The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is one step closer to perfecting the foldable formula, and it’s a device I’ve enjoyed enough to make it my personal smartphone. But every year I end up upgrading to a Samsung phone and it’s missing elements of my regular Google Pixel.
A user interface is great, but it still ignores what makes Google’s software great
Samsung’s skin on Android was once the scum of the platform, but which has changed drastically during these last years. One UI is pretty awesome, and One UI 4.1.1 based on Android 12L really brings wonderful experience to Galaxy Z Fold 4.
I’m not sure I want to use a foldable with any other experience right now, frankly. What Samsung has developed here is easy to use, fast and really knows how to take advantage of the larger screen real estate.
As well done as Samsung’s One UI, it’s still the polar opposite of Google’s approach. Samsung takes virtually every feature and integrates it, for better or for worse. Google, on the other hand, has a more focused experience that’s just more enjoyable to use. On top of that, Google’s experience doesn’t feel like battling with third-party apps, where Samsung’s look and feel often stands in stark contrast to other apps on your phone.
Of course, that’s not to say Google does everything right or Samsung does everything wrong. One of the biggest problems is that Google’s updates always seem to bring the weirdest bugs, while Samsung’s don’t.
Still, there are so many little things I miss from a Pixel when I’m on my Fold, or any other Samsung phone, but the list has shrunk considerably over the years.
The cameras, of course
It wouldn’t be a Pixel item without talking cameras, and that’s what I always miss the most when switching to a Samsung phone.
Google’s camera experience is consistent. This is not the case with Samsung.
The camera hardware on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Pixel 6 Pro is pretty similar overall – 50MP primary, 12MP ultrawide, and a telephoto lens – but the Pixel comes out with consistently better photos across the board. Why? Software, mainly.
Samsung’s processing for photos tends to be overly saturated and doesn’t quite reflect real life in some cases. You’ll probably get a nice photo, until you look at the details. But for every good shot, there are also probably a few bad shots. Take a picture of a dog? I hope it’s a statue, otherwise you’ll get movement from when the shutter broke. Trying to capture dramatic evening lighting? Samsung’s treatment will likely cause it to explode and neutralize the effect entirely.
But the real kicker I noticed is that Samsung’s camera app still can’t show you anything close to the final product from the viewfinder. I had several occasions where I was quite happy with a viewfinder shot, but then Samsung’s software processed it to death and effectively ruined the image. It’s not every time, but it’s enough to be extremely frustrating.
Pixels, on the other hand, show a fairly accurate representation of HDR when you actually take the shot. It can be tweaked to bring out some detail or adjust exposure, but what you see in the viewfinder is more or less what you’ll get in the final shot.
I don’t mind shooting the Galaxy Z Fold 4, because I know I’m always going to have a usable photo at the end of the day, but I don’t trust him to take a good one… well, really ever. This is perhaps what I miss most about my Pixel 6 Pro since I upgraded to Samsung’s latest.
Google’s version of Digital Wellbeing is actually useful
This is a relatively minor point, but one that really pisses me off every time I leave a Pixel. Google’s take on digital wellbeing is, in fact, really helpful.
Digital wellbeing is an idea that usually manifests itself in ways of knowing what your online habits are so that you can work on maybe reducing screen time, turning off distractions, and really just getting a better balance between what’s happening on your phone and what’s happening in the world around you. It’s an idea I usually have mixed feelings about.
Personally, I don’t care how many times I’ve unlocked my phone in a day, how many unholy notifications I’ve received, or anything like that. I just want to be able to quickly disconnect from work or Twitter so I can enjoy an afternoon at home or even a vacation.
On Pixel, Google makes this incredibly easy. If it’s been a long day and I just don’t want to hear about my email, Slack, or Twitter, I can just “pause” those apps from my home screen. A few quick clicks and they’re all off for the day. No diving into settings, nothing I needed to configure before. And if I need to dive back in for some reason, all it takes is an extra click.
I mean, I literally can just flip my phone to mute it completely. It doesn’t get much easier than this.
But on a Samsung phone, this process isn’t nearly as convenient.
Digital Wellbeing on a Samsung device is like diving into a few layers of settings and using “Focus Mode” to block a pre-selected list of apps. Except these apps are on an allowlist, not a blocklist. If I just want to disable a few apps, I have to manually allow all other apps on my phone. The only other tool I have access to is “App Timers”, which is definitely a great option, but just doesn’t help what I want to do as mentioned earlier.
Like I said, this is a minor point for most people. I’d bet most people don’t use Digital Wellbeing tools in any capacity, but the fact is that on a Google Pixel device, these tools are there to help you on the fly, where Samsung only really allows them in a structured way beforehand.
But at the end of the day, the Fold 4 is one of a kind
Despite the little bits I miss about Google’s phones, there’s a reason Samsung’s foldables have been my top annual smartphone purchase. The Galaxy Z Fold 4, like what came before it, is still one of a kind, at least in the US. Until Google decides to finally release its own foldable, which has been an emotional rollercoaster so far, Samsung is the best in the business.
The benefits a foldable gives me, including the sheer joy of carrying such a large screen in such a compact package, far outweigh these software frustrations. That said, I’m sure things will change in a few months when I end up using the Pixel 7 Pro for a while – I’m just curious if Samsung’s upgraded package will be able to get me off this phone when the time comes. .
What do you think? Have you ever switched from a Pixel phone to a Samsung phone, or vice versa? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!
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