Technology NewsWhich compact flagship should you buy?

Which compact flagship should you buy?

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If you’re in the market for a new phone and you prefer a more compact form factor instead of the phablet-sized behemoths that fill the flagship space, then either the Google Pixel 7 or Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 should serve you well. The Google Pixel 7, with a 6.3-inch display, is one of the smallest phones on the market, and the Galaxy Z Flip 4, meanwhile, has a 6.7-inch screen that folds in half to become a small box that fits into even shirt pockets.


Oh, and both phones are highly polished and among the best Android phones available anywhere, period.

Besides the form factors, these phones have other differences that’ll effect which one you buy, from price to features.

  • The Google Pixel 7 is a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very polished flagship phone without exorbitant prices.
    Google Pixel 7

    Google Pixel 7

    The Google Pixel 7 is a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very polished flagship phone without exorbitant prices.

  • The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a clamshell foldable that combines the compact form factor of yesteryear's phones with a modern Android experience equipped with the most powerful Qualcomm chipset and cutting-edge foldable OLED technology.
    Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

    Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

    The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a clamshell foldable that combines the compact form factor of yesteryear’s phones with a modern Android experience. It’s also equipped with the most powerful Qualcomm chipset and cutting-edge foldable OLED technology.


Google Pixel 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4: Price and availability

Both phones are widely available across North America at virtually every carrier or electronics retail store. In the U.S., the Pixel 7 is priced at $599 while the Z Flip 4 is officially at $999. I say “officially” for the latter because the phone is constantly on sale — in fact, Amazon has it at $900 at the time of this writing — and Samsung’s website has very generous trade-in offers. In other words, the price difference between these two phones is usually smaller than the officially listed $400 gap. However, the Google Pixel 7 also has its fair share of deals, too.

Outside of North America, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is easier to find. The Pixel 7, meanwhile, is in fewer markets but does sell officially in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. If you’re not in one of the countries listed, you’ll have to buy from an importer.

Google Pixel 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4: Specifications

Specifications

Google Pixel 7

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

Weight and Dimensions

  • 6.9 ounces (197g)
  • 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches (155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7mm)
  • 6.6 ounces (187g)
  • Unfolded: 6.5 x 2.83 x 0.27 inches (165.2 x 71.9 x 6.9mm)
  • Folded: 3.34 x 2.83 x 0.63–0.67 inches (84.9 x 71.9 x 15.9-17.1mm)

Processor

Google Tensor G2

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1

Display(s)

6.3-inch OLED, 90Hz, 1080 x 2400

  • Main: 6.7-inch OLED, 120Hz, 1080 x 2640
  • Secondary: 1.9-inch OLED, 260 x 512

Cameras

  • Main: 50MP, f/1.9
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2
  • Selfie: 10.8MP, f/2.2
  • Main: 12MP, f/2.2
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2
  • Selfie: 10MP, f/2.4

Memory

8GB RAM, 128/256GB

8GB RAM, 128/256/512GB

Battery

4,355mAh

3,700mAh

Software

Android 13

OneUI 5 over Android 13

Design and hardware: One folds, the other doesn’t… duh

Pixel 7 in Snow White held in hand
Google Pixel 7 in Snow colorway.

The Google Pixel 7 is a slab phone with a 6.3-inch flat display and a curvy glass back, highlighted by a visually striking aluminum camera visor housing a dual camera system. The Galaxy Z Flip 4, meanwhile, is a clamshell foldable (also glass and aluminum sandwich) with one large 6.7-inch foldable screen and a smaller screen on the cover. The Flip 4’s folds inwards, horizontally, at the mid-way point, closing up to become a small, rectangular box. Even with a protective case, the Flip 4 remains compact.

When the Flip 4 is unfolded, it behaves just like any other slab phone with two noticeable in-hand feel differences. First, the crease that runs along the middle of the screen at the folding point is deep and can be distracting when your finger swipes over it. Second, the Flip is thin at 6.9mm. Other than these two things, the Flip 4, when unfolded, behaves fundamentally just like the Pixel 7.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 169293

Despite the larger display (and having a second screen), the Flip 4 is 10g lighter than the Pixel 7 at 187g. With that said, the Pixel 7 is still a very lightweight and compact phone, even if you protect it with a case.

Displays: Trading wins

Google Pixel 7 display
Google Pixel 7’s display.

The main screens of both phones have their strengths. The Z Flip 4 has a superior 120Hz refresh rate to the Pixel 7’s slower 90Hz, but the Pixel 7’s OLED panel gets brighter at 1,400 nits max brightness compared to the Z Flip 4’s 1,200 nits. Samsung’s display is slightly more pixel-dense, but Pixel 7’s screen doesn’t have a deep groove running across the middle. Both screens look great under general circumstances.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 187020

The Flip 4, however, has an extra screen on the outside that allows the phone to be used when closed up. It’s a 1.9-inch rectangular OLED screen, and it’s best for checking quick information or snippets of notifications, although my colleague Adam Conway successfully played a first-person shooter game on it thanks to apps like CoverScreen OS that allow it some additional functionality.

Samsung-Galaxy-Z-Flip-4-CoverScreen-OS-3-Watermarked

The outside cover screen is useful in a pinch, but ultimately, you will have to unfold the Flip 4 for most smartphone tasks. I consider this a hassle, and others will too.

Processors and battery: Efficiency vs machine learning

Google Tensor G2 graphic on lime background.

The Pixel 7 is powered by Google’s Tensor G2, a chip designed in-house by Google, while the Z Flip 4 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. Technically speaking, the latter chip is overall more powerful, particularly in gaming performance and thermals. However, the Tensor G2 is designed specifically to handle Google’s machine-learning algorithms, and it works wonders.

I have tested both silicon thoroughly, and I can say that the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is more energy efficient, doesn’t heat up as fast when performing graphically intensive tasks like editing videos or gaming, and will render an edited video faster. But the Tensor G2 allows the Pixel 7 to pull off a lot of intelligent tasks, like the best-in-class voice dictation or handling Google’s superior image processing (more on the latter in the camera section).

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 launch poster

Both phones use 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 memory standards. On the Pixel, storage comes in either 128GB or 256GB, while the Flip 4 has both plus a 512GB storage variant.

The Pixel 7 has a respectable 4,355 mAh battery while the Flip 4 has a small 3,700 mAh cell. Google’s phone does achieve better battery life as a result, but the Flip 4’s not too shabby either thanks to the efficient Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip.

Cameras

Close up view of the Google Pixel 7 rear cameras.

Let it be known, first off, that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4’s cameras are quite good. The 12MP wide and ultra-wide cameras are fast to focus, produce punchy colors, and can double as a tremendous selfie camera system thanks to the phone’s foldable form factor.

Galaxy Z Flip 4 with cover screen camera on

But there’s no sugarcoating this: the Pixel 7’s cameras are on another level. I have tested every flagship phone released in 2022, and the Pixel 7’s main camera, based on the strength of that large-sensor 50MP camera and Google’s Tensor-powered computational photography, is in the running for best smartphone camera of the year. Shots captured by the Pixel 7’s main cameras almost always have flawless dynamic range, with proper exposure of harsh highlights and finding details in the shadows. The larger image sensor also results in natural bokeh. Just look at the photo samples below.

For full disclosure: they were snapped with the Pixel 7 Pro’s main camera, but it is the exact same camera as the standard Pixel 7’s main.

The Flip 4’s cameras can grab some good shots too, but the depth-of-field is a bit shallower, and it can occasionally blow out highlights. However, the Flip 4’s ability to fold in an L-shape and stay in place (a move Samsung calls Flex Mode) opens up possibilities. You can use it to grab hands-free selfies or group photos without needing a helping hand or a tripod, for example.

Software and performance: Two versions of Android

Samsung-Galaxy-Z-Flip-4-1-Watermarked

The Pixel 7 runs on Android 13, which is Google’s vision of what Android should be. The software has a customizable color scheme and is overall very flashy in terms of animations, with a more playful vibe than Samsung’s One UI Android skin.

Google also isn’t shy to flex its artificial intelligence in the UI. For example, the unremovable main widget that sits on the top of the Pixel 7 home screen will show you contextual information, like upcoming flights or alarms. The lockscreen will automatically show you what song is playing nearby. You can turn off this contextual information (which requires the Pixel to take liberty with accessing your information and microphone), but the fact they’re on by default says a lot about how proud Google is of its software smarts.

The OneUI on the Flip 4 is nowhere near as proactively aware or intelligent, but it has a better multitasking system because OneUI allows you to open apps in split-screen or resizable smaller windows, while the Pixel UI can only do split-screen. This means if you often run more than one app at a time, Samsung’s UI is a bit more capable.

Overall performance is fine for both devices, as either is lacking in power. I do find the Pixel tends to slow down a bit if pushed heavily. Sometimes an app may take a split second longer before it fully loads, and trimming the length of a video within the Google Photo app will take longer than usual to render the new file. It seems the Flip 4, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, is just a tad faster. But the difference isn’t big enough to matter too much in my opinion.

Google Pixel 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4: Which phone should you buy?

pixel 7 in the hand

Pixel 7 in Obsidian

This one to me is pretty straightforward: do you see value in having a phone that folds in half? Are you enamored with the technology and flashiness factor of one of the best foldables on the market? Do you constantly take selfies and video calls and find it a hassle to find a place to prop up the phone? If you answered yes to any of those, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is an excellent choice.

But if you answered no to all, or do not have strong feelings either way, then the Pixel 7 is the better buy because it’s a bit cheaper, the main camera is superior, and battery life is a bit longer.

  • The Google Pixel 7 is a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very polished flagship phone without exorbitant prices.
    Google Pixel 7

    Google Pixel 7

    The Google Pixel 7 is a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very polished flagship phone without exorbitant prices.

  • The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a clamshell foldable that combines the compact form factor of yesteryear's phones with a modern Android experience equipped with the most powerful Qualcomm chipset and cutting-edge foldable OLED technology.
    Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

    Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

    The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a clamshell foldable that combines the compact form factor of yesteryear’s phones with a modern Android experience. It’s also equipped with the most powerful Qualcomm chipset and cutting-edge foldable OLED technology.

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