Samsung’s Flex mode is unique to its foldable smartphones, such as the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It allows the screen to adjust to the angle at which the smartphone is folded. But is it really useful?
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has been running Android OneUI 3.1.1 overlay since its launch on August 27. A version of the Samsung interface exclusive to the Fold and Flip models, especially since it includes Flex mode. This mode is not really new as it was introduced in the Galaxy Z Fold 2 last year. I looked into it in my detailed review of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 back then.
But what exactly is this Flex mode for, aside from showing off your foldable smartphone, and are the usage scenarios really relevant to everyday life? Spoilers: Not really, but it’s a bit like 120Hz vs. 90Hz – once you get used to it, you almost won’t want to be without it.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Flex View: Turn your Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 into a mini (very mini) laptop
Flexible mode refers to the ability of the “OneUI 3.1.1” interface to adjust to the angle at which the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s screen is folded. Since the Z Fold 2, Samsung’s foldable devices have been able to detect when the screen is tilted between 75 and 115 degrees.
This allows certain applications to be used in two ways with the screen partially extended. One is in “laptop” mode with the dual internal screen (the main screen), and the other is in “tent” mode with the cover screen (see below under Continue Apps). Here we look at portable mode.
Specifically, if you’re using an app on the main screen (which folds), you can tilt either panel to activate Flex View mode. In this way, the most important information is displayed in the upper area, while in the lower area are the controls of the application or the keyboard, etc.
So you can put the Galaxy Z Fold 3 on a table and use it as a mini laptop. During my tests, Flex View mode worked with note-taking apps like Samsung Notes or Google Keep. I was able to write my notes on the bottom screen while viewing the text on the slightly tilted top screen.
The same procedure worked more or less well with the messengers. I had some issues with WhatsApp at first as the top screen would turn white when typing on the bottom screen keyboard. After that it worked normally. I have not noticed any visual errors with Telegam.
“Continue apps on front screen” to switch more or less intuitively between tablet and smartphone
On the Z Fold 2, this feature was called App Continuity. Samsung preferred to change the name of this feature to “Continue Apps on Front Screen”. Wow, bravo Samsung! Seriously, this feature allows you to intuitively switch from unfolded to folded mode without having to restart an application.
This is especially useful if you use a GPS application like Google Maps. You can explore the map in unfolded mode to take advantage of the Z Fold 3’s larger screen when unfolded. But once you’ve decided where you want to go, you can simply fold the phone – the GPS app continues to work without interruption.
You can also combine this continuity feature with Flex mode. During my lunch hour at the office, for example, I watch the fascinating videos on the YouTube channel NextPit with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in “tent mode”. The screen folds down slightly and the smartphone is upside down like a tent. So it serves as a tripod while displaying the content on the cover screen. If you’re used to watching videos on your smartphone, this is without exaggeration (well, maybe a little bit) almost an excellent feature.
Flex Labs: Experimental Features
Flex Labs is a special menu in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 settings that allows you to enable certain experimental features to “force” Flex mode support for more third-party apps.
In this menu you can force the display of multiple windows and popups in each application. Regardless of whether the developer provided support for it or not. And that works out with a generally pretty good success rate. For example, I loved being able to use the Z Fold 3 in handheld mode with a YouTube video on the top split screen and my Twitter feed on the bottom split screen.
Samsung has also included a “control panel” in the Labs menu that can be used to force Flex View mode even in apps that don’t support it. Basically, all the content of the application is transferred to the upper screen, while the lower screen displays a set of controls with buttons for operation:
- take screenshots
- Pull down the quick access menu and notification area
- adjust brightness
- manage the volume
I didn’t use this feature very often as most of the apps I used didn’t need these features. Also, this “flex mode panel” occupies the entire bottom screen, which naturally makes multitasking difficult.
Well, I have already said a lot about Flex mode. But is it really useful in the end? no or maybe a little bit and it’s actually great!
It is not useful in the sense that you will not use these functions because you need them or because a specific use case requires them. But it’s significantly less slick than, say, Solos on the Pixel 4 (although I was a fan), Fnatic mode on OnePlus phones, or macro modes on phones with a 2MP sensor.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s also useless. These are completely optional features that you can do without 100% without losing anything. But if you choose to use them, they don’t affect usability. It’s just a bonus.
Personally, I think it’s also a matter of form factor. Flex View mode, for example, which allows the Z Fold 3 to be used in portable mode, would make more sense if the smartphone were a bit larger. With my big fingers, I found typing on the keyboard to be a bit awkward in the long run.
Watching a video on the side of the screen in portable or tent mode is very comfortable on YouTube. But couldn’t you do it in full screen mode, opening the phone all the way and propping it up against something to keep it upright?
It’s clearly not a great feature and these features are still a bit immature. But I think that in the long run they will fully justify the interest in this new form factor, which currently only Samsung dominates.