Samsung's battle of the phones: Z Flip vs S20 Ultra

Aletha Wilkinson
Head of Lifestyle

If you’re in the market for a premium Android phone at the moment, odds are you’re torn between the foldable, pocket-sized Galaxy Z Flip and the significantly larger Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Both will set you back somewhere in the region of $2k – the flip phone currently retails from $2199, while the S20 is a little cheaper, starting at $1799 – so they’re not a budget affair and this is definitely a decision you’re going to want to make fully informed.

Samsung Galaxy S20 or Galaxy Z Flip – which is better? Picture: Samsung/Yahoo Lifestyle

The flip phone, reborn

I still remember the late noughties, when my bestie had a Motorola flip with a teeny-tiny screen on the front that would scroll text messages across, like a pager. I coveted that phone, and the satisfying click it made when she snapped it shut after a conversation about which superclub we were going to hit up that night.

The Z Flip brings back all that nostalgic energy but with a heap of 2020-era functionality. Building on from the more tablet-sized Galaxy Fold, it utilises the same foldable glass technology but instead of folding vertically, it folds in half just like the flip phones of yore.

Like a miniature laptop, this makes it perfect for video calls and conferencing (something you’re likely to be making a lot of, these days). Instead of having to hold the device while you speak, you can sit it on a table or any other surface in front of you, freeing you up to move around.

How cute is that. Like a tiny laptop. Picture: Samsung.

The small size also makes it incredibly light and portable. Have you seen the size of women’s pants pockets? There’s no way you’d get a normal phone in there, but with a phone that folds in half, suddenly a bagless, arms-free life is possible.

The fact that it can stand up by itself also effectively means the Z Flip has a built-in tripod, so hello night photography, group shots, and hands-free selfies.

Other top features:

  • The battery life is excellent. I was easily able to use the phone for an entire day with zero anxiety about getting stranded.

  • If you have a Samsung Galaxy watch or Samsung ear buds, you can use the Z Flip to wirelessly charge them!

  • The camera does a decent Bokeh effect (blurring the background) which makes photos look a bit more professional.

  • A split-screen option means you can run two apps at once.

  • Looks schmicko. I mean, honestly, this is a cool phone. It’s different from almost everything out there in the market right now, in the best possible way. Random strangers literally asked me what kind of phone it was, which is quite a feat under social distancing. If you’re after attention, the Z Flip will get it for you.

The downsides

For me, the Z Flip is probably just a tiny bit too narrow, making it that much harder to type, which is something I happen to do a lot of on my phone. If it were say, half a centimetre wider, the keyboard would be easier to manipulate, but as it is I found myself struggling to be nimble enough to stop making constant typos.

It’s also, like the Galaxy Fold, not water resistant.

Ultra useful in every way

In contrast to the achingly cool little Z Flip, you’re probably not going to be immediately wowed by the Galaxy S Ultra. No one who sees you pull it out is going ask what phone that is, because honestly it just looks like any other contemporary handset (apart from the fact that it comes in pretty pink and blue colourways as well as the more conventional charcoal).

The S20 Ultra doesn't have any superpowers – it's just an all-round high quality handset. Picture: Samsung/Yahoo

The thing is, though, it’s such a solid, capable performer that you’re not going to be fazed. It feels nicely weighted in the hand and despite its relative size (a generous 166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8mm) I never struggled to type with one hand.

The camera is impressive, its biggest drawcard being the fact it boasts a staggering 108MP. You’ve most likely already heard about how more megapixels don’t necessarily equal higher resolution or better quality images, but in this case, combined with the 100x space zoom, it genuinely does translate to much finer detail in even long-range images.

Spot the pup on a beach towel? Look closer... Picture: Samsung

Using a combination of optical and digital zoom, each image is able to include a surprising level of clarity when you home in on the details.

Oop, there she is! Look at the detail there – you can almost see the individual grains of sand. Picture: Samsung

Easy on the eyes

It does come in some very pretty colours but what I actually mean here is, the screen is literally easier on your eyes. It’s not too small to look at without squinting, and it uses blue-light reduction technology ‘at the pixel level’ to limit the amount of eyestrain you’ll experience.

Running on Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, the S20 Ultra also has enough processing power to ensure scrolling, video playback and gaming (if that’s your thing) are smooth enough to watch without pulling an eye muscle.

The downsides

For such a powerful camera, it’s been noticeably bad at taking close-up and macro shots, struggling to find focus within 10cm. Fortunately, a recent software update has provided a workaround for this issue.

Three lenses mean a slightly bulky camera, spoiling what would otherwise be a flat rear profile.

The verdict

For me, the slightly cheaper S20 has to be the pick of these two, but bear in mind I tested each of them under lockdown, meaning I’ve rarely strayed from home over the past few months. If I were out and about more it’s very possible I would have found more utility from the Z Flip.

If a smaller profile is more important to you and you’re using your phone for lots of video calling – and you like having the latest and greatest tech – the Z Flip is a better choice.

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