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Samsung launches flip phone with ‘folding glass’

The South Korean electronics giant has kicked off the year’s major phone launches by unveiling its latest S range of phones, all of which have 5G variants, and a foldable clamshell-style phone.

The devices were presented at the Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event in San Francisco.

All the phones in the range support 5G (except the 4G variant of the most basic model) and have beefed-up camera systems, which could appeal to social media users in search for the best phone camera.

The S20, which is the smallest of the devices at 6.2in, will be available in both 4G and 5G variants. It has the most basic camera system with just three rear cameras (ultra-wide lens, wide-angle lens, telephoto lens). The 6.7in S20+ houses a quad rear camera system with additional 'DepthVision' lens. The 6.9in S20 Ultra boasts a 100x zoom, 40MP front-facing camera, 5,000mAh battery, and wireless charging. It also has a thicker camera module to permit its wide-angle camera a longer lens and larger sensor. The S range offers a feature called 'Single Take Mode', which enables users to capture photos or footage from all individual lenses simultaneously, and then pick the most appropriate photo – or AI-generated composite – from between them. They are also among the first handsets to allow video recording in 8K resolution.

The S20 starts at £799 (4G variant), the S20+ at £999, and the S20 Ultra at £1,199. They will go on sale on 13 March.

Notably, Samsung also presented a foldable phone with a different form factor to last year’s troubled Galaxy Fold, which suffered an aborted launch after reviewers complained that their handset displays started to malfunction within hours or days or use.

The Galaxy Z Flip has a horizontal fold rather than a vertical fold and is reminiscent of early noughties flip phones. The phone can be fully opened to resemble a standard smartphone, or partially opened to sit upright on a surface like a laptop. The hinge – the Achilles heel of last year’s Galaxy Fold – is protected with tiny fibres which brush away dust. It features a tiny (1.06in) outer screen, which displays notifications when the phone is shut, and a larger interior display with ultra-thin “folding glass”. Although the screen is the same size as the S20+ screen, it does not provide the same image quality as the S20+.

The Z Flip will go on sale later in February for £1,300, and will be available in gold, black, purple and silver. It is limited to 4G, with no 5G variant. It will compete with the Motorola Razr V4, which has updated the iconic Razor clamshell design by replacing its screen-and-keypad interior with a single foldable screen.

According to Samsung UK marketing manager Rebecca Hirst, the Z Flip is “a new kind of device for a new decade of innovation”.

Ben Wood, an industry expert from CSS Insight, said that adopting 5G across its flagship range could help Samsung stand out: “Samsung is continuing its metronomic updates to its Galaxy flagship devices with the S20 family [...] the challenge, which it faces together with all other smartphone makers, is how to stand out from the endless stream of similar-looking black touchscreen rectangles.”

Wood added that the Coronavirus outbreak, which is disrupting some manufacturing within China, is likely to affect the supply chain for the devices despite Samsung having diversified its manufacturing to manufacture most of its phones in Vietnam.

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