resourcessmartphonesSamsungfrom good 3
The clamshell phone is dead, long live the clamshell phone
Chris RowlandSiga @crispytidbits
Almost any smartphone can be bent in half with enough force. But few succeed without suffering fatal damage. Think foldable phones are just a shell gimmick? Think again: the best foldable devices are about as versatile as cellphones will be in 2023.
From clamshell-shaped retro revivals to smartphones that transform into sizable tablets, all but one of the following fans have foldable screens. In addition to the obvious wow factor, each offers innovative flexibility that could transform the way you use your cell phone.
But at prices that make other flagships look cheap, is a clamshell phone worth buying in 2023? Or should you wait for a high-end foldable device that can resolve some of the compromises? We tested the best options to find out and highlighted upcoming foldable models to look out for.
- Coming soon: the most anticipated smartphones of 2022
Our selection of the best foldables
Samsung Galaxy Z-Fold 4
There's no escaping the astronomical price tag, but Samsung's latest foldable flagship sets new standards for foldable smartphones. Visually the skewer of its predecessor, thefrom good 4it looks a little more practical, but it's reassuringly sturdy and as stylish as you'd expect.
The performance of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor is predictably impressive and offers incredible speeds. The longevity gains are a little more modest and come from increasing the efficiency of the chip to squeeze more life out of the same 4400mAh cell.
Bigger gains can be found in productivity features borrowed from the desktop software: a sleek in-app taskbar means multitasking side-by-side is easy on the bright, crisp, slightly wider main screen. That panel also now suffers from a less noticeable crease - although it's still there if you look for it.
Inheriting the Galaxy S22's camera setup also gives the Fold 4 top-notch recording abilities. There's impressive consistency between the lenses: detail on the main sensor is really good, while clarity from the telephoto zoom is equally excellent. The results in low light conditions are also excellent.
Streamlined design, improved cameras and nifty software updates make Samsung's latest flagship the premium foldable device to beat
Cover Display: 6.2 inches 2316 × 904 AMOLED 120 Hz • Main Display: 7.6 inches 2176 × 1812 AMOLED 120 Hz • Cameras: 12 + 50 + 10 MP (rear), 4 MP (front), 10 MP ( cover) • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 • Battery: 4400 mAh • Storage: 256 GB-1 TB • RAM: 12 GB • Dimensions: 155.1 × 130.1 × 6.3 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 263 g
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review here
Samsung Galaxy Z-Fold 3
Like its successor, theSamsung Galaxy Z-Fold 3it's an absurdly expensive but attractive device. With a durable, water-resistant design, it was the first really attractive case for foldable smartphones - and it remains an attractive proposition.
Despite its thickness and weight, the Z Fold 3 is easy to handle, whether you pass the 6.2-inch external OLED or the 7.6-inch internal display. And while the center crease remains, you'll soon learn to look beyond it as you enjoy the spacious canvas.
Its feature set is equally generous. You get 5G connectivity, solid stereo speakers, and an under-display selfie camera (in addition to the one on the cover). The build quality is excellent too, with aluminum sides and Victus Gorilla Glass protecting the front. Under the hood, a Snapdragon 888 chip runs everything perfectly.
The cameras are the only big compromise. They're good, but not Samsung's best, particularly when it comes to secondary sensors. You can definitely get more photographic results with a flagship that doesn't bend.
It costs an absolute fortune, but the Fold 3 does a fantastic job of making an unusual form factor feel normal - and proving that foldable devices are more than just an extremely expensive gimmick.
Cover screen: 6.2 inches 832 × 2268 AMOLED 120 Hz • Main screen: 7.6 inches 1768 × 2208 AMOLED 120 Hz • Cameras: 12 + 12 + 12 MP (rear), 4 + 10 MP (front) • Processor : Snapdragon 888 • Storage : 256/512 GB • RAM: 12 GB • Dimensions: 158.2 × 128.1 × 6.4 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 271 g
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review here
Samsung Galaxy ZFlip 4
Sorting some hooks from its predecessor, keeping the same insertable proportions,Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4looks like a mainstream winning folder. Practically the twin of the Z Flip 3, it remains a well-made waterproof shell - now with a slightly flatter bezel.
Unfolded, the 6.7-inch OLED main panel is crisp, detailed and full of color. And Samsung has done a lot to improve its multitasking potential: swiping with two fingers opens multiple windows, while third-party apps have been optimized for the foldable screen. The elegant external display is also more useful as it reflects your theme and offers more widgets.
The camera's hardware hasn't changed since the Z Flip 3. Only real-world testing will tell if the processing tweaks will help the Flip 4 keep up with its main competitors. A more notable upgrade comes from Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, whose first impressions turned out to be as strong as you'd expect.
Battery life also looks promising with a 400mAh capacity boost. The final verdict will have to await our full review, but initial conclusions suggest that the Z Flip 4 may be the best foldable option for most people.
With improved specs and new customization options, the Z Flip 4 presents itself as a stylish foldable alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S22
Cover Screen: 1.9 inches 512 × 260 AMOLED • Main Screen: 6.7 inches 2640 × 1080 AMOLED 120 Hz • Cameras: 12+12 MP (rear), 10 MP (front) • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 • Battery: 3595 mAh • Storage: 128-512 GB • RAM: 8 GB • Dimensions: 165.2 × 71.9 × 6.9 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 187 g
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 hands-on review here
Samsung Galaxy ZFlip 3
An attractive design, a robust construction and an affordable price make it soZ-Flip 3the first mainstream foldable. Sure, you can still get more performance out of a standard handset for a similar price, but the Flip 3 captures the fun essence of a foldable clamshell. And with the arrival of its successor, chances are it will become even more accessible soon.
Enhanced materials make it a sturdy device: whether unfolded like a regular smartphone or folded like a Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, it feels as solid and premium as you'd expect.
The 6.7-inch AMOLED main screen is beautiful, while the 1.9-inch outer screen is twice the size of the original Flip, making it really useful for showing notifications.
The camera setup hasn't changed since the first flip. Its dual 12-megapixel sensors are perfect, but there are phones that cost a lot less and perform a lot better. More impressive is the impressive performance of the Snapdragon 888 processor, while the battery is good enough for a full day.
Beautifully crafted and delightfully quirky, the Flip 3 is a more affordable gateway into the world of foldable phones - though its camera specs could be better.
Cover screen: 1.9 inches 260 × 512 AMOLED • Main screen: 6.7 inches 1080 × 2640 AMOLED 120 Hz • Cameras: 12+12 MP (rear), 10 MP (front) • Processor: Snapdragon 888 • Memory: 128 / 256 GB • RAM : 8 GB • Dimensions: 166 x 72.2 x 6.9 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 183 g
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review here
Oppo's first foldable device is the foldable phone case that fits in your pocket. It's not tiny: the AMOLED center fold measures 7.1 inches and thefind Nstays sizable at 275g. And although it closes satisfactorily, the packaging still looks like two smartphones stacked on top of each other. But at 133mm tall, it's significantly shorter and more practical than the Z Fold 3.
Its chunky hinge design solidly hides the display's crease, while the bezel itself is gorgeous - even if its square aspect ratio makes the black bars pinch the video. Peak brightness reaches 1000 nits, with LTPO technology allowing refresh rates from 1 to 120 Hz for greater efficiency.
Power isn't an issue: a Snapdragon 888 chip handles tasks in a snap, aided by 12GB of RAM. Oppo's simple and attractive ColorOS interface also goes well with Android 11, while the battery capacity is normal at 4500mAh.
The serviceable triple camera setup is led by a familiar 50MP Sony sensor. It captures sonic results without issue, although the images tend to be over-processed. Identical 32MP sensors mean selfie performance is the same whether the Find N is open or closed.
Well-built, agile and easy to slip into your pocket, Oppo's first foldable phone proves that foldable phones don't have to be huge. Or would it be if you could actually buy one
Cover Screen: 5.49 inches 988 × 1972 OLED • Main Screen: 7.1 inches 1792 × 1920 OLED • Cameras: 50+13+16 MP (rear), 32+32 MP (front) • Processor: Snapdragon 888 • Memory: 256/512 GB • RAM: 8/12 GB • Dimensions: 132.6 × 140.2 × 8.0 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 275g
- Read our Oppo Find N endurance test here
Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Software updates have changedMicrosoft's second generation duoa solid productivity tool, if not something that can replace your personal smartphone. The Snapdragon 888 CPU's performance isn't a flagship specification, but it does offer enough power to load apps quickly and multitask smoothly - meaning the Duo 2 amply meets your business needs.
Like the first version, the Duo 2 has two 5.8-inch screens joined by a sturdy hinge. Folded to create a "single" 8.3-inch panel, there's no crease to be seen, just a narrow gap to look beyond. The bezels have been strategically reduced while remaining robust at the top and bottom.
The glass front and back give it a premium feel, while the slim halves make the Duo 2 small enough to fit in a pocket. The OLED display technology is beautiful to look at, while the 90Hz refresh rates make scrolling a smoother experience. A new overview bar shows notifications without expanding them too.
Three rear cameras can produce decent photos, but find that they get the latest phones in trouble. Likewise, battery life lags behind most flagships - though there's enough fuel to get you through a normal workday, which is what the Duo 2 spends most of its time on.
Improved by regular updates, Microsoft's split-screen foldable device remains an expensive niche device that does its job at multitasking.
Individual screens: 5.8 inches 1344 × 1892 AMOLED • Main screen: 8.3 inches 2688 × 1892 AMOLED • Cameras: 12+12+12 MP • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 • Storage: 128/256/512 GB • RAM: 8 GB • Dimensions : 184.5× 145.2 x 5.5 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 284 g
- Read our full Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review here
Samsung Galaxy Z-Fold 2
successor oforiginal missing, aGalaxy Z-Fold 2it gave hope that foldable phones could be great - and it's still a solid option. Samsung has ditched much of what made the first Fold such a fun but flawed phone and refined the formula to create a much more compelling device.
Gone is the tiny front display in favor of a frame-filling 6.23-inch AMOLED panel that makes an excellent impression of a standard smartphone. Flip the smooth hinge mechanism and a fat, notch-free 7.6-inch display is revealed, complete with 120Hz refresh rates and HDR10+ support - although there's still a crease.
Performance is strong thanks to a Snapdragon 865+ processor and 12GB of RAM, while the 4500mAh battery comfortably lasts a day. There is also 5G connectivity.
It's still not perfect: not all apps run smoothly with the foldable setup, while the camera array doesn't quite match the impressive sensors found in Samsung's standard Galaxy flagships. But there's nothing that makes it bad - and everything the Z Fold 2 does well. Realistically, cost remains the biggest hurdle.
Still prohibitively expensive and still not the best at everything, the Fold 2 remains the first great foldable smartphone
Deck screen: 6.23 inches 816 × 2260 AMOLED • Main screen: 7.6 inches 1768 × 2208 AMOLED 120 Hz • Cameras: 12+12+12 MP (rear), 10+10 MP (front) • Processor: Snapdragon 865 • Memory: 256 /512 GB • RAM: 12 GB • Dimensions: 159.2 × 128.2 × 6.9 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 282 g
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review here
Huawei Mate Xs 2
Huawei Mate Xsit's complicated. Its fold-out design cleverly closes the gap between smartphone and tablet. But it is being held back by trade sanctions that restrict hardware and software. Given the high price, most will be better served by cheaper, easier-to-use alternatives.
But for well-heeled amateurs, there's still a lot to love. When folded, the Xs 2 is thinner than an iPhone 3G. Unfold the wraparound panel and the casing becomes a rigid yet thin panel. Contrast is excellent, gloss is good, and creasing is subtle. Camera quality is also impressive: detail, color accuracy and noise reduction proved competitive on all three rear cameras, even in low light.
What you don't get is Google Play Store support, 5G, or the latest silicon. Its Snapdragon 888 chip offers enough noise to run through most apps, but it's outperformed in benchmarks by many of its contemporaries. While Huawei's built-in Android overlay makes it easy to unlock the screen's potential with swipe gestures, you'll have to load the missing titles into the app gallery. Pixel count also affects battery life, which sits on the bottom edge of the folding table.
Sleek and well-designed, the Mate Xs 2 is an impressive foldable phone, limited by battery life, dated hardware and a painful price tag.
Display: 7.8 inches 2200 × 2480 OLED • Cameras: 50+8+13 MP (rear), 10.7 MP (front) • Processor: Snapdragon 888 • Storage: 256/512 GB • RAM: 8/12 GB • Dimensions: 156.5 × 139.3 × 5.4mm (unfolded) • Weight: 255g
- Read our full Huawei Mate Xs 2 review here
Samsung Galaxy ZFlip
When it was released in 2020,Samsung Galaxy Z Flipit became our top folding pick: it was beautifully designed, agile and delightfully innovative. Two years later, it still offers a lot for anyone wanting a clamshell-shaped foldable smartphone.
Its specs are good enough: a Snapdragon 855 processor and 8GB of RAM mean it's no slouch, while its dual rear cameras are superior to its Motorola Razr rival. Look beyond the plastic casing, and the 6.7-inch AMOLED screen offers respectable resolution too. Gorilla Glass protection adds a welcome dose of durability to the glossy case.
Disadvantages? The sleek external display has a decently low resolution, while the 3300mAh battery isn't the biggest by modern standards. But beyond that, the one thing that really speaks against the Galaxy Z Flip is the same thing that holds nearly every foldable device back: its prohibitively high price.
With solid specs and a solid build, the Flip is still worth considering if you want a compact shell that folds out into a full-screen smartphone - assuming you can afford it.
Cover screen: 1.1 inches 112 × 300 AMOLED • Main screen: 6.7 inches 1080 × 2636 AMOLED • Cameras: 12+12 MP (rear), 10 MP (front) • Processor: Snapdragon 865 • Storage: 256 GB • RAM: 8 GB • Dimensions: 167.3 × 73.6 × 7.2 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 183 g
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review here
Huawei Mate Xs
Unlike its successor X2, Huawei's first foldable device arrived in the UK from China. And if you can find one, it remains an attractive proposition - albeit with some notable caveats.
DieHuawei Mate Xstakes a different design approach to dual display devices: it only has a single wraparound screen on its exterior. So you can use a 6.6" portion when folded, or unfold it to reveal the entire 8.8" panel. It's a good solution that looks very natural.
Performance comes from a powerful Kirin 990 processor and 8GB of RAM. The Xs also benefits from a 4500mAh battery, 5G connectivity and a subtle quad-lens camera setup with Leica Smarts. All specs that compare well with today's flagships. And the 40-megapixel main sensor doubles as a selfie shooter.
So what's the catch? There are two: the enormous cost and the lack of Google apps and services. The first is the price of early adoption. The latter is a troublesome omission that is unlikely to change anytime soon.
With adequate flagship performance, top-of-the-line cameras, and a unique design that brings the foldable screen out, the Mate Xs is limited only by price and a lack of Google software.
Folded cover screen: 6.6 inches 1148 × 2480 OLED • Main screen: 8 inches 2200 × 2480 OLED • Cameras: 40 + 8 + 16 MP • Processor: Kirin 990 • Storage: 512 GB • RAM: 8 GB • Dimensions: 161.3 × 146.2 × 5.4 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 300g
- Read our hands-on review of the Huawei Mate Xs here
Motorola Razr 2020
Motorola's first attempt to revive the iconic Razr phone in 2019 had its fair share of failures. The second generation does a lot to address this: as well as adding 5G connectivity, it simplifies the retro design while retaining the nostalgic value of a full-screen smartphone that you can close.
A slimmer chin, repositioned fingerprint sensor and redesigned camera are the most obvious physical changes. More significant are the internal tweaks: there's double the storage, 2GB more RAM, a faster Snapdragon 765G processor, a slightly larger battery, and a 48MP sensor (up from 16MP on the Razr's first reboot).
Frustratingly, there are still a lot of little things: the plastic OLED screen inside has a relatively low resolution, while the performance doesn't match the latest flagships. And you cannot partially unfold the device. The Razr's biggest selling point remains its satisfying flip action - and its price only makes sense if you value it.
Improved in every way, Motorola's second attempt at a flip-top foldable device adds 5G and various refinements, but it only makes sense if you're into design nostalgia.
Cover Screen: 2.7 inches 600 × 800 OLED • Main Screen: 6.2 inches 876 × 2142 OLED • Cameras: 48 MP (rear), 20 MP (front) • Processor: Snapdragon 765G • Storage: 256 GB • RAM : 8 GB • Dimensions : 169.2 × 72.6 ×7.9 mm (unfolded) • Weight: 192 g
- Read our Motorola Razr 2019 hands-on review here
Google Pixel Fold
Okay, technically the Google Pixel Fold isn't even real. But there are enough rumors about an upcoming Google-made foldable phone that it wouldn't make sense to omit it from this article. At least we can have a little fun imagining what a potential foldable Pixel phone could bring to the table.
Originally planned for late 2022, it now looks like a delayed 2023 release. Very little is known about the mysterious handset, other than a few snippets of information discovered in various bits of code pointing to a foldable Pixel device, but we're hoping it has one. Similar in design to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, albeit a little squarer. .
Along with the expected next-gen Tensor processor under the hood, the Pixel Fold could be the first mainstream foldable device to knock Samsung off its pedestal. For now, though, we'll have to content ourselves with rumors and speculation...
- Keep reading:Google Pixel Fold specs, rumors and release date: everything we know so far
Are there other foldable phones?
The above foldables aren't the only models in production - but most of the alternatives aren't officially available in the UK. Several impressive foldable smartphones have been released over the past 12 months, but most are currently only available in China.
We handle the frameHuawei Mate X2in 2021. Conclusion? It's a very special smartphone - one that proves that foldable devices can be great and durable. It's well made and has an excellent camera kit, but it's also let down by a lack of software support from Google. It is unlikely to leave the Chinese market.
The situation is similar with Honor's first foldable, theMagic V. Equipped with a wrinkle-free 7.9-inch OLED main panel, it looks like a real powerhouse. Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor runs the show with the help of 12GB of RAM. It also has three 50MP rear cameras, two 42MP selfie cameras and 5G connectivity. There's still no word on an international release.
Xiaomi Mi Mix Foldit is also only available in China. Which is a shame, as the spec sheet suggests it could make for an attractive foldable device. Think Snapdragon 888 silicon, a 108MP main camera, Harman Kardon speakers and a 5020mAh battery, all complemented by an 8.01-inch WQHD+ OLED foldable display.
- Best Budget Phone: Affordable Smartphones Tested and Rated