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The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5’s large cover display is a major upgrade, though it still lacks the camera and battery life of a traditional flat phone.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is Samsung’s newest foldable phone with an updated compact clamshell design. Released in August 2023, the Z Flip 5 has a similar look as its predecessors, but with an improved hinge design, faster processor, and a larger display on the cover that lets you access quick and simple tasks without needing to unfold the phone, like sending a text message.
It’s an excellent example of this concept and arguably the best Android phone in the clamshell foldable form, but, for the price, it’s still no match for a regular phone that offers better battery life and cameras. The space-saving design demands compromise, and folding and unfolding it can get tiresome after a while. At the end of the day, the Z Flip 5 remains a niche device with features that are attractive to some, but not all.
Larger, more useful cover screenMore durable fold-flat hinge designStellar performance
What doesn’t work
Camera isn’t as good as it should beUnfolded display is narrow and crampedBattery life lags regular flat phones
A compact, premium square package that unfurls into a large-size phone
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is as premium as ever with a metal and glass construction.
There’s no doubt that the Z Flip 5 is a premium device thanks to its glass and metal construction, and you get a choice of clear or a frosted glass texture in various colors for the back, which is well appreciated if you have a preference.
When it’s folded, the Z Flip 5 is a solid, compact, little square that saves space in pockets and bags, even if it’s thicker than a traditional flat phone. Indeed, a compact design while not in use is one of the main allures of a clamshell-folding phone design.
Samsung also updated its hinge design for the Z Flip 5 so that it shuts completely flat instead of leaving a gap at the hinge, like previous Z Flip models. Apart from imparting a sleeker look, it also means debris has a lower likelihood of getting in between the two halves and risks scratching or damaging the main display.
Samsung’s new hinge lets the Galaxy Z Flip 5 fold completely flat, without a gap at the hinge.
The hinge feels smooth as you unfold and fold the Z Flip 5, and it snaps into place as you get close to either position for a pleasing and satisfying unfolding and folding experience.
However, a major gripe with the Z Flip phones still remains — unfolding the phone is realistically a two-handed affair, as the hinge needs consistent pressure to fully unfold and fold the Z Flip 5.
While it’s possible, unfolding the Z Flip 5 one-handed with your thumb is an awkward experience, and it can become frustrating when one of your hands is occupied, like when you’re carrying a bag of groceries. Plus, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m potentially damaging the display with the pressure from my thumb, or that I might be scratching it with my thumbnail.
I wish you could easily flick the phone open one-handed with your thumb, like the flip phones of yore.
Unfolding the Galaxy Z Flip 5 with one hand is an awkward experience.
The Z Flip 5 unfolds to reveal a large 6.7-inch screen, but its width is akin to a 6.1-inch display. With that in mind, the unfolded Z Flip 5 doesn’t really feel like a 6.7-inch phone, but rather a tall 6.1-inch phone, as apps and content can feel more cramped width-wise than a traditional 6.7-inch phone.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5’s 6.7-inch display is narrower than a traditional flat phone’s display, and the experience is closer to a long 6.1-inch screen.
The Z Flip 5 cover screen is now larger and its best upgraded feature
Up until the Z Flip 5, Samsung’s Z Flip phones had small cover displays. They were useful to glance at information from widgets, like music controls, weather, calendar, and check or manage notifications. And they were great for seeing who’s calling and taking the call, or paying with Samsung Wallet, while still in folded mode.
But these small cover displays were always limited and cramped, and you were still forced to unfold the phone to do certain things, like replying to a message, or getting more information from a widget.
The Z Flip 5’s larger cover display, called the Flex Window, is multitudes more useful — you can do everything the smaller cover displays could while seeing significantly more information, or at least see the information more clearly. You can also access basic settings like airplane mode or the flashlight, and even write a text with a full-size keyboard without needing to unfold the phone.
Using the cover screen to write a quick text message is convenient, and doesn’t force you to unfold the Galaxy Z Flip 5.
There’s little support for third-party apps at the time of writing, but some exist, like Google Maps, WhatsApp, and YouTube to name a few. The Z Flip 5’s cover display would benefit from more third-party app support, but it’s unclear whether more developers will make their apps available.
Still, while many messaging apps aren’t supported on the cover display, you can at least reply to messages on various apps like Instagram and Google Chat when you tap on the notification.
To be clear, the Z Flip 5’s larger cover display lets you do a lot more than previous Z Flip phones, but it’s still significantly limited relative to the unfolded mode. Don’t expect to use the Z Flip 5’s cover display in lieu of the main display if you simply don’t feel like unfolding the phone.
A powerful processor yields efficient performance
The Z Flip 5 runs on the top processor for Android phones in 2023, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that’s been optimized for Samsung’s Galaxy phones. It’s the same processor that runs Samsung’s Galaxy S23 series.
That means the Z Flip 5 has the best and fastest performance on any Android phone available in the US, at least until the next crop of Samsung’s premium Galaxy S phones come out, likely in early 2024.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 optimized for Galaxy phones has slightly better performance in benchmarks than the standard version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 running other Android phones, but the reality is that the standard version is essentially as powerful in everyday usage.
Apps may occasionally open a smidgeon faster on the Z Flip 5 thanks to its optimized processor, but games don’t enjoy a perceivable boost. It’s also unlikely the optimized processor will extend the Z Flip 5’s snappy performance before it starts to feel slower compared to the standard Gen 2 processor.
Unimpressive battery life for its screen size, but it’ll get you through the day
The Galaxy Z Flip 5’s battery life more closely resembles a smaller 6.1-inch phone’s battery life.
The Z Flip 5 endured our battery test with a 56% charge remaining, which is relatively unimpressive for a phone with a 6.7-inch display. For such a large phone, we’d expect something closer to 65% — similar to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus (6.6 inches) or Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max (6.7 inches).
The Z Flip 5’s result more closely resembles an average-sized phone with a 6.1-inch display, like the Samsung Galaxy S23 (56%) and Apple iPhone 14 Pro (58%). That’s to say the Z Flip 5 will still get you through the day with considerable use, but expect a lower battery percentage by the end of the day, or even charging top-ups during the day if you’re used to the battery life of large 6.7-inch phones.
While solid, the Z Flip 5’s 25W charging speed isn’t especially impressive — I’d expect faster 45W charging on a $1,000 phone with a large display, like you’d find on the Galaxy S23 Plus. And considering its comparatively short battery life relative to its screen size, faster charging would be a good option to get quicker top-ups throughout the day, if needed.
Wireless charging speeds are supported up to 15W, which is standard and expected.
A solid camera with some compromises
In exchange for the foldable design, Samsung compromised on the Z Flip 5’s cameras. Instead of furnishing the Z Flip 5 with the 50-megapixel cameras from its top-end Galaxy S series, the Z Flip 5 has solid 12MP main and ultrawide cameras, and a 10MP front-facing camera.
It’s not necessarily a deal-breaking con — 12MP cameras were the standard up until last year, and the Z Flip 5 takes sharp photos. But you’re not getting the best camera tech in a $1,000 phone in 2023 — it’s something you’ll have to settle on if you want a compact foldable.
It doesn’t help that the Z Flip 5 doesn’t include a dedicated zoom lens. Even if Samsung has improved its digital zooming quality, it simply doesn’t compare to a dedicated zoom lens.
Otherwise, Samsung veterans will be accustomed with Samsung’s signature style, which makes photos appear like they’ve been edited for you rather than imparting a balanced, natural aesthetic, like you’d find on a Google Pixel phone.
Whether you like Samsung’s photo style is up to you. If you’re looking for an opinion, I’m not a fan. The photo below is typical Samsung, where the barn’s wooden siding and stone foundation are robbed of detail and color, and they look significantly paler than they did when I took the photo. Meanwhile, the leaves in the shade distract with their contrasting saturation.
On a cloudier day, the Z Flip 5 actually takes nice, natural-looking photos with better lighting, even if colors are still somewhat over-saturated.
One of the valid perks of a foldable phone is that you can take selfies with the higher-quality main camera while using the cover screen as a viewfinder instead of using the front camera, which isn’t as fully featured.
Indeed, I’d take the selfie taken with the main camera any day of the week for its naturally blurry background (bokeh) and superior lighting, compared to the photo taken with the dedicated front camera.
This selfie taken with the Z Flip 5’s main camera was easy to frame thanks to using the screen cover as a viewfinder. It’s also a better quality photo than the selfie taken with the front camera.
This selfie taken with the Z Flip 5’s front camera doesn’t look as good as the one taken with the main camera and screen cover combination.
The limitations of the Z Flip 5’s 12MP camera can be seen in low-light photos, as high-megapixel cameras can absorb more light for better quality and visibility. However, the Z Flip 5 still takes good low-light photos — details in the photo below are visibly darker than those from a 50MP camera, but you can still easily see the subject (or object), and finer details are clearly distinguishable.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5’s 12MP camera can’t match a camera with around 50MP in low light situations, but it still takes good photos at night, and you can clearly see the subject and the majority of its finer details.
As for video, you often hear how Apple’s iPhones have the best video recording quality, but I’m equally happy with the quality of the recordings taken by the Z Flip 5 to capture memories — colors are richer and lighting actually looks better than the Z Flip 5’s photos, and Samsung phone photos, at large. The Z Flip 5 is capable of recording video up to 4K resolution at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, and video is full of detail and looks fantastic at this setting.
Notably, the Z Flip 5’s foldable design makes for a convenient experience while recording videos — you can place the Z Flip 5 on a surface in a half-folded laptop mode, which frees your hands and acts as a sort of handy tripod. That’s a legitimate perk for on-the-go content creators, or if you’ve ever wished you could record videos hands-free.
Should you buy the Galaxy Z Flip 5?
If you’re actively looking to upgrade from an older Z Flip phone, and you can trade in your phone for the price of a new Z Flip 5 from your carrier, it’s a worthwhile upgrade thanks to its larger, revamped cover display.
Those considering to swap their flat phones for a foldable phone, just make sure to take some of the caveats into consideration, like the potential inconvenience with unfolding the phone when you want to use it for most essential tasks, despite the Z Flip 5’s larger and slightly more useful cover screen.
Also consider that the Z Flip 5’s battery doesn’t last as long as a 6.7-inch flat phone’s, and you’ll get better cameras on a similarly priced flat phone. Whether these are worthy compromises in exchange for novelty, easy hands-free content capture, or a compact package is up to you.