Brighter, lighter and faster, but is that enough?

Brighter, lighter and faster, but is that enough?

Ever since the original Galaxy Fold came out in 2019, Samsung has enjoyed a commanding lead over the market for flexible screen phones. But with the introduction of challengers like the OnePlus Open, the Pixel Fold and the 2024 Moto Razrs, the gap between Samsung and its biggest competitors has been shrinking quickly. So while the new Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 are lighter, faster and more durable than before, I’m not sure if that’s enough to keep Samsung’s latest generation of bendy handouts at the top of the growing mountain of foldable rivals.

Improvements to the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip can largely be broken down into two main categories: The expansion of Samsung’s Galaxy AI features – which first launched on the S24 series earlier this year – with some tweaks to take advantage of the phones’ convertible form factor and an assortment of upgraded components including new camera sensors and faster silicon. However, those looking for major design changes will need to keep waiting, as these devices feel more like refined versions of last year’s models than a full rework.

Both phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip and come with 12GB of RAM, a major boost for the Z Flip 6 which topped out at just 8GB on the previous model. The Flip 6 also packs a 4,000mAh battery, which is the largest ever on any Z Flip, so it should see a noticeable boost in longevity as well. But perhaps the biggest change on the Z Flip is its two new camera sensors that are the same as those on the standard S24: a 50MP main shooter and a 12MP option for the ultra-wide lens.

Unfortunately, despite a higher price tag and a larger body with seemingly more room for fancy camera hardware, the Z Fold 6 is only getting a new 12MP ultra-wide sensor while retaining the same 50MP main cam 3x telephoto used on the Z Fold 5. Samsung has also boosted the peak brightness of the Z Fold 6’s interior and exterior displays to 2,600 nits, just like on the S24. Sadly, only the Z Flip 6’s main screen is getting that same boost to max luminance.

Elsewhere, the frames of both models are made from Enhanced Armor Aluminum, which the company says is 10 percent stronger than before. Samsung claims it has also refined the folding edge of its flexible screens to better withstand pressure and contact from sharp objects. But the most valuable upgrade for long-term usability may be the company’s new Z Assurance program, which will provide owners of the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 with a free one-time replacement of Samsung’s factory-installed screen protector.

As someone who has suffered from bubbling screen protectors across several generations of past Z Folds, I believe this should bring some extra peace of mind to those concerned about committing to a phone with a more delicate flexible screen. Furthermore, Samsung is also offering a one-time discount on screen replacements, with the goal of making repairs cost about the same as fixing the display on a standard S24.

One new design change on the Z Flip 6 is color-matched lens housings on the phone's cameras. One new design change on the Z Flip 6 is color-matched lens housings on the phone's cameras.

One subtle but stylish design change on the Z Flip 6 is color-matched lens housings on the phone’s cameras. (Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget)

Unlike most years where the Flip takes a backseat to its bigger sibling, this year it feels like Samsung’s smaller foldable has gotten the most significant changes. The two new cameras can’t be understated, especially on a phone that caters towards more fashion-conscious and social-friendly buyers. I really love that by using the same sensors used in the S24, Samsung is bringing more parity between its traditional candy bar-style handsets and its most compact foldable.

On top of that, there’s a new auto-framing mode that allows you to prop the phone up on a flat surface and it can zoom in and out depending on how many people are in view or how far you move away. However, during our demo, I did notice that it took a second or two for the viewfinder to adjust, so you will need a bit of patience.

Meanwhile, on the Z Flip’s outside screen, Samsung has increased the number of widgets you can see on a single page to four while also adding support for a wider range of widget sizes and functions. This makes it even easier to check apps or launch timers without needing to open the phone, which is great for general usability. There are also new interactive wallpapers that you can use as fun timewasters.