Last month, Samsung Electronics unveiled a new future of mobile possibilities with the release of the new Galaxy Z Flip4 and Z Fold4. Flexible screens that can fold and unfold seamlessly provide endless UX design possibilities. Not only do Galaxy users want a phone that fits in their pocket, they also need a mobile device designed to deliver meaningful, relevant, and flexible experiences to fit their daily lifestyles.
To help users better understand the evolutionary journey of foldable UX design, Samsung Newsroom spoke with Yoojin Hong, Executive Vice President and Head of User Experience, Mobile eXperience Business at Samsung Electronics. As the leader in global UX design of Samsung mobile products, the questions and answers below include exclusive information on all things folding and collapsible.
Read on to learn more about Samsung’s goals for the Z Flip4 and Z Fold4 and the process behind the flexible and bold smartphone designs.
Q: What inspired the creation of Samsung’s foldable range? How has the device enabled new experiences for users?
As smartphones became an essential companion in our daily life, users began to demand larger screens, and the race was on to achieve it. At the same time, users wanted handheld and portable devices — two seemingly opposite demands. So that begs the question, how could we reconcile these requirements while solving the problem? Samsung’s solution was simple, but not easy: bend the screen.
Although a massive undertaking in itself, the development of folding screen technology was only the beginning. Once we had these new form factors, we realized that the UX design for a foldable was different than a traditional smartphone. We had to completely rethink the smartphone experience. We’ve also discovered, over time, that these new form factors have the potential to change people’s relationships with their phones. Form factor changes also bring about new lifestyles, and not just for advanced users, but for everyday users. Foldables have responded to changing user needs in surprising ways.
Q: What is Samsung’s UX design philosophy for the foldable?
When creating a user experience on a phone, most businesses only need to consider one static screen. But foldables are dual-screen mobile devices, so the UX needs to be smoother. This has been the basis of our entire design philosophy from the start.
Our design philosophy for foldables revolves around two foundations. First, the UX design which is new but familiar. Foldables offer consumers a new form factor, which offers a variety of different and innovative benefits. However, although the user experience is new, it should not be unfamiliar — there shouldn’t be a steep learning curve. For foldables, we design with the idea that the user interface should be almost invisible. It should be so intuitive that users get familiar with it instantly and can navigate easily.
The second foundation is to remember that foldables are tools that help users create. Smartphones have evolved from literal phones to devices that can unleash creativity through photography, art, games and more. We want to make sure our UX enhances those experiences.
Since that first Galaxy Fold, we’ve launched a new generation of foldable phones every year. These phones have evolved in so many unexpected ways — some of which were planned from the start, while others were guided by our learnings over time in addition to valuable feedback from our users.
Q: What are the differences in the user base between the Z Flip series and the Z Fold series?
The Z Flip and Z Fold series are both foldable, but they have very different form factors with distinct user bases. Z Flip users view their devices as a form of self-expression and appreciate the versatility and customization offered by the form factor. Z Fold users gravitate towards the big-screen experience with the ability to do and see more at once. They like to get things done quickly and have more time to focus on what’s most important to them.
These distinct user bases also provided distinct feedback on previous generations, leading to our areas of focus for Z Flip4 and Z Fold4. For Z Flip, we wanted to give users even more ways to express themselves and personalize their experiences. For Z Fold, we wanted to improve interactions on the big screen, especially around multitasking.
What’s important to remember, though, is that these new devices aren’t just for advanced smartphone users. — they are for everyone.
Q: How has the user interface and customization features been improved for the latest Z Flip4?
With Z Flip4, users can customize their entire device appearance, hardware color, accessories, main screen UI — and now the cover screen UI. Personalization goes beyond simply decorating a phone’s UX — this also includes personalizing the user experience. The Z Flip4 offers a new level of cover screen functionality, where users can not only customize the cover screen design, but also enjoy a variety of useful widgets and other functions.
We also noticed that Z Flip users benefited from the unique photo capturing experiences offered by the form factor. So, on Z Flip4, we continued to provide self-expression features and improved the camera user interface to open up new possibilities for the FlexCam.
Q: How do UI-enhanced users increase their productivity and save time with the new Z Fold 4?
We’ve improved interactions and eliminated settings activation steps and redesigned menus and layouts to bring action buttons closer together. This is important on a large screen as it reduces the amount of finger “required” for the most common inputs.
We also wanted to simplify the big-screen experience by enabling faster app switching and activation. To do this, we added Taskbara familiar app bar that can always be activated, no matter what app you’re using.
Finally, we’re also giving more flexibility in how multiple apps can be displayed on screen with finger gestures that allow for a split window or popup. Dragging a finger in a corner displays the currently used application in a pop-up window. Two-finger swiping right, left, or down splits the currently used app in half. It allows you to be more productive, so you can get more done in your daily life.
Q: How did Samsung’s collaborations lay the groundwork for the entire foldable market?
We’ve worked with Google to build this ecosystem together from the start, often inspiring each other to develop new features or technologies. From the start, we worked closely with Google to bring our foldable vision to life, even collaborating at the code level to modify Android to meet the needs of foldable devices. We knew we’d need to improve Android to work effectively on new screen sizes, and that work was the first step in our foldable journey long before any hardware was announced.
And, of course, we continue to work with our biggest partners, including Google, Meta and Microsoft, to bring optimized experiences to life on foldables. Now apps like Chrome, Gmail, and Microsoft’s full Office suites and Outlook take advantage of the Z Fold series’ large screen for the ultimate multitasking experience. Thanks to our partnership with Meta, FlexCam is optimized for the most popular social platforms, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.
I think it’s extremely important both to build a collapsible ecosystem to diversify user experiences and to continue to grow the app ecosystem through an open collaboration philosophy.
Q: User behavior – and therefore the user experience – is constantly changing. How would you sum up your approach to meeting new consumer demands?
In our previous devices, we approached our UX design by starting with what was needed and working through the challenges. Then we developed new technologies to provide more screen real estate while keeping devices compact. The new designs not only solved existing problems; they also transformed user behavior, changing the way people take photos, interact with their phones and more. These new behaviors have become a natural part of everyday life for foldable phone users.
They also, of course, create all the new challenges — and that’s what drives us forward as UX designers. Users imagine new possibilities, and those possibilities become demands. It is our responsibility to create the innovations to meet them. As the cycle of innovation continues, we’re excited to get to work laying the groundwork for what’s next.
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