The launch of the Samsung Galaxy Flip in 2020 might be seen by many as the start of the flip phone revolution. It almost was, if it wasn’t for the revamped Motorola Razr that surfaced in 2019. Jump to 2023 and there’s still a tussle between Motorola – which seems to be finding form again – and Samsung, while companies like Oppo are also nibbling at the edge of the flip pie.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 has made a major upgrade to its offering, looking to beat back competition from the likes of the Motorola Razr+ (or Razr 40 Ultra depending on where you live). The folding phone segment is now defined not by that high-tech display on the inside, but on the size and functionality of the display on the exterior – which is where the Z Flip 5 makes its move. And what a move it is.
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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is on one hand an iterative update – no real change to the main display, the cameras, or battery, a slight bump in the power on offer, while the design overall remains pretty much the same. But the exterior display changes the entire experience. It’s a lot more useful than the small screen on the Flip 4 and that has instant appeal. The fact that the Z Flip 5 also folds flat with no gap makes for a much more seamless and considered design, showing just how far this pocketable delight has come since it first launched.
- Premium and improved design
- Exterior display is excellent
- Great performance
- Brilliant battery life
- No optical zoom lens
- Display durability could still be an issue
- Charging could be faster
Design and build
For many people, the Z Flip format is what a folding phone is supposed to be. It takes what is pretty much a conventional smartphone and allows you to make it more compact. That protects the screen as you fold it in half and slip it into your pocket or bag. Importantly, it’s a phone that gets smaller, rather than the Z Fold style which is more like a small tablet that turns into a more traditional-sized smartphone.
Combined with the retro vibes of having a flip phone, that’s seen the Z Flip range as the more popular of Samsung’s phones – not ignoring the fact that you can get a Z Flip 5 for around the same price as you might pay for another flagship device. It costs $1000 (or £1049 in the UK) which is about the price you’d pay for a Galaxy S23+.
Much of the design of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 looks and feels iterative: the Armor Aluminum frame feeling high quality to the touch, with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protecting the exterior surfaces of this phone – though I did still manage to scratch it in my review period despite being exceptionally careful. The colour is now limited to the rear of the phone, as the rear of the “top” is now taken up by display. There are four main colours – mint, graphite, cream, lavender, with exclusives available direct from Samsung.com including gray, blue, green and yellow – so you might want to consider trade-in offers to get a colour a little more unique. I had the mint as my review unit and it’s gorgeous. The aqua aluminium frame compliments the pastel finish of the rear beautifully, making for a really lovely finish overall. It’s a little slippery – though I prefer the glossy finish to Oppo’s textured finish on the Find N2 Flip so I’ll take the Z Flip 5 sliding off my bedside table. It feels lovely in use and the snap when you close it really never gets old.
The general layout and buttons on the Z Flip 5 remain much as they were on the Z Flip 4, with a fingerprint scanner in the frame and volume rocker, but the whole device now folds nice and flat with no gap next to the hinge. There’s an IPX8 rating, meaning it has water protection, but despite the hinge re-design for this iteration, there’s no protection against dust ingress, so you’ll need to be careful at the beach. The zero gap finish looks a lot more complete than the Z Flip 4 did though, matching that of the Oppo Find N2 Flip and it delivers a lovely seamless finish with clean lines and great consistency.
The big difference to the rival Motorola Razr is that the edges are softly squared, compared to the rounded finish of the Motorola. Softly squared might sound strange, but it feels nice – nowhere near as hard on the edge as the iPhone (which I might call sharply squared). While Motorola’s device is excellent, I think the Samsung phone looks slightly more precise.
What you really want to know about is the new external display though, and that’s exactly what you should want to know about because that’s where this device shines brightest.
The big change for the Samsung Z Flip 5 is of course that external display. It’s now a 3.4-inch display, filling most of the exterior of the phone and it’s lovely and vibrant with punchy colours that really pop. The display notches around the cameras, nestled in the bottom right corner, so it has a slightly uneven shape, but that’s not something you notice in use. Exactly why Samsung decided against wrapping the display around the cameras like Motorola I don’t know – I think that the Razr looks better as a result, although Samsung’s design does reduce the number of times you put your fingers over the lenses when interacting with the display. Motorola’s cover display is 3.6-inches by the way, so a little larger, while Oppo’s N2 Flip is slightly smaller at 3.26-inches.
The cover display on the Z Flip 4 was only 1.9-inches, so this is a dramatic change, opening up greater functionality. It’s no longer a display you tap for a status update, or to squint at when you take a selfie, it’s now a lot more functional, with access to a full keyboard, which means you can reply to notifications without having to open up the main display and the viewfinder for the rear cameras is exceptionally useful. It’s a clear change of direction for the Z Flip – and those with the Flip 3 or Flip 4 will want to upgrade, because that screen now offers so much more.
That encompasses a lot more customisation – with no colour on the top you might want the display to be a little more personal – and this is easily achievable with a whole host of options and styles you can select to customise to exactly what you want. You can swipe for notifications, and get access to core widgets for Samsung apps, like support for your Galaxy Buds, or SmartThings – along with third-party integration too, including the likes of Netflix and YouTube, so you can casually watch video on that exterior display.
Open up the phone and you’re presented with the familiar 6.7-inch display. At first glance this doesn’t look hugely different to the Z Flip 4, and the overall specification remains the same on this device. There’s still a crease, but it’s not hugely noticeable when using the phone. Sure, you’ll feel it under your fingers as you scroll, and you’ll notice the dip if you’re reading text, but it doesn’t destroy the experience overall. As for the longevity of flexible displays, that remains a consideration – and there’s now a generation of Galaxy Z Flip 3 users probably looking at their main display and wondering how much longer it will last. You also need to accept that the Ultra Thin Glass does mean you will feel like you have a screen protector on your Z Flip 5, and it’s particularly obvious around the punch hole camera at the top – though again, it’s not something that affects the experience overall.
This is a new and emerging tech and there’s no avoiding the fact that folding panels will not last as long as those in conventional phones. But at the same time, how often do you replace your phone? If it’s every couple of years, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Hardware and performance
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, 8GB RAM, 256/512GB storage
- 3700mAh, 25W wired, 15W wireless
In terms of the hardware on offer, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the very definition of iterative. There’s now the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 at the heart of this phone and many of the efficiencies and improvements come from using that latest piece of Qualcomm hardware.
That also contributes to prolonging the battery life – while the 3700mAh battery remains the same, Samsung said you’ll get more life from it (even with the larger external display) because the hardware is more efficient and in my review period, I have found that to be accurate. In fact, the battery life really surprised me. This wasn’t a device I had to charge every night. Some days, I ended with 50 per cent, which given I was testing the camera extensively and putting this folding marvel through its paces everyway I could think of, its battery life – in my experience – is impressive.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
- 6.7-inch AMOLED, 2640 x 1080, 120Hz (inner); 3.4-inch AMOLED, 748 x 720 (outer)
- 3700mAh / 25W wired charging, 15W wireless
- Camera (Rear, Front)
- 12MP f/1.8 main, 12MP ultra-wide rear, 10MP f/2.2 front
- 165.1 x 71.9 x 6.9mm (unfolded), 85.1 x 71.9 x 15.1mm (folded), 187g
- RAM and Storage
- 8GB RAM / 256GB, 512GB storage
- IP Rating
On a typical day, I would end with 40 per cent, so most will have no issue getting through day and evening on the Z Flip 5, unless you are using it for watching Netflix and YouTube on loop, or playing games throughout the day. Average use though, and you’ll be golden. The charging of this device remains at Samsung’s not very fast rates, with 25W wired and 15W wireless – Samsung just doesn’t seem to be pushing charging speeds like some other brands, although the Motorola Razr is only a mite faster. That’s not really a huge issue if you charge your phone overnight though, so it’s definitely not a deal breaker.
The Snapdragon hardware is supported by 8GB RAM and this is LPDDR5X RAM, while it’s interesting that the 128GB option has been dropped. That means your storage choices are for 256 or 512GB – does that hint at a Flip 5 FE in the future with a lower price point? There’s certainly space in Samsung’s line-up for a more affordable entry-level folding phone now, but either way, I am here for double the base storage, especially with the lack of microSD expansion.
In terms of raw performance, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 will handle the majority of what you throw at it. There’s a smooth and consistent experience, whether you’re aimlessly scrolling or playing Call of Duty Mobile on it, though I have noticed it warms up a little when you use the camera a lot or run navigation. No more than most flagship phones, but it does get a little toasty nevertheless.
There hasn’t been a huge change to the camera arrangement on the Galaxy Z Flip 5, although Samsung said there’s now more power from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 to drive the image processing. The main camera puts in a good showing in decent light, which was the case for the previous phone. You get detailed images in decent conditions with plenty of colour pop, though they aren’t always realistic to what you see. They look better than what you see with your own eyes, with bluer skies and greener grass, while colours are more vivid overall, so it’s really about what you prefer your smartphone camera to offer. A realistic representation or a slightly exaggerated one? With that in mind, the results are exactly what you would want to share, because they make everything look glorious. There’s no optical zoom on this device, which does feel like an omission for a device this price, but you do get the supporting ultrawide lens, which is great for more creative landscape shots.
When it comes to low light images, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 isn’t the best out there, but it is good enough. It is more than capable of brightening up darker scenes and delivering a fairly decent result overall, but things do become a little blurry and you lose the detail compared to what you get on Pixel devices so it’s something to keep in mind. Low light shots are good, but they could be better, especially given the capabilities of what the Galaxy S23 Ultra can achieve. Still, the processing time is quick enough, so you will at least get a night time shot without having to hold still for too long.
The only real change on the spec sheet for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the change of aperture on the front-facing camera. Selfies using this 10-megapixel camera are OK, but you absolutely shouldn’t use it. It’s difficult to get a clean lens because the UTG cover glass means the lens is set slightly back from the display and therefore hard to wipe clean, but you don’t need to use it either. In fact, it’s harder to take a selfie with this camera than the rear cameras because of how long and narrow the Z Flip 5 is.
The biggest difference to the camera experience on this device compared to the previous iterations of the Z Flip is the new larger exterior display. Previously the exterior display was so small, it wasn’t that useful as a viewfinder. Now the view is much larger, so you can see a lot more of what you have in the image, which is more fun and enables you to better use the main camera for taking photos. Of course, because of the folding nature of the phone you can stand it up for taking group shots, previewing the image and taking advantage of remote triggers – which you can also use the Galaxy Watch for. I folded the Z Flip 5, placed it on a chair with the exterior display facing me and used the palm gesture to take a group shot of 18 people on a weekend away in Barcelona. It came out brilliantly, while traditional selfies using the cover display worked great too, with the ability to see plenty in the frame.
My only complaint is that the camera icon is in the bottom right corner of the cover screen, so when the camera launches, your thumb covers the camera lenses if you are right-handed and holding the phone with one hand. You therefore have to flip (see what I did there) it round so the camera lenses are in the top left corner instead, making it a bit clunky. Using the cover display as a viewfinder is excellent though, and on the whole, the general camera experience from the Z Flip 5 is good, it’s just not as good as you would find in the S23 Ultra, for example.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 when unfolded is pretty much like any other Samsung phone for the most part. That means that you’ll get near enough the same experience as you would find on the Galaxy S23+ and you’ll use it in a similar way too. There are of course a couple of extras on the Z Flip 5, like Flex mode, which is activated when you fold the Z Flip Z in an upright position. The app you are using appears at the top of the screen, while additional controls, such as a touchpad appear at the bottom. It’s great for when you’re watching YouTube or Netflix for example, as the video appears in the top half, while the controls appear at the bottom.
The exterior display also has a couple of extra functions, like the camera viewfinder, and the ability to respond to notifications or check the weather or certain widgets without opening the device, as we mentioned. At its core though, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a Samsung device through and through. There is some additional bloatware – I personally prefer Google apps over Samsung’s but that does come down to personal preference and the fact is, you have the choice so you can choose whatever works for you. I would highly recommend you switch the Samsung keyboard for Gboard as quick as physically possible though, and you should definitely head to Labs in Advanced Settings for some fun extras. Overall though, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 delivers a smooth and sleek experience and I didn’t come across any software issues in my review period.
In terms of updates, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is in line with other Samsung devices, with four years of OS updates on offer and five years of security updates.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is on one hand, an iterative update – no real change to the main display, the cameras, or battery, a slight bump in the power on offer, while the design overall remains pretty much the same. But the exterior display changes the entire experience. It’s a lot more useful than the small screen on the Flip 4 and that has instant appeal. The fact that the Z Flip 5 also folds flat with no gap makes for a much more seamless and considered design, showing just how far this pocketable delight has come since it first launched.
There are some things to note – the crease in the display remains despite the hinge redesign, the camera is good but not the best in the flagship market and the longevity of these folding devices is still a concern, despite their improvements over the years. That said, there is absolutely no denying how adorable the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is. The larger exterior display is a delight to use, there’s plenty of power under its hood, battery life is brilliant and the overall experience is a truly great one. If you’re considering “joining the Flip Side”, we suspect you won’t go back.
Iphone Store – 2023-12-13 09:52:18 / www.pocket-lint.com