The best foldable phones are due for a revamp later this month, when Samsung introduces new versions of our top-ranked models. And Motorola could introduce a new foldable of its own, too — though the initial launch has been postponed.
Samsung has set an August 10 date for its next Galaxy Unpacked event and foldable phones are on the agenda. Specifically, Samsung is expected to show off the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, new versions of two of the best foldable phones we’ve tested. As a result, you should probably put off a foldable phone purchase until you learn what’s new.
As for Motorola, the company was supposed to show off the Motorola Razr 2022 at the beginning of the month. But a launch event in China was suddenly postponed, likely because of some geo-political reasons beyond Motorola’s control. The new version of the Razr is Motorola’s third attempt to come out with a foldable phone that can challenge Samsung’s dominance.
Until these new devices show up, we’re left with the current best foldable phones that are available in the U.S. (with a few more shipping overseas). But change is clearly on the way.
What are the best foldable phones?
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best foldable phone you can buy right now, at least until the Galaxy Z Fold 4 comes along. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 benefits from both a productivity-boosting screen and the addition of S Pen compatibility. The Z Fold 3 also improves on its predecessor with better durability and an under-display camera.
For many people, though, the best foldable phone will be the one they can afford. And that’s likely to be the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which finally drops the price of foldables below $,1000.
Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 tries to take on Samsung’s foldables with a dual-screen approach. And while it’s a big improvement on the first Surface Duo, the two-screen approach doesn’t quite work for people who just want an expanded screen space — which is really the case for foldable phones at this point.
The best foldable phones
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 continues to set the standard for foldable phones, addressing some of the criticisms with previous models, while adding welcome new features such as a 120Hz refresh rate for both of its displays. We wish the price would have dropped a little more, but at $1,799, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a lower starting price than the Z Fold 2 did when it debuted in 2020.
The improved durability of this foldable phone — it now has an IPX8 rating for water resistance and a more durable screen — will ease the concerns some people may have had about whether the Galaxy Z Fold could stand up to the rigors of daily use. Samsung has also worked with more app makers so that their software is optimized for the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s unique 7.6-inch folding display.
S Pen support has been added to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, though it’s only optional. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has built in support for the S Pen. (And now that we’ve performed our S Pen face-off, the Ultra offers the better stylus, too.) So if you want an S Pen, you’ll need to pay extra while also getting a case to hold the stylus since there’s no slot in the phone itself. It’s tempting, though, as the big main display on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 gives you ample space for sketching and writing down notes.
If you want the most powerful foldable phone — and one of the best productivity-boosting devices overall — then the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a good choice, provided you can deal with the lofty price tag and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 rumors aren’t making you wait to see what the new phone has in store.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review.
Replacing the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, the new Galaxy Z Flip 3 does everything better this time around. Not only is the phone more durable than before, but the cover display is vastly improved. It’s larger and shows more information now.
The Flip 3’s design is more streamlined with squared edges and beautiful color options. It also has some internal upgrades, including the Snapdragon 888 processor. The cameras and battery remain the same, however — the Galaxy Z Flip 3 does not have a telephoto lens.
At $999, the Flip 3 is the most affordable foldable ever, but it does have its drawbacks. Notably, the battery life isn’t great whatsoever. The crease across the middle of the displays remains quite prominent, noticeable when dragging your finger over it or when the light catches it just right.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is probably the foldable most people will want to pay attention to due to its more affordable starting price. It’s a looker and folds up neatly to fit in most pockets. And if you’re willing to pay $100 extra, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 Bespoke Edition lets you choose the colors of the front and back panels as well as the phone’s frame. Again, though, Galaxy Z Flip 4 rumors suggest a new version is imminent, so maybe wait until mid-August before making a buying decision.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review.
As we discovered in our Oppo Find N vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3 face-off, this foldable phone from Oppo tops the best foldable phone from Samsung in several key areas, not the least of which is the lack of a gap near its hinged display. When the Oppo Find N is closed, its two halves sit flush against each other — something the Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn’t deliver.
But Samsung’s phone has a clear edge in one aspect — you can’t get an Oppo Find N outside of China at the moment, and the phone is unlikely to ever reach the U.S. That’s a shame because it offers a great display, and the phone remains useful even when folded up. It’s well-designed enough to slip into a pocket, too. Even if the Oppo Find N doesn’t ever appear outside of China, we hope other foldable phone makers sit up and take notice of its sturdy design.
Read our full Oppo Find N hands-on.
Unlike Samsung’s two phones, the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 is not really a foldable device. Instead, it features two separate 5.3-inch panels that open up to give you an 8.3-inch workspace. You can run apps across the two panels, though you’ll have to contend with a gap running right down the middle of your app where the screens come together. It’s better when using optimized apps where different tasks are relegated to different screens on the Surface Duo. You can also multitask, running two apps on different sides of the device.
Microsoft deserves credit for addressing many of the problems with the first Surface Duo in this sequel. The hardware is up-to-date, and the design is as elegant as ever. But the problem with Microsoft’s approach is that this really isn’t an expanded work surface — instead it’s two separate 5.3-inch panels that are further squeezed by significant bezels. The Surface Duo 2 represents a better phone before, but it’s still not the best big-screen experience out there.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review.
What to look for in a foldable phone
Before you buy a foldable phone, you’ll need to consider what that kind of device will be able to do for you that a standard phone can’t. Even with the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s $999 price, you’ll still pay up for foldable phones, so unless you really need the extra screen real estate, you may be better off with a phablet or one of the other best big phones that we’ve tested.
If you do think a foldable phone will help you get more done, though, be sure to pay attention to the device’s construction. Early foldable phones like the Galaxy Fold and original Motorola Razr had design quirks that led us to pan those handsets. With the Galaxy Z Fold 2, though, Samsung made some critical changes that made the phone more likely to withstand everyday use, and that work continued with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which added water-resistance among other improvements. So research a foldable phone’s hinge and just how many times a phone maker says the device will open and close.
There are two screens to consider when buying a foldable phone — the larger internal display and a secondary screen, usually on the outside of the device. Find out just what you can do with that exterior screen — can you run full apps or is it just there for notifications and a few other features? And does the screen support something like Samsung’s continuity feature where the app you’re using on the cover screen is waiting for you when you open the device?
Some foldable phones don’t actually fold. The Microsoft Surface Duo 2, for example, is a dual-screen device that opens up to reveal two separate panels. Many of LG’s now-departed phones took the same approach.
Apart from size — you’ll want to make sure a closed foldable phone is something you’re comfortable carrying around — you’re looking at a lot of the same criteria you’d use to judge conventional phones. That includes the processor, cameras and — especially — the battery life. After all, there are usually multiple screens to keep powered up on a foldable phone.
Best foldable phones: What’s coming soon
Be aware that foldable phones are a pretty new category in the world of smartphones, and we expect to see a lot of change come to this segment. Even with new foldables on the way in the next month or so, Samsung is rumored to be working on a device with a scrollable screen that some people are calling the Galaxy Scroll. (Earlier reports that this device would appear alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy Z Flip 4 were overly optimistic, but you can still read our foldable vs. rollable explainer that looks at how these two designs differ.)
Right now, the biggest foldable phone efforts are happening in China, where devices like the Honor Magic V and Huawei P50 Pocket have joined the Oppo Find N. Another foldable, the Vivo X Fold just debuted, and its big innovation is a fingerprint reader on both its external and interior screens. (Many other foldables put the fingerprint reader on a side button.)
As for foldables in the U.S., 2022 kicked off with TCL showing off its Fold and Roll phone concept, which features both a folding screen and a way to extend that screen for an even larger workspace. Motorola could be taking another stab at a foldable flip phone after the Motorola Razr 5G failed to catch on. The upcoming Motorola Razr 2022 is tipped to get the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 — that’s the best chipset Qualcomm makes, and it would mark a big improvement over the 7 Series chips Motorola’s used in the past.
It’s hard to know if Google is working on a foldable, reportedly called the Google Pixel Fold. The phone had been rumored, then cancelled, then revived and now reportedly delayed — all without Google ever confirming it was planning to show off a foldable. At any rate, you’re unlikely to see a Pixel Fold this year.
The same thing goes for any Apple foldable. Rumors say something’s in the works, but the likely reality is that an iPhone Flip wouldn’t show up until 2023 — if it ever ships at all.
How we test foldable phones
We test for the best foldable phones the same way we review any smartphone. We conduct lab tests, including synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and 3DMark to measure graphics performance. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result.
To measure the quality of a phone’s display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure the color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and a score of 0 is perfect.
We run a custom battery test in which we have the phone surf the web over cellular with its screen set to 150 nits of brightness. We then time how long it takes the phone to run out of power. For foldable phones, we conduct this test on the phone’s main display.
We also test the cameras on each foldable phone, taking them out into the field to perform comparative shots, usually with another device that features comparable specs. In some cases, that’s a foldable phone or another device in the same price tier.