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However, there are some differences. For instance, the external screen is still narrower than a classic smartphone panel, so users may need some time to get used to typing messages on it. Nevertheless, the 6.2-inch Amoled screen is very practical for all quick everyday uses.
Moving on to the fold and hinge, they can be seen and felt. While the hinge may feel a little hard at first, it will ease up over time. One concern with the Z Fold 4 is the space that remains between the two parts of the internal screen when it is folded.
Speaking of the internal screen, it stretches over 6.7 inches, but in an unconventional ratio of 23.1:9. This means that users will be facing an almost square screen, similar to a small tablet. The Oled panel used by Samsung is beautiful, and the brightness can cap up to 899.5 cd / m². However, the default color calibration is a little fanciful, so users will need to play with the settings to obtain a more natural result.
Fortunately, Samsung's interface, under One UI, handles the screen format well, as well as multitasking. Users can use up to six applications simultaneously on the internal display, thanks to Samsung's well-managed Flex mode, which separates the screen into two separate parts.
In terms of photography, the Z Fold 4 is excellent and features a 50MP lens that opens at f/1.8. Samsung has also added a telephoto x3 (f/2.4) lens with a definition of 10 megapixels.
The Z Fold 4 runs the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the star chip of 2022, ensuring overall smooth performance. However, users can only expect a full day of battery life, and the 25W charging may feel slow compared to other high-end smartphones.
If you already own the Z Fold 3, it may not be wise to invest in the new model. But if you're keen to test this mini tablet format, the Z Fold 4 is a great option to consider.
Honor Magic Vs (2022)
The Honor Magic Vs is a folding book-sized smartphone that comes with two screens. The external screen is a 6.45 inch Oled panel that has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, while the internal screen is 7.9 inches and has a refresh rate of 90 Hz. It is worth noting that the external screen is the focus of Honor's attention, as it has a higher maximum brightness of 1200 nits compared to the internal screen's 800 nits. Additionally, the phone has a drop fold feature, which means that there is no space when the phone is folded.
However, one drawback of the internal screen is the noticeable fold that can be felt under the finger. On the photo side, the Honor Magic Vs has three sensors, including a main sensor of 54 Mpx, an ultra wide angle sensor of 50 Mpx, and a telephoto of 8 Mpx. The result is an overall good quality image, with bright colors and good HDR management. However, it falls short of the most premium phones in photography, such as the Honor Magic 5 or the Galaxy S23.
In terms of the interface, the Magic Vs operates on Android 13 with MagicOS 7.1. The optimization of applications, especially on the internal screen, is not yet perfectly developed. Running all this is the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, which provides excellent power. Honor has promised 3 years of Android updates and 5 years of security updates.
Regarding the battery life, the Honor Magic Vs can last for a good day, which is nothing exceptional. However, it has efficient charging at 66 W.
huawei P50 POCKET and MATE XS 2
Huawei has been an early adopter of foldable screen technology, but unfortunately, their devices have faced several challenges. Due to the absence of google services, lack of 5g connectivity, and high price points, the Huawei folding devices are not exactly recommendable. However, it is worth noting that these devices are still available and marketed in global markets.
One of Huawei's foldable devices is the P50 Pocket, which is a clamshell design. It boasts a Snapdragon 888 SoC, with options of 8 or 12GB of RAM along with 256 or 512GB of storage. The P50 Pocket has a large 6.9 inch Amoled panel with a discreet folding mechanism. However, the external screen is quite small, measuring only 1.04 inches in a round format and using an Oled panel with a resolution of 340 x 340 px. The device is has three photo sensors, a 4,000 mAh battery, and fast charging capabilities of up to 40 W.
Huawei's Mate Xs 2 is another one of their foldable devices. It has a unique book-sized folding mechanism that unfolds outwards, revealing a 7.8 inch OLED panel with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The Mate Xs 2 has a Snapdragon 888 and three impressive lenses, including a telephoto lens. It also has a 4880 mAh battery, which provides long lasting usage. However, despite these impressive features, the Mate Xs 2 costs at around $2,000, which makes it quite expensive. Additionally, it lacks Google services, 5G connectivity, and waterproof certification, which makes it difficult to recommend.
Everything to know about foldable smartphones
One might wonder who invented the foldable screen. Interestingly, multiple companies began working on foldable screens simultaneously. nokia showed interest in the concept as early as 2008 with a flexible device called the Morph. In the fall of 2018, the Chinese startup Royole introduced the FlexPai, a phone with an outward folding OLED screen, which could be the first true folding smartphone. Samsung also presented a prototype with a Fold format screen around the same time.
However, it was not until 2019 that the first folding smartphone hit the market: the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Then, in 2020, the Galaxy Z Flip, the first clamshell style phone, made its debut.
Moreover, the foldable screen technology is not only for smartphones. It is also available in other tech devices such as laptops. One notable example is the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold. This technology undeniably has a promising future and will undergo significant improvements as various manufacturers compete and innovate.
Reliability is a key concern when it comes to the hinge of a foldable phone. Before these devices reach the market, hinges undergo rigorous testing in laboratories. For instance, Samsung claims that its Z Flip 3 can endure 200,000 folds. To demonstrate its durability, a YouTube channel continuously opened and closed the Z Flip 3 manually, resulting in 418,500 folds. In practical terms, this translates to approximately nine years of use at a rate of 100 openings per day before the phone can no longer maintain the folded position.
Flip vs Fold format
When choosing between the Fold and Flip format, your decision should be based on your usage patterns, needs, and aesthetic preferences. The clamshell folding format (Flip) offers the advantage of space-saving, as it transforms into a compact square when folded. It easily fits into a pocket, and its internal screen is naturally protected.
On the other hand, the Fold format (resembling a book) follows a different philosophy. Even when folded, it retains the same size as a large format smartphone. The goal is to provide a nearly tablet-like experience once unfolded. This format is especially useful for individuals who engage in multitasking and use their phones for work. It's worth noting that smartphones in the Fold format tend to be more expensive in comparison to clamshell devices.
The potential drawbacks or concerns of owning a foldable smartphone:
- Price: Foldable smartphones are still relatively expensive, especially when compared to traditional smartphones. The price of a foldable smartphone can range from $1,000 to $2,000, or even more.
- Durability: Foldable smartphones are more fragile than traditional smartphones. The folding mechanism and the screen are more susceptible to damage from drops, scratches, and other accidents.
- Software support: Foldable smartphones are often not as well supported by software updates as traditional smartphones. This can lead to bugs, compatibility issues, and a shorter lifespan for the device.
- Battery life: Foldable smartphones typically have shorter battery life than traditional smartphones. This is because the folding mechanism and the larger screen require more power.
Overall, foldable smartphones are a new and exciting technology, but they still have some drawbacks that you should consider before making a purchase. If you are looking for a durable, long-lasting smartphone with great battery life, a foldable smartphone may not be the best option for you. However, if you are looking for a unique and innovative smartphone with a large screen, a foldable smartphone may be worth considering.
The upcoming foldable smartphones
Samsung continues to impress with the unveiling of new generations of foldable smartphones every summer. We can anticipate the arrival of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 5 in August 2023. Rumors suggest that Samsung might adopt a drop hinge, following in the footsteps of its competitors, while also obtaining certification for water and dust resistance. Lastly, it's worth mentioning the Oppo Find N2 Flip. Unfortunately, due to Oppo's unstable situation in Europe, it has become nearly impossible to find this foldable smartphone online as a new device. Therefore, we can no longer recommend it to you.