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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 Hands-On: Bigger Display, More Personal Customizations

The primary flaws of Samsung’s new flip phone are fixed with a larger cover screen and a revised hinge.

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The Galaxy Z Flip 5.

Rich Peterson/CNET

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 from Samsung is an update over the Galaxy Z Flip 4, including a new processor, an enhanced hinge, and a larger cover screen that should improve performance and photos. It will go on sale starting on August 11 for $1,000 (£1,049, AU$1,649), demonstrating that buyers must still pay a hefty price to obtain foldable phones.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5’s redesigned cover display, which I found engaging during my brief use of the smartphone, is the largest update. With this improvement, Samsung’s flip phone is able to compete with others created by Motorola and Chinese tech giant Oppo since the external display feels functional and helpful rather than only attractive.

At its Galaxy Unpacked presentation on Wednesday in Seoul, Samsung unveiled the new flip phone along with a plethora of other goods, including the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Watch 6 series, and Galaxy Tab S9 family. The announcement confirms Samsung’s wager that high-end smartphones would have foldable designs in the future, particularly as a way to set itself apart from Apple soon before the iPhone launch season.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 (left) and Galaxy Z Flip 4 (right).

Rich Peterson/CNET

In contrast to the Z Flip 4’s 1.9-inch external display, the cover display for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is 3.4 inches in size and is now known as the Flex Window by Samsung. That makes it just a hair smaller than the Motorola Razr Plus’s 3.6-inch front screen.

The 6.7-inch internal screen of the Z Flip 5 will still be used by the majority of users for activities like news reading, gaming, and social media surfing. But the Z Flip might be more handy in other ways due to the larger cover display. For instance, when I tested the Razr Plus, I adored the phone’s generous cover screen. I enjoyed playing music while I propped it open like a tent and even enjoyed rapidly composing a text message in response.

With the Z Flip 5, Samsung is striving to offer a comparable experience. In the short time I used it, I used Google Maps to scroll, the messaging app to text, and even the Barbie movie trailer on YouTube without ever unlocking the phone. Nothing of the sort is possible on the cover screen of the Z Flip 4. Nevertheless, the Razr Plus allows you to.

However, not all apps will work on the front display. Most of the time, Samsung restricts cover screen apps to those it thinks have a legitimate place there, such as Google Maps, YouTube, and WhatsApp. Only roughly 10 apps will be offered on the Flex Window at launch since Samsung wants to concentrate on use cases that make sense for the cover screen, including rapidly checking directions or replying to a text. This contrasts with the Razr Plus, which can run almost any app on the front screen (including TikTok).

Installing Good Lock, an app for Samsung devices that enables users to personalize their phones’ user interfaces, will allow you to test out other apps on the cover screen.

Samsung; GIF by Arielle Burton/CNET

When you open the phone, cover screen apps effortlessly switch to the 6.7-inch internal display. However, unlike the Motorola Razr, this does not operate the other way around.

The cover screen creates the impression that widgets rather than complete apps were the main focus of its design. Compared to the Z Flip 4’s tiny screen, these widgets offer a larger view of the weather, your calendar, alarms, connected device controls, and other nuggets of information. They are the first thing you see when you flip on the cover screen. On the cover screen or in the settings menu of the phone, you can remove or rearrange these widgets.

Samsung: GIF by Arielle Burton/CNET

Samsung names the new hinge on the Z Flip 5 the Flex Hinge. With no wedge-shaped gap like on earlier Galaxy Z Flip and Fold devices, the device can fold entirely closed like the Razr Plus.

In addition to making the phone feel smaller, Samsung claims that this should increase its endurance. The new hinge should be less prone to damage because it has fewer moving parts than the old one. With an IPX8 water resistance rating, both of Samsung’s new foldables should be able to endure immersion in 1.5 meters (about five feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. It has the same durability rating as gadgets from the previous year.

The greatest improvements on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 are the cover screen and hinge. Other than that, the phone receives a customary upgrade to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy CPU. The Galaxy S23 range is powered by the same technology, which helped to increase battery life and image processing. It will be interesting to see whether it stays true for the Galaxy Z Flip 5. Given that the Z Flip 5’s 3,700 mAh battery is identical to that of the Z Flip 4, Samsung is relying on this technology to increase battery life. Samsung has made changes to the Galaxy S8 and Z Flip 5, boosting the base storage on the Z Flip 5 from 128GB to 256GB.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 with its cover screen.

Rich Peterson/CNET

The Galaxy Z Flip series has always placed a premium on its cameras, but the Z Flip 5’s hardware is comparable to that of the model from a year ago. A 12-megapixel primary camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 10-megapixel selfie camera are included. The cameras this year have a new lens coating that should lessen lens flare, which is what makes this year different. Hopefully, this will work in conjunction with the improved processor to make the Galaxy Z Flip’s cameras better than what my colleague Patrick Holland described as the device’s “B-grade cameras” in his review from the previous year. Additionally, the larger cover screen on the Z Flip 5 gives you a larger viewfinder for snapping selfies while the phone is closed, which is obviously a bonus.

The software experience of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is substantially identical to that of the Z Flip 4, however Samsung increased the number of integrations with the Galaxy Watch 6. For instance, the camera controller app icon will appear on your Galaxy Watch 6’s watch face while the camera app is active and the Flip 5 is folded halfway into Flex Mode. This enables you to adjust angles while shooting and see a preview of what you’re shooting. The watch’s capability to surface the app when it notices that you’re snapping a photo in Flex Mode is new, but the app itself isn’t.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 appears to be Samsung’s attempt to fix the greatest shortcomings of the previous generation: a cover screen that seemed too small to be usable, a battery life that was quite brief, and a hinge that didn’t fold as flat as some rivals. How successfully Samsung accomplishes that objective will determine whether or not I recommend this phone.

Samsung; GIF by Arielle Burton/CNET

But most significantly, I’m hoping the Z Flip 5’s cover screen clarifies what it’s for. Even while having a phone with a built-in tripod that fits more comfortably in your pocket is useful, most people won’t convert to a $1,000 flip phone for it. The larger exterior display of the Razr Plus demonstrated that flip phones may be more than simply portable. I’ll be anticipating Samsung to advance that concept with the Z Flip 5.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 specs vs. Motorola Razr Plus, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, Motorola Razr 2023

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