The best flip phone is nice and easy to slip in your pocket, while the best fold phone opens up to reveal an enormous screen. Whichever you prefer, this guide will reveal the best model for you, at the best possible price.
The arrival of the smartphone temporarily killed the flip phone market, but we're not surprised they're on their way back, albeit reimagined with the latest tech. After all, there's something very satisfying, as well as practical, about closing the phone to hide your screen. It's a great way to take a step away from the incessant demands of the digital world: you can still be contacted, but you're not constantly being bothered by screen updates.
The best fold phones, meanwhile, provide many of the advantages of a large tablet screen, without having to carry around a tablet. And of course, you can make calls too. Fold phones are quite expensive right now, admittedly, but you can save substantially if you buy an older first- or second-generation model. For more on fold phones, read: Why I Fold While Others Flip.
Finally, if you don't need 2020s tech, and want to wallow in nostalgia, you could opt for one of the old-school flip phones we've included at the end of our list.
Best fold phones
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is quite simply the best folding phone to date. It's super-slim, at just 6.3mm thick. It's lighter and more durable than its predecessor, thanks to an advanced hinge. And you get a beautiful AMOLED display, which folds out to 7.6-inches in diameter, supports HDR, has a 120Hz refresh rate and a high resolution of above 380 pixels-per-inch.
You can captures videos at up to 8K resolution at 24fps, and 4K at up to 60fps. Manual ISO can be set as high as 3200, and the shutter speed up to 30 seconds. And cleverly, the camera takes advantage of the phone's Flex Mode, so when the Fold 4 is half-folded, the top half of the screen acts as a viewfinder, while the bottom half serves up your shooting controls.
The 4,400Mah battery isn't the greatest among modern smartphones, and like with the Z Fold 3, the fold still has a big gap in the middle. But on the whole, if you want a folding phone, you won't find finer. For more information, see our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review.(opens in new tab)
The previous phone in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series is still available, and if you can get it for cheaper than its successor, it's still worth investigating.
As this model was released back in 2020, you'd expect it to be inferior in many ways, and you'd be right. For instance, the cameras aren't quite as good, with the 12MP main sensor being a big climbdown from the 50MP one in the new phone.
The Z Fold 4 is more durable too, due to its advanced hinge design, reinforced with Armor Aluminium. The processor in the Z Fold 3 (Snapdragon 888) also isn't fast as the 4's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. That said, you're getting the same S-Pen and the same 4,400Mah battery as the latest model. For more information, see our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 hands-on review.(opens in new tab)
Thee original 2019 version of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, and available at a much lower price than the latest version. That makes it a tempting proposition if you want a foldable phone, but don't want to pay top dollar for the privilege.
It’s worth remembering that, even at the time, the chipset was not seen as the latest, so the device might be great for the kind of people who used to love being productive on Psion Organisers. But three years on, it's probably not best suited to the gaming market, for example.
With two screens separated by a small hinge, the Surface Duo is impressively thin – sub 5mm when open – and shiny, with gorilla glass on both the screen size and outside of the case. Since the hinge can stop in any position, the device can be used like a book, a tiny laptop (Psion PDA style), a tablet or a single-screen phone. There are even extra options like ‘peak mode’ (rather than an extra external screen).
Microsoft are using Android rather than their own OS (they don’t even force Bing on you), so you have access to a good range of apps. The Snapdragon 855 and 6GB of RAM are enough, though the big bezels mean the screen is ‘only’ 8.1 inches, and a single 11MP camera won’t please photographers. That said, Instagrammers are definitely not the intended market, and the camera is fine for video calls.
For productivity tool users, the real gains are in software space. Microsoft have updated their suite of apps to work on both screens effectively, but multitaskers really power ahead by using ‘app groups’ to choose pairs of apps to run one on each screen, side by side.
Best flip phones
Want a flip phone? Here's the best available today. It's nice and compact while folded away, making it easy to carry, yet feels very durable and sturdy. Open it up, and it turns into a 6.7-inch screen smartphone with a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, smooth 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support and a 1200 nits peak brightness.
The cameras are a step up from its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Flip 3, with a larger, 1/1.76-inch main sensor (despite being the same 12MP resolution), matched with an f/1.8 aperture. That means you should get better quality photos, especially in low light, thanks to the new Super Night Solution mode.
You can also film videos at up to 4K, at 260fps, and if you're shooting in Pro Mode, manual ISO can be set at 3200, and the shutter speed up to 30 seconds. For more details, see our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 review.(opens in new tab)
Released in summer 2021, Galaxy Z Flip 3 is now the older model, and as such, you should be able to get one for less than the new Flip 4. There will be some compromises to that, of course.
For example, the Snapdragon 888 processor isn't quite as fast. The battery is just 3300mAh compared to 3700mA in the new model. The camera lets in less light, and the Flip 3 lacks the Super Night Solution mode found on the Flip 4. It's still a pretty decent phone, though, and the differences are not overwhelming if you're looking to save some cash. For more info, see our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 hands-on review.(opens in new tab)
Ready to go back in time to 2017? Video-capable, and running an admittedly old version of Android (6.0, “Marshmallow,” since you ask), there are no worries herer about a delicate, flexible screen technology. So, if you don’t mind the t9 text-entry system but are going to be taking the phone through some difficult conditions, this might be the choice for you.
The handset is also equipped with all the communications basics – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a MicroUSB connector, and the main camera can capture video at 1080P30, while you can use the other for VoLTE. The camera also has face detection and touch-to-focus on top of the 3264x2448 image resolution. That said, you might have to pay for it; in some places only a very pricey gold edition can be found.(opens in new tab)
It’s perfectly possible to have grown up and not even remember phones with 700 hours standby and removable batteries, so the younger generation might find this phone, which probably needs charging twice a month, something of a revelation. Admittedly this ‘feature phone’ sucks the juice rather more rapidly if you actually use it, and you can use KaiOS to do some reasonably ‘smart’ things, like play video, browse the web, and use WhatsApp.
Indeed Facebook, Google Assistant and Google Maps are amongst the available apps, although GPS isn’t included on this particular phone so location is derived from cell towers. On the plus side you can enjoy the FM radio – one up on the iPhone!
Sadly the single camera, at 2MP is really the same sort of quality you’d expect when flip phones were new. It isn’t even capable of recording video, though you will see motion blur in a lot of the stills.(opens in new tab)
Okay, so this is a bit of a stretch as a flip phone but, in common with other handsets in the category, there is a physical part of the phone which closes to protect the keyboard. Unlike the snappy jaw-like flippers, the screen remains exposed on the 4G 8110, so there is no need for any dual-screen nonsense to see the caller ID. Best of both?
It nearly was – it even has a version of Snake on board – but it’s let down by a feeble 2MP rear camera which can only boast an LED flash as any kind of useful feature, and no selfie camera at all. It can shoot video, not that you’ll be especially pleased with the results. Build quality isn’t ideal either; the plastic is easily scuffed. On the plus side, it does look cool when the button backlight pops on as you slide the cover down – so it might worth be having if you're doing some Matrix cosplay.
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