By Andy Zahn/
EDITORS’ RATING : 8 / 10
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Folding phones are an attractive proposition despite their known drawbacks, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 may be the most lovely folding phone yet. While the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 utilizes its bendable display to offer a tablet in a slab phone size package, the Flip 5 is a slab phone that transforms into something more akin to a flip phone from the early 2000s. Up until the advent of the foldable screen, such pocket-friendly form factors were limited to low-end legacy flip phones with physical keyboards and tiny screens. For the most part, we can now have our compact form factors and enjoy our giant screens too.
Unfortunately, with newer folding screens the same questions as with previous generations rear their ugly heads. How many times can it be folded? Will dust and dirt destroy it? Is the crease in the middle annoying? Is it worth the premium price? These concerns and more need to be answered before we can thoroughly recommend what is, on the surface, a highly desirable device.
Samsung provided a sample of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 to test and review.
A mature folding screen design
Folding screens remain a tricky technology to perfect, but the Flip 5 is certainly a more mature implementation. While previous iterations were more of a wedge shape when folded, the Flip 5 folds completely flat, which makes it both smaller and more attractive when folded. Every millimeter counts when making a device comfortably fit even the most svelte of pockets. The Flip 5 measures 15.1mm thick when folded, while the Flip 4 was 17.1mm at the hinge when folded. The actual operation of folding and unfolding the Flip 5 is fluid, and the hinge mechanism feels robust.
In terms of its total dimensions, the Flip 5 measures 165.1 x 71.9 x 6.9mm unfolded, and 85.1 x 71.9 x 15.1mm folded. Folded, it’s small enough even to fit into the notoriously small pockets of a pair of women’s blue jeans.
For buttons, you’ve got volume and a power button, with the fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button. This type of fingerprint sensor is in many ways a better way to lock and unlock the phone than then-screen sensors in other Samsung phones. However, it is unfortunately easy to trigger accidentally, which means that it frequently locks after too many accidental attempts.
Durability is still a concern
We frequently use smartphones in adverse conditions where encounters with dust, dirt, and moisture aren’t just a possibility — they’re a certainty. Therefore Flip 5’s complete lack of dust resistance is not exactly suited to life on a farm or out on the trails in the mountains. You don’t want abrasive particles getting into the hinge, or under the screen, or even between the folded halves of the phone. With that said, despite using the Flip 5 in a variety of environments, we didn’t experience any issues resulting from exposure to dust and dirt. Still, if you’re the outdoorsy type, the Flip 5 and other foldable devices are probably not for you.
On the water resistance front, the news is a bit better. The Flip 5 is rated IPX8, which means it’s able to survive for 30 minutes in 1.5 meters of freshwater. That’s good enough to survive accidental splashes and a bit of rain, and maybe an accidental dunking, but you don’t want to take it swimming. In fact, this isn’t the phone for a day at the beach, because the deadly combo of salt water and the intrusive nature of sand are the nemesis of folding phones, and the Flip 5 is no exception.
Remember that in the immortal words of Anakin Skywalker, “I don’t like sand — It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” Everywhere means everywhere, including the delicate hinge of the Flip 5.
Big screens, inside and out
The main draw of a folding phone is that you get a big screen in a relatively small phone. With the Flip 5, you now also get a larger screen on the outside as well as when it’s unfolded. The new 3.4-inch Flex Window allows you to access a number of features without having to open up the rest of the phone and is a big improvement over the relatively small screen found on older versions of the Flip. Its 720 x 748 resolution AMOLED display is bright and beautiful, and though limited in terms of available applications, it’s great to use.
The foldable screen inside is a large 6.7-inch 2640 x 1080 Dynamic AMOLED display that’s similarly bright and good-looking. The wrinkled area in the middle is noticeable when the screen is powered off, or if you’re looking for it, but under normal use it’s not a bother. The fold was only ever really irritating when watching videos in landscape mode. However, while this is certainly annoying, if you bend the Flip 5 and set it on a table it makes a nice little television.
Thanks to the flex screen, the camera array is tailor-made to facilitate capturing superior selfies. No longer do you need to squint into a sub-par camera wedged into the top of the main screen — with the Flip 5 you can make use of the high-quality main cameras. These include a wide 12MP camera with a bright f1.8 aperture and an ultrawide camera with an f2.8 aperture. While it lacks a telephoto camera, remember that snapping shots of distant objects isn’t the goal here and that this phone is for those who want to look good, and for others to know how good they look.
That primary camera captures great-looking self-portraits even in low light, and the ultra-wide camera is perfect for capturing group shots or showing off your outfit, though unfortunately, it isn’t available in the camera app on the flex screen. However, one of the advantages of the Flip 5 design is that you can fold it in half and set it on a flat surface, so it’s much easier than a normal phone to set up to take timed or remote-controlled photos.
Really, this is the ultimate selfie camera, as not only does it have that front-facing screen that brings the main cameras into play, but it’s also so wonderfully unobtrusive. Folded, you can hold it cupped in your hand, so it’s not so obvious that you’re photographing yourself. Also, it makes for a fantastic mirror if you’re applying makeup.
Software highs and lows
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is running Android 13, but with significant Samsung customization, which is, to some, preferable to stock Android. If you’re coming from any other recent Samsung smartphone, it should feel instantly familiar, at least on the main display. More unique software tweaks lie in how the Flip 5 handles the Flex Window and folding display. Making these elements work seamlessly and intuitively is no mean feat, and the Flip 5 takes full advantage of its innovative design. The Flex Window’s notification screen is easily and extensively customizable, and certain apps morph to be more convenient when the foldable display is halfway closed.
The caveat with the Flex Window is that the number of available apps is unfortunately quite limited. It isn’t universally compatible with Android apps, so you can only use Samsung’s custom widgets. This isn’t really a problem, as the available widgets cover a wide range of the most common uses for that screen. However, you can’t scroll through social media on it, or launch a navigation app on it other than Google Maps. It would be preferable if Samsung offered some sort of compatibility layer for you to add any app to Flex Window, even if the functionality was limited.
Plenty of power
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is no slouch when it comes to processing and performance. It features a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which allows the phone to take full advantage of its 120hz display. We never ran into any lag, and the Flip 5 is capable of running pretty much any modern Android app. It has 8GB of RAM, and is perfectly fine for gaming,
Battery life is a bit of a downer compared to more conventional phones. We were caught by surprise when photographing the Flip 5 for this review when it unexpectedly ran out of juice in the middle of the photo shoot. It’s not bad by any means, lasting around 10 hours of continuous usage, but it’s less than you’d expect from a phone in 2023. Charging tech in the Flip 5 is the same 25W wired charging and 15W wireless charging as with the Flip 4. It’s slower than some other phones, but it gets the job done.
Audio quality from the speakers and microphone is good, and paired with the interior 10-megapixel camera the phone is great for video calls, particularly when folded partway so that it can be placed on a table.
At $999.99 the Flip 5 is the same price as its predecessor, which is by no means unfair given the complex technology present in a phone like this. It’s also quite a lot cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 which sits at $1799.99, and it’s exactly the same price as the Motorola Razer+. However, when you can get a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra for just $200 more than the Flip 5, the S23 Ultra’s stylus, telephoto cameras, and robust dust and water resistance begin to look awfully tempting. Also, the base-level Samsung Galaxy S23 costs $200 less than the Flip 5 and offers much of what the Flip 5 does, as well as better water and dust resistance and throws in a telephoto camera. Sure, you don’t get the folding screen, but you also don’t get the weaknesses of a folding screen.
Overall, the value of the Flip 5 must be said to be merely average. It’s what you expect to pay for a phone of this type, and at least you get 256 GB in the base model of the Flip 5 rather than the 128 GB of storage in the base model Flip 4.
There is a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, and if I were personally to buy a folding phone, this is the one I’d choose. It’s not so hideously expensive as the Samsung Galaxy Fold 5 but offers a similar sort of advantage. The Flip 5 hasn’t fixed the fundamental problems of durability which plague foldables. That screen will wear out eventually — it’s susceptible to dust, and it’s just not as durable as a traditional slab phone. However, for the person who frequently replaces their phone with the latest model, that may not be such a big deal.
The person for whom this phone is ideal, however, is someone who is fashion-conscious and who really needs a device that will fit in even the smallest of pockets. There’s no denying that there’s an extremely high cool factor to the Flip 5, and just using the phone is an exciting experience that doesn’t really get old. Taking it out and flipping it open is what made the flip phones of yore so much fun, and the Flip 5 has inherited that tactile joy.
Ultimately, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 won’t likely win over slab phone users who need a relatively rugged phone, but for fans of foldables, it’s a highly attractive device that gets a lot of things right.