Has Samsung Just Made The World’s Most Stylish Phone?

Introducing the Galaxy Z Flip Thom Browne Edition, available to shop at MR PORTER now

When all everyone ostensibly wants to wear are jeans and a T-shirt, it takes a suitably gutsy designer to make an entire collection of suits. This is precisely what happened in 2001 when Mr Thom Browne founded his own label, introducing the world to his signature shrunken tailoring and somehow managing to make the tenets of classic style feel, all of a sudden, subversive. It’s easy enough to overlook quite how bold a move it was: cropped trousers, after all, are a near-standard item in most men’s wardrobes nowadays. But, at the time, it was a game-changer. 

Only a few years ago, the smartphone market was in similar need of a shake-up. The devices we carried around in our pockets had become more or less homogenous, with little to differentiate them in size, shape or even the technological bells and whistles beneath the touchscreen. Distinguishing between brands, let alone the latest models, became a struggle. In truth, it was all a bit boring; there is only so much excitement a new, slightly sharper display or an extra camera can foster. But then, in 2019, the Galaxy Fold debuted. As the world’s first fully foldable smartphone, it broke the mould by offering an entirely new way to interact with our devices. 

Suffice to say that whatever the tech giant did next had a lot to measure up to. The first iteration, which opened to reveal a phablet-style screen, was unlike anything else you could get your hands on. But could the Seoul-based brand replicate as much feverish buzz once again?

The swirling rumours and speculation that preceded Samsung’s UNPACKED 2020 event, which took place earlier this week, suggest that the answer is yes. Announced during the event’s keynote presentation, the Galaxy Z Flip – which, this time, folds horizontally to resemble a palm-sized wallet and is fitted with an ultra-thin glass screen as opposed to plastic – is every bit as mind-bending an accomplishment as its predecessor. There’s a 6.7in FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED screen, 7nm Snapdragon 855+ processor, 256GB storage, a dual 3,300 mAh battery, with the ability to wirelessly charge other devices; an ultra-wide 12 MP FF F2.2, 123-degree rear camera (in addition to the a 10 MP hole-punch front camera), Dolby Atmos sound quality, facial recognition and a discreet fingerprint scanner on the side.

If all of the above reads like a laundry list of gibberish from where you’re sitting, just think of it as shorthand for “this is a seriously powerful machine”. Specs aside, the real masterstroke from Samsung is getting Mr Browne on board. The Galaxy Z Flip Thom Browne Edition, which is available to shop at MR PORTER now, feels less like a phone and more like a new gentleman’s accessory, built with purpose but with the understanding that form is equal to function. Encased in the designer’s favoured steely grey hue – to match his signature suits – the glass outer shell is streaked with a navy, red and white stripe, a hallmark that’ll be immediately recognisable to Mr Browne’s fans. Overall, it’s leaner and altogether sleeker than any of its counterparts’ outputs.

Designer collaborations are nothing new in this realm, but this one feels more fully realised and considered than previous gimmick-laden attempts. That’s partly because Mr Browne has been so hands-on throughout the creative process. “We designed the Galaxy Z Flip Thom Browne Edition just like I do my collections, with proportion, individuality and aesthetic in mind, to create the perfect blend of art and technology,” he explains.

From the grosgrain-trimmed pebble leather of the case – another of Mr Browne’s calling cards – to the analogue app icons and old-timey ringtones, there’s not an element here the detail-oriented designer hasn’t seen to. And it’s not just the phone that comes in the grey faille box (yes, even the packaging has received the designer’s treatment). Inside is what the brand calls “a coordinating wardrobe of accessories”, including the Galaxy Active2 smartwatch – itself a technically impressive piece of kit – complete with interchangeable leather and black rubber straps, alongside a pair of wireless Galaxy Buds+ earphones, which come nestled in a compact carry-and-charging case in the distinctive Thom Browne colours.

So, does the Galaxy Z Flip herald the return of the flip phone? On a rudimentary design level, there will be some who draw comparisons to the clamshell icons of that gone-but-not-forgotten age. It’s true, it is certainly devised to recall a healthy degree of nostalgia, evident in the name, for one. There’s also the fact you have to actively open it to actually use it, rather than shoot the briefest of glances at the screen – a welcome throwback to a time when weekly screen-time reports were an unthinkable prospect. But Samsung’s effort is far from the flip phone you think you know: thoughtful nuances, such as the miniaturised screen on the front, which can be used to both keep track of notifications and take lightning-quick selfies on the fly, or the split-screen mode that allows for easy multitasking and hands-free video chats, make it feel like an entirely new contraption.

For an object that has become an extension of our entire selves – functioning not only as a communication tool but as a camera, an entertainment centre and even a wallet – it’s somewhat surprising we’ve become complacent when it comes to how our phones reflect our individual sense of style. Samsung’s latest release serves as a subtle reminder that it’s OK to do things a little bit differently from everyone else. In a world where hoodies and sweatpants have the monopoly on the runway, it pays to be the man wearing a suit on the street. Or carrying a Galaxy Z Flip.