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The Z Flip 4 is a great compact phone you can't fully use with one hand
The Galaxy Z Flip series has been around for a few years, reviving the clamshell smartphone form factor popularized by the likes of Motorola, Nokia, and others in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Galaxy Z Flip 4 continues in pretty much the same vein as the previous Z Flip phones, offering a pocket-friendly form factor when folded and a smartphone-sized internal screen when folded out. As much as I liked this design, however, there’s a small hurdle in the way of it reaching its true potential as a compact phone.
You can’t easily open it with one hand
Sure, the Galaxy Z Flip series easily fits in a pocket and virtually disappears. But retrieve it from your pocket and the first problem becomes apparent. You can’t easily open it with one hand. Instead, you’ll need to use both hands to open it. This is presumably due to the fact that the Flip series has a number of magnets aboard to keep the device firmly closed.
Nevertheless, I’ve found this to be quite annoying in a few scenarios. This is particularly irksome when I’m at the grocery store with a basket and want to check my shopping list. It’s also an inconvenience when I’m carrying something else in one hand (such as a carrier bag, food, water bottle, etc).
You can't easily open the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and earlier iterations with one hand. It's a real shame when you consider the small form factor in the first place.
We have seen some people show off their own method of opening the Flip phones with one hand. But most of these methods involve inserting a finger into the gap and/or making a wrist-flicking motion like you’re a knife-wielding hoodlum in an ’80s movie.
That flicking gesture in particular seems like a recipe for disaster and we wouldn’t be surprised if phones have gone flying out of people’s hands as a result. However, inserting your finger into the display gap also means pressing your fingernail against the folding screen. That’s a big no-no as Samsung‘s setup screen notes, due to your nail being able to damage the foldable display. Check out the brief clip below to see this gesture in action.
Another touted way to open your phone with one hand is to partially open it and then press it into your abdomen, using your stomach or chest to fully unfurl the screen. This isn’t as reckless as the above method but it’s still more awkward than it needs to be. Check it out below.
Of course, the Galaxy Z Fold series is also difficult to open in the first place. However, the Fold line is inherently large and ungainly to begin with, so we get why accessing the tablet-sized display requires two hands.
The Z Flip series, however, is built around the idea of compactness. We hoped Samsung would have addressed the single-hand opening issue with the Z Flip 4, but it looks like we might have to wait until next year to see whether the company offers a solution.
What could Samsung do about this?
Perhaps the easiest way to solve the single-hand use issue would be to reduce the number of magnets that are used to keep the device closed. A Galaxy Z Flip 3 teardown reveals that six magnets are used in total, so we could see two removed or some reduced in size to make the device easier to open. However, this could have the potential side-effect of the phone not staying firmly shut or even accidentally opening at times.
There are several potential solutions Samsung could implement to make one-handed opening easier.
Another potential solution would be to offer a cutout or indent on the bottom half of the phone. We already see a similar solution on some laptops, with an indent on the bottom half of the PC giving users an easier way to open the lid. The potential downside here is that this could make for an aesthetically unpleasant design choice. We might also need thicker bezels so your fingernail has a dedicated area for opening the top half without damaging the screen — another visually unappealing choice.
Finally, Samsung could tackle this issue by implementing a spring-loaded hinge. This would allow you to easily open the foldable manually or with the press of a button like clamshell feature phones of yore. However, this solution also has plenty of concerns.
A spring-loaded mechanism would make the hinge design more complicated, potentially leading to durability issues or affecting the IP rating. It could also mean a no-free-stop design — the device is either fully open or fully closed and you lose the awesome Flex Mode. And sure enough, the Motorola Razr 5G offers a spring-loaded hinge but no free-stop design and only a water-repellent coating instead of the Flip 4’s IPX8 rating.
A small annoyance
In saying so, the fact that you need two hands to easily open the Galaxy Z Flip 4 isn’t a deal-breaker. It’s pretty annoying that you need to resort to some awkward and/or reckless gestures to open this compact device with one hand. But opening the device is just a small part of the overall experience.
The fact that I can easily slip a phone with a 6.7-inch screen into my pockets is still pretty cool after all this time, and I’ve often found myself grabbing this device when heading out instead of the bulkier Z Fold 4. Toss in the combo of Flex Mode and Single Take functionality and I’d say it’s worth the inconvenience of using two hands to open the device.