Samsung is on its fifth generation of foldable devices, and I have used every new generation of the Galaxy ZFlip and Galaxy ZFold. You can read my review of last year’s Z Flip4 here and from the year prior, the Z Flip3 here. Every year, Samsung takes leaps and bounds in improving the ZFlip and ZFold, defining a new generation of multi-modal and versatile foldable smartphones.
Samsung has just revealed some innovative changes to the ZFlip5 at itsGalaxy Unpacked event that I believe give it more character, make it more appealing to consumers and further define Samsung’s direction for the Z Flip product line. You can read my coverage of the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event here. Having used the Z Flip5 for a couple of weeks, I want to give my full review of the device, highlighting the convenience of its design and its innovative features from a business and productivity viewpoint. While there are many great things to say about the Z Flip5, I want to focus on the categories of productivity, performance and personality.
Productivity and functionality
The flip design of the device adds an extra step for opening it and getting into a workflow, but where some see this as a flaw, I see it as a feature—and indeed one of the phone’s most valuable features. When the device is closed, I am less prone to open it as an escape mechanism and more inclined to use it for productivity. While this is a feature inherent to the design of the Z Flip, Samsung has taken it a step further by increasing the outside display, which it calls the Flex Window.
Samsung took the Flex Window of the Z Flip4, made it bigger and introduced a clever new UI. The Flex Window is about the size of a Blackberry Classic screen with a 3.4-inch display, and after using it for two weeks, I’ve found it to be a useful feature for interacting with my device distraction-free. Since this screen is about the size of a Blackberry Classic’s, it takes me back to a time when smartphones were more compact. There is a convenience to the smaller size that I believe we have lost with today’s larger, more capable smartphones. From this screen, I can quickly respond to a message, check my schedule or manage my notifications without falling into a distracting trance.
I think one of the coolest ways to use the Flex Window is with Bixby, Samsung’s onboard digital assistant. Although Samsung does not allow a long press of the lock button to be remapped to a different function such as Google Assistant, using Bixby on the Flex Window while the phone is closed is cool and convenient. I also think Samsung missed an opportunity to put app widgets on the front display rather than its own proprietary set of cards. Although you can enable a couple of apps like Google Messages and YouTube to be used on the Flex Window, enabling app widgets in general seems like a no-brainer.
When I do open the device, the taller, slimmer design of the Z Flip5 allows my thumb to reach every corner of the display. I can also lay the device flat on the table with the top of the display tilted up and use it in hands-free mode. When I am on a call, I can lay the device on the table with the camera facing me and still type. I do not need a stand, and I do not need to switch to my computer webcam. This functionality means I am not tied to my computer to take phone calls; wherever I go, I can have a hands-free experience.
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I also appreciate Samsung’s One UI functionality. I can add different modes for the Z Flip5, including work mode, rest mode and bedtime mode. I can change the phone’s settings based on the mode or even change things on another connected devices a Galaxy Watch. For example, I could choose a Galaxy Watch6 face that shows multiple time zones while I’m in work mode, but switch it to Samsung’s sleep-coaching watch face when I am ready to go to bed.
The Galaxy Z Flip5 rocks a custom Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 system-on-chip (SoC) with 8GB of memory. It has the same 3,700mAh battery as the previous generation and an 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex FHD+ display with 120-hertz adaptive refresh rate. The Z Flip5 is incredibly snappy, and I have not experienced any performance hiccups, even when more than 20 apps are open simultaneously. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 also has improved AI functionality, which includes making the phone better for gaming. Although I am not much of a gamer, the device had no trouble running popular games like Minecraft and Fortnite.
While the Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex display is bright and one of the best-looking displays on the market, I noticed that it does have noticeably different viewing angles from the top of the display and the bottom of the display when folded. When the Z Flip5 is at an 80- to 90-degree angle, the bottom of the display takes on a blue hue that is different than the top of the display.
I have also been able to get reliable all-day battery life with the Z Flip5. Although the outer display is larger than previous generations, I have gotten better battery life compared to the Z Flip4 even though they both have the same-sized battery because I have been using the Flex Window more. While it isn’t a big improvement, it is worth noting for those who are considering an upgrade from the Z Flip4.
Samsung has kept the same camera system for the Z Flip5 as it had on the Z Flip4, but has improved the quality of the pictures the phone takes using AI. Using the back camera system with the Flex Window is a convenient feature. The back camera system is better for selfies and the Flex Window allows me to see the picture before I take it and ensure everybody is in the shot for group selfies.
Samsung has done a great job of giving the Z Flip5 its own personality while shaping consumer smartphone trends, much like what Apple did with the iPhone in the early days of the smartphone.
You may have noticed that Samsung has done a great job of theming its foldable lineup around nostalgia for the flip phone that the smartphone replaced. This theme appeals to younger generations as a trendy vintage choice, and to older generations who actually used flip phones with a sense of nostalgia. Samsung has communicated that it has taken the flip phone’s best and most missed elements and brought them back in a retro-style experience.
Samsung improved the design of the Z Flip5 by giving it a smaller, more compact hinge, called the Flex Hinge, with fewer moving parts. It also changed the Z Flip5 to fold flat with no gap. I prefer this design over the version with a gap that the Z Flip series has used since the first generation. It is more compact in the pocket, and the entire display is protected when closed. The lack of a gap makes the phone slightly more difficult to open with one hand, but I still prefer the new design.
While I do not often comment on the colors of new devices because they change every year, I was surprised by how much I like the Mint color on my review device. It gives it so much character and personality, especially in different lighting, and—like Samsung’s portfolio of other colors such as Cream—it felt timeless. I am GenX and not the target market, I realize.
Samsung is making the smartphone fun again with the design of the Z Flip5. This, along with the aggressive pricing of the Z Flip5 at $1,000 for the entry-level 256GB model, is why Samsung is close to making foldables a 100-million-unit market.
It is easy to think that foldable smartphones solve problems that don’t necessarily exist. However, Samsung has done a great job of making the folding design useful and convenient for its users. The Z Flip5 is more convenient and has more personality than the traditional smartphone—without compromising performance. In particular, it adds new functionality and new ways to use the device with the Flex Window and compact Flex Hinge.
The folding design may be the defining factor of the Z Flip5, but based on the quality of this device, I think that foldables could easily become the most common form factor for smartphones. It is familiar to generations that remember the traditional flip phone and offers a unique retro design element for post-flip phone generations. I am excited to see how Samsung continues to improve the Flex Window, hopefully adding widget support and allowing for the long press of the lock screen button to be remapped to Google Assistant. I would recommend the Z Flip5 to most people. From the business person to the stay-at-home mom, the Z Flip5 has everything going for it.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed heavily to this article.