Hands on review: Samsung Z Flip 5

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Erin Lawrence

Samsung Fold 5, flip 5, tab s9 and Watch 6 review

Just about every device with a foldable touch display commands an ultra-premium price. Because these types of devices like the Samsung Z Fold 5 still have some compromises, namely unproven durability and high costs, right now they may be best for people who wish to do a lot with a single device—and have a lot of money to burn. The new Samsung Z Flip 5 is a foldable flip phone with a $999USD/$1299CAD asking price. What is a foldable phone like this one truly worth it? What does it do better than a regular song, and is it truly all amazing features and virtually no downsides? I’ll find out in this hands-on review.

Samsung Z Flip 5
4.8

Summary

I’m a latecomer to flip and fold phones, so maybe I’m a cheap date here, but I really like this phone. The design looks cool and let me do a lot more. I think it feels sturdy and durable—like a true premium phone. While there’s some tradeoffs like a smaller battery, and apps that may not be optimized for all the different screens, those aren’t deal breakers. I likes my Flip 5 experience and I think you will too.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Feels sturdy
  • Outer ‘flex window’ does a lot
  • Big interior screen
  • Seems fast
  • Fun format
  • Versatile; can use in many ways

Cons

  • Price?
  • Smaller battery
  • Not all apps may be optimized for these screens

What is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Series?

The Samsung Z Flip series is basically a remake of the classic flip phone initially popularized by mobile handset stalwarts Motorola and Nokia. These types of phones have a clamshell form factor with a hinge through the middle where you open the phone vertically when you wish to use it.

Companies like Samsung have taken the basic clamshell design and made some massive improvements to it. For one, clamshell phones of old had tiny screens that were only an inch or two big on the inside of the phone online. The new series of flip phones has absolutely massive screens… And more than just one.

The Samsung Galaxy z Flip 5 has a huge edge to edge 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED HD main screen. It’s also got a huge exterior screen Samsung calls the Flex Window that clocks in at 3.4 inches and is also a bright AMOLED display. Ask window is bigger than both previous generation Samsung phones and then antiquated clamshell phones. People mainly rely on this display for glanceable information such as the time and other notifications like weather, reminders, and new messages, but Samsung has worked to make this display a lot less secondary. More on what you can do with it coming up.

So going back to the Samsung Z Flip series, Samsung has applied the foldable screen tech introduced in the Samsung Galaxy Fold to a smaller clamshell form factor which is why Samsung can price this smartphone $999 USD. The real innovation is the fact that you can fully open samsung galaxy flip Z 5 Flip and barely notice the crease in the middle making the Z Flip feel more like using a slightly taller and thinner Galaxy S23+.

Right off the bat the phone does feel very slim and light when it’s fully open. It actually feels a lot less clunky than my iPhone which is my day-to-day smartphone.

Like other members of the Samsung Galaxy family, the Galaxy Z Flip phones run on Android with Samsung’s One UI layer on top. That means you get full access to the Galaxy Store if you want to use or update Samsung’s proprietary apps from its browser to messaging as well as other exclusives like Samsung Pay and the Bixby voice assistant.

What has improved with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5?

Cover Display

Samsung Z Flip 5 reviewThe most noticeable improvement of the new samsung Z Flip 5 is the cover display going from a small 1.9-inch display to a much taller 3.4-inch display. Yes, the Super AMOLED cover display is only 720p, but it takes up nearly the entire cover with a small cutout to make way for the dual camera system. The shape of the display resembles an office file folder and it looks pretty cool. More importantly, you can not only see more glanceable information, but you can also interact with it by swiping to access some really handy widgets like the weather and calendar.

Because of the extra screen real estate, dismissing notifications without opening the phone up makes a lot more sense, but if you are feeling a bit adventurous, you may also configure the cover display to launch a small subset of Android apps, things like Google maps, messages and weather. Yes, many Android apps don’t scale well to a small squarish aspect ratio, but you can totally achieve certain tasks such as replying to a message if you can settle for the small onscreen keyboard. Actually a lot you can do with the flex window and it’s worth learning about in a lot more detail if you’ve just purchased the phone. Samsung writes it up on the company blog: https://news.samsung.com/global/flexing-new-possibilities-how-to-make-the-most-of-your-galaxy-z-flip5-with-flex-window

You activate the flex window by double tapping the screen. Then you can swipe down from the top to access quick settings swipe left to see your notifications or swipe right to get into the phone and do a bit more I will say it can be quite maddening trying to navigate the tiny pin code window to get into the phone.

Hinge

Samsung Z Flip 5 reviewThe Samsung Flip z 5 hinge might be hard to appreciate if you haven’t handled any of its predecessors but compared to even the Z Flip 4, it’s a real engineering marvel. The hinge features what Samsung calls a droplet style design which allows the phone to fully close without any big gaps. It also makes this satisfying sound when you close it which hearkens back to the late 1990s. Back when it was so much more satisfying to hang up on someone by slamming your phone closed then my pressing a soulless virtual button.

The hinge also feels more durable in the sense that you can not only open the phone completely flat and close it with no gap, but you literally get almost anything in between. Open the display at an angle like a laptop and it will keep it in that stable position. This is useful if you want to prop up the phone and take pictures using the front facing camera, hands-free but you can also watch media, or scroll through content.

In fact, this is where Samsung’s One UI scores points: It has a special mode for this called Flex Mode which puts the active app on the top portion of the folded display while bottom portion gets reserved for some useful controls depending on the supported app.

Memory and speed

Samsung made some welcome spec improvements to put the Samsung galaxy Z Flip 5 more in line with the current crop of 2023 Samsung Galaxy flagships. It now sports the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset which is nearly a year old at this point but a good thing to have especially if you plan on doing heavy gaming on the phone. The base storage now starts at 256 GB which is double the amount of the previous model and it uses UFS 4.0 resulting in snappier overall responsiveness. The Wi-Fi spec also got bumped up to Wi-Fi 6E which translates to faster networking speeds over the 6 GHz band if you have a router that supports it.

Samsung Z Flip 5 reviewThe phone also runs on Android 13 and One UI 5.1 right out of the box which means you can expect it to get updates until Android 17 if Samsung keeps its 4-year major update promise. Finally, the back is outfitted with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 which has superior scratch resistance and should survive higher drops (though this is something I did primise Samsung I would not dare test!).

My hands-on experience

Samsung sent me this phone on loan for a couple of weeks. As it was being returned, I don’t generally fully load loaner phones with all of the apps and toys I would use on a regular day today Fong; mainly for privacy and security reasons. With that said I was able to use some of the basics of this phone to test out the user experience.

What I really liked was the shape, weight, and form factor. There’s no mistaking this is a gorgeous phone and well-made. Open when just using the main interior display the phone is a gorgeous piece of handiwork. The screen as bright and colourful and easy on the eyes, and even the crease becomes almost invisible while you’re using it. After a while I completely forgot it was even there.

I opted to turn on the always on setting for the flex window. It’s not easy to find buried in the settings menu, but if you search for Always On you can adjust it quickly and easily. While this will only display the time and date and basic information, not the full colour a beautiful screen, I did like it better than just having the screen go black all the time.

So far, I love the size, placement and options that are available so far on the Flex Window.

The phone is extremely versatile when it comes to how you want to use it. Keep it open and slide it into a pocket, or leave it open and it’s still highly transportable. Even with a case on (which my demo unit had), I would absolutely not call this phone bulky, and I’d be happy to bring it along anywhere.

Z Flip 5 vs. Traditional Phones

So the overall Samsung galaxy z flip 5 review is,  It is a worthy choice over a traditional $1,000 phone. The easiest way to go about this is to determine if any of the compromises are dealbreakers and figure out if the whole clamshell thing will positively affect the way you interact with your phone. I’ll go over them bit by bit.

Flip vs traditional: Durability

The outer portion of the Samsung flip z 5 uses durable Gorilla Glass but the same can’t be said for the inner screen because Samsung had to make the glass really thin to make it foldable. Thin may eventually translate to weak and Samsung’s approach to adding a bit of protection comes in the form of a thin plastic layer that feels like a screen protector. This means that you must be a bit more careful using the phone as the inner screen is more sensitive to scratches and punctures. By foldable phone standards, the Z Flip 5 is quite durable, but make no mistake; you’ll want to handle with care.

Dust continues to be the major nemesis of the Z Flip 5 which is why the phone only gets an IPX8 water resistant rating. This certification means that you can dunk the phone up to 1.5 meters for like a half-hour but if you ask me, I wouldn’t do that with any phone with internal moving parts. It’s still a nice rating to have though during those rainy days but beach trips are still out of the question.

Flip vs traditional: Camera

Just about all flagship phones have a camera array that includes a high megapixel wide lens along with an ultrawide lens and a telephoto lens. The Z Flip 5 only ticks the ultrawide lens checkbox while having a midrange 12-megapixel f/1.8 wide lens and no telephoto lens whatsoever. This might not be a huge deal if you are upgrading from a smartphone from 2010 but if you are spoiled with the kind of pictures you get from an iPhone Pro 13 or a Samsung Galaxy S22, expect a downgrade here. That being said, photos still look pretty decent under good lighting conditions thanks to Samsung’s polished camera app.

Flip vs Traditional: Battery

Samsung outfitted the Z Flip 5 with a 3,700 mAh battery which is about 5 percent smaller than the Galaxy S23 battery or 20% smaller than the S23+ battery. This means that you shouldn’t expect an all-day battery life during regular usage unless you cut down on the inner screen time. One tip in prolonging the battery life is to disable the always-on display feature of the cover display. Of course if you’re prone to using the flex window more often, you might not need to light up the whole big screen and you might see better battery life.

Flip vs traditional: Exterior display

This might not be the world’s best comparison since most traditional phones of course don’t have a secondary display. But hear me out.

Samsung Z Flip 5 reviewThis might not be a “pro” for everyone as different people use their phones differently but the idea of having a cover display to potentially help you use your phone less often is a huge pro in my book. The larger cover display is now big enough for you to digest all the important information and notifications the cool Samsung widgets provide. At the same time, it is still small in the sense that you won’t get tempted to launch your favorite social media app and get distracted. In short, this phone might just be the cure to some of your doomscrolling problems!

The only way to fully appreciate this is to actually use it on a daily basis. The cover screen isn’t particularly bright but it’s adequate enough to use under direct sunlight. This means you can take the phone out of your pocket, glance at those widgets to get the updates you want, and maybe just put it away without being tempted to open your phone.

Z Flip 5 vs. Other Foldable Phones

The Z Flip 5’s sole competitor in the modern flip phone space is the Motorola Razr+ 2023. Unfortunately, I don’t have a review sample of this at the moment, but I can share some key advantages the Z Flip 5 has from the outset.

Extended Support

First, Samsung has a good track record in supporting their flagship Galaxy phones with the latest Android updates. You might not receive these updates in time because of all the beta testing but at the very least, Samsung promises four years of major updates and five years of security updates.

Because the Z Flip series started back in 2020, Samsung enjoyed a huge advantage in polishing their One UI layer to the point that the overall usability feels fairly natural. There isn’t much of a learning curve in using the phone and the Flex Mode is totally worth exploring.

Microsoft Phone Link Integration

Samsung also has a partnership with Microsoft where their Phone Link integration is a bit tighter. If you have a Windows PC, you can use Phone Link app to remotely control the phone and even launch multiple phone apps so they appear in their own windows.

Accessory Ecosystem

Samsung Z Flip 5 reviewFinally, because of Samsung’s popular Galaxy brand, the Z Flip 5 enjoys better third-party accessory support. If Samsung’s Flip Suit accessory doesn’t cut it for you, you can easily look for Z Flip 5 cases from top brands like Casetify which should help add some durability and personality to your flip phone. These advantages may sound minuscule, but they actually give Samsung a big advantage even over other companies who might be planning their own flip phones.

Overall Review: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

I’m a latecomer to flip and fold phones, so maybe I’m a cheap date here, but I really like this phone. The design looks cool and let me do a lot more. I think it feels sturdy and durable—like a true premium phone. While there’s some tradeoffs like a smaller battery, and apps that may not be optimized for all the different screens, those aren’t deal breakers. I likes my Flip 5 experience and I think you will too.

Every Samsung Galaxy Z Flip release solves a couple of pain points and the Samsung Z Flip 5 is no exception which is ultimately good for fans of the form factor.  Judging from Samsung’s progression over the years, the Flip 5 is a fine piece of engineering, but the best has yet to come!

 

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