Most smartphones have a specific purpose or target consumer they’re designed for. The Galaxy S22 Ultra and a host of other phones are geared towards being the best camera phones. The iPhone and others are designed to be the best smartphones for most people. Then there’s the Galaxy Z Fold range, the kings of productivity. With the Galaxy Z Fold 4, Samsung continues this trend.
Since the first Galaxy Fold, I’ve loved the big screen for productivity. From regular smartphone to tablet with a simple unfolding, the Z Fold 4 and the Folds before it have been the perfect companion for portable productivity, and this year’s additions in the software department push this another step forward. Here’s why I love the Galaxy Z Fold 4 for productivity, and how I’ve been using it to plan a cross-country move!
The best of ten years of multitasking
I say this with every generation of the Fold but since the early years of the Galaxy Note, I’ve wondered what Samsung’s long-term plan was for multitasking. Yes, the Galaxy Note range had a decent size screen but it wasn’t a transformative experience. Yes, it also came to the Galaxy Tab range which made for a good experience on the bigger display, but Samsung’s biggest strength wasn’t being properly utilized in its flagship phones.
The Fold 4 and Folds before it are the culmination of more than a decade of perfecting mobile productivity. Samsung has stolen a huge march over any competitor when it comes to multitasking on mobile devices and with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the hardware can take full advantage.
The key part of the multi-window experience is the ability to run three apps side by side, with one main app taking up half the screen and the other two taking up a quarter of the screen each. Using two apps side by side is my norm and each takes up the average space of a regular smartphone screen, but I’ll often also run a third app. You can also run more apps that appear as pop-up windows and disappear into chat-head-like icons that are visible above all other apps but can be moved around the screen. When it comes to working on the go, there’s no better phone for it.
The Z Fold 4 is almost perfect for the S Pen
Last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 bought a lot of improvements, but one of the biggest additions was support for the S Pen. The Galaxy S22 Ultra this year bought an embedded S Pen slot, but the Fold 4 still relies on an external S Pen. With a bit of luck and engineering marvel, hopefully, we’ll have an embedded Galaxy S Pen in a future Fold. But aside from that, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is almost perfect for the S Pen.
Like any S Pen-enabled device, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 supports drag and drop between multiple windows, handwriting input and all the Air Actions features that we’ve come to know and love. Last year, Samsung created a case that stored the S Pen awkwardly in the hinge, but this year’s official Galaxy Z Fold 4 case still adds bulk but lets you swap out the S Pen holder for a kickstand. It’s not as elegant as an embedded S Pen, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The truth however is that you probably won’t use the S Pen that often. Once the novelty of using the S Pen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 wore off – and I got a little tired of the speed bump effect of using the S Pen on the main screen – I never really carried the S Pen. Yes, there were plenty of times when I missed having the S Pen because I needed to sign a document, but these were not enough for me to want to carry it full-time. If you’re more of a dedicated S Pen user, however, the Fold 4 supports either the S Pen Pro or the S Pen Fold Edition, with the latter being more streamlined and designed with the Fold 3 and Fold 4 in mind.
The taskbar is a great addition to the software
My favorite Z Fold 4 feature is the taskbar. Designed to replicate the PC-like experience of having a dock of apps that are always visible at the bottom of the screen, it’s the easiest way to access the apps you’ve used recently, your entire app library, or the apps pinned at the bottom of the front screen.
Therein lies my only complaint with the taskbar – there’s no flexibility. It displays up to eight apps in total and it follows the same ones you have at the bottom of the home screen on the main screen. In my case, this is eight apps, the first five of which are also mirrored on the cover screen. If you have eight in the dock on the main screen – the first five also being on the cover screen – then there are no recent apps, but if you have less, it’ll fill the remaining slots with your most recent apps. In my case, on the Cover Screen I want access to the phone, camera, and messages app, all of which I won’t really be using from the Main Screen, so these options being semi-permanent there effectively waste space.
I have my main screen set to mirror two cover screens because it lets me fit more on the main screen (up to 10 icons across vs just 6) but this means the first five apps in the taskbar are the same as the ones at the bottom of the Cover Screen. I hope that Samsung will add further customization and separation between the two screens; clearly, the Main Screen can support far more icons than the max 6 × 5 grid in the settings and if they could add an option to display more icons just on the main screen, it would solve a lot of these issues.
How the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has helped some intense planning
Productivity is about more than just a series of software features; it ultimately comes down to how useful these features are in daily life. During the past week, I’ve been planning two things that would have been considerably harder without the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The overriding theme of both is multitasking with Google Sheets and several other apps at once.
First, I’ve been working on a transcontinental move ahead of the bitterly cold East Coast winters. This is where the big screen of the Fold 4 has been instrumental. I just got back from a trip to the west coast to view 14 potential apartments and as soon as I left a viewing, I fired up my running sheet to update various things like cost, features, and other pertinent info. Rather than set this sheet up from a laptop and access it on the go, I started it and did all the formatting on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which shows that it is a very capable portable replacement if you spend a lot of time in spreadsheets .
The other big thing has been an end-of-year month-long vacation that takes in six cities and four countries. This has also required a spreadsheet, but it’s also needed a lot of cross-checking between various apps to check flights, reviews, locations, and pricing. On my laptop, I’d be running three-to-four apps side-by-side and on any regular phone, it would be a single-app-at-a-time experience, but the Galaxy Z Fold 4 brings a laptop -like experience on the go.
As a smartphone, it crucially doesn’t have to be put away when you’re taking off on a plane, which comes in handy when you’re delayed on the tarmac like I was for a few hours yesterday. Several folks who were working had already put their laptops away, but I was able to keep doing everything I was until the delay was resolved.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the king of productivity
For the fourth year in a row, I’m reiterating the same fact – the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (and the Folds before it) is the king of productivity. This year doesn’t bring a huge set of additions, but Samsung has made some welcome refinements that improve the overall experience and make it even more productive.
Software, not hardware, will ultimately determine how mainstream foldables become, and each year Samsung adds new features that allow you to do more and be even more productive. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is close to being the perfect phone for portable productivity, and the improved camera means it’s likely to be a permanent fixture in my pocket, at least until the Galaxy Z Fold 5 next year!
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