The fact that we’re on the fifth generation of Foldable Smartphones from Samsung should already be a clear indication that the form factor is definitely here to stay. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic when it comes to foldables, but as the category continues to mature, I’ve come to realize that I have a bit of a soft spot for smartphones with folding screens, despite the fact that there are still some glaring issues that need to be addressed.
Having attended the Samsung Unpacked event in South Korea for the launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Fold 5, it’s clear that the company is using its foldable lineup to distance itself from Apple and other players in the Android space, but that’s becoming harder and harder in 2023 as we’ve seen nearly a dozen foldable smartphone launches already, and we’re expecting a few more form Oppo and even OnePlus before we wrap up the year.
But unlike its competitors, Samsung has consumer mindshare, a broader global reach, and five years of experience which counts for a lot.
If you’re among those who are considering a foldable smartphone for the first time, this joint review of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 should help you decide if you should finally switch from a traditional slab smartphone and jump into the foldable revolution.
From a distance, there’s not much new regarding the design of either of these smartphones. To be fair, Samsung has been refining the looks and the folding mechanisms of its Fold and Flip lineup for years now, so there’s not really much to improve in that department.
But upon closer inspection, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Fold 5 both share one major design improvement – the gap. Samsung’s engineers have finally eliminated the gap between the two sides of the phones when they are folded, as Motorola, Xiaomi, Oppo, and other foldable smartphone makers did two to three years ago. It may not sound like a huge deal, but not having a visible gap anymore means that the bodies of the two devices are not thinner, making them more pocket-friendly. This change also reduces the amount of pocket sand and lint that inevitably makes its way into the phone every time you put it away.
Other than that, the Galaxy S Fold 5 looks nearly identical to last year’s model. The only real tweak that stands out is the placement of the camera flash on the back of the phone, which has been moved to sit beside the camera module bump. This makes the camera bump look smaller, which is always a good thing.
For the Galaxy Z Flip 5, the phone looks pretty much the same, but you will definitely notice its most significant design upgrade when its cover display comes to life. Like the Motorola Razr+ 2023, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 now sports a huge display on the front cover of the phone. This not only gives the device a dynamic new look but also changes when and how you interact with the phone.
In general, I’m typically not a fan of Samsung One UI. The look and feel of the interface don’t align well with what I’m looking for in an Android device. That being said, Samsung is miles ahead of the competition when it comes to its foldable smartphones – especially book-style devices like the Fold 5.
This phone’s software is built for multitasking, giving you dozens of different ways you can use multiple apps at once and even allowing you to use apps side-by-side when the app developer hasn’t enabled the feature. A great example of this is the ability to play a game on the bottom of the main screen while watching a YouTube video or show on Netflix on the top.
The dock at the bottom of the screen – a feature that’s been around since last year’s Fold 4 – is back, and it’s definitely one of the most useful software features when you have such a large canvas as this. It makes switching between apps or jumping into split-screen mode a breeze.
When it comes to the Flip 5, the software experience is completely different. The phone acts like a pretty traditional smartphone when the screen is unfolded, but the extra large cover display adds a new dynamic to how you use the device.
Due to the larger footprint of the cover display, Samsung updated all its widgets and added a tone of new customization options. You can pinch to zoom out and see all the widgets and quickly navigate to the one you want rather than having to swipe between them all and then there are about a dozen different customizable clock widgets with static or animated backgrounds to give your phone a distinct look.
The best new feature is the ability to use Android apps on the cover display. By default, you can only enable Google Maps, Messages, Netflix and Youtube when you go into the Cover Display setting page and turn on the Labs functionality. But if you download Good Lock from the Galaxy Store, you’ll be able to launch any app or game you want, matching the same functionality that Motorola has on the Razr+ 2023.
This new feature is a game changer, making the Galaxy Z Flip 5 far more useful than last year’s model. Not needing to open the phone to check or reply to messages, call an Uber or find my favorite playlist on Spotify makes the Flip 5 feel like its a lot more than just another smartphone.
Both the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Fold 5 use the same Snapdragong 8 Gen 2 Soc, so there’s a noticeable improvement in performance compared to last year’s models. The FOld 5 has 12GB of RAM as opposed to the 8GB you get on the Flip 5, but it’s hard to notice a difference since both devices are incredibly fast.
Naturally, the Fold 5’s book-style form factor does give the device much more space for cooling, which is clearly evident when playing games like Genshin Impact for longer than 5-10 minutes. The Flip 5 can still manage quite well with graphic-intense games, but the Fold 5 is definitely the way to go if you want to make sure you’re getting those high frame rates. The device also lends itself to a more immersive gaming experience since it has a much larger interior 7.6-inch 120Hz display, which makes the 6.7-inch 120Hz display of the Flip 5 feel minuscule.
Foldable smartphones aren’t necessarily known for having high-end camera hardware. The reason for this has to do with the thickness of the phone. Larger camera sensors require mode z-depth between the sensor and the lens, so Samsung and other manufacturers are forced to use smaller sensors on their foldable devices since they are constantly looking to reduce the overall thickness of the phone. If you’re looking for a Samsung phone with the best smartphone camera system, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is definitely the way to go.
That being said, the foldable smartphone form factor does allow you to use the cover displays with the main cameras, delivering much better results when you’re taking selfies or recording videos of yourself.
Technically, the triple camera system (50MP primary, 10MP 3x telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide) on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the better camera setup when compared to the dual cameras (12MO primary and 12MP ultrawide) of the Flip 5, but the flip form factor and its new larger display make it a lot easier to use the external cameras for selfies.
When looking at the overall image quality, the results from both phones fall fairly close to what the Galaxy S23 delivers. Images are bright and colorful and deliver enough dynamic range to ensure that your subject is well-lit, even when the sun or your light source is directly behind them. Low light performance is quite good as well if you’re also to switch to night mode and extend the exposure.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 definitely has the upper hand when it comes to resolution and capturing better shots in low-light situations, though the 3x zoom is what truly makes it stand out. But if I had to choose between the two, the Flip would be my go-to choice.
Compared to a traditional smartphone, the Flip 5 and Fold have incredibly small batteries. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 sports a minuscule 3700 mAh battery with only 25W wired or 15W wireless charging speeds. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 does a little better with a 4400 mAh battery, though its charging speeds are the same. And of course, neither device comes with a wall charger in the box, so you’ll need to buy your own or find one from an older device.
Measuring battery life on a foldable smartphone is harder than it is on a traditional slab device since it all comes down to how you use the phone. The larger cover display on the Flip 5 dramatically changed how I interacted with the phone since I used the cover display to check notifications, send messages and emails and even play games. For the most part, the Flip 5’s small battery delivered 6-7 hours of screen-on time and should be more than enough to get you through a full day.
Things are significantly different with the Fold 5 as its cover display is 6.2-inches and the internal display takes things all the way up to 7.6-inches. No matter how you use it, you’ll have a hard time getting to 6 hours of screen-on time. While this may sound disappointing, that number is far better than the 5 hours of screen on time I achieved with last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 which sported the same battery capacity. The key difference between the two likely comes down to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset from Qualcomm which is dramatically more efficient in day-to-day use.
There’s no denying that Samsung is the leader in the foldable smartphone segment and that the new Flip 5 and Fold 5 will be the best-selling devices in their respective categories this year as well.
That being said, competition from the Motorola Razr+ and a half dozen book-style foldable devices from Chinese manufacturers will definitely close the gap over the next 12 months. Samsung’s slot iteration has allowed the competition to catch and even surpass them when it comes to foldable smartphone design, battery life and performance.
Choosing between the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Fold 5 is fairly simple. If you want the best-performing device, the Fold is the obvious answer, but personally, I’ll be leaving the Fold 5 in the drawer in favor of the Flip 5. It’s smaller, more convenient and feels like I’m using a futuristic device as opposed to the Fold 5 which feels like I’ve just pulled a mini- laptop out of my pocket. That’s not what I’m looking for in a smartphone.