We’ve seen a few foldable phones this year, but Samsung is still making most of them. Is the Flip 5 the best generation yet?
The world of phones is changing, and not just because of how much technology is converging. Oh sure, that is definitely a factor — who carries around a dedicated music player anymore, except folks who need a specifically expensive audiophile solution? — but it’s not just convergence.
Changes to form-factors are a big part of how and why mobiles are changing, and Samsung has been leading that charge for a few years now. It’s one of the reasons we have so many foldable phones these days, as it was one of the brands that kicked it all off.
Several generations in, we’re now at the Galaxy Z Flip 5, and Samsung isn’t alone. There’s more than one pocketable foldable phone to consider and Samsung’s one and only compact folding phone has competition.
Is the Samsung Z Flip 5 still the best compact folding phone in the market, or does it need something more?
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We’ve seen a Galaxy Flip every year now, looking at the Flip 5G (which was basically the Flip 2), the Flip 3, and even last year’s Flip 4, and now we’re jumping into a Flip 5… and not much will seem like it has changed.
Like last year’s Flip 4, the design is familiar, offering a two tone look that delivers a base colour, a metallic hinge, and the front, though that has changed slightly. Rather than a black strip for the screen in that model, the Flip 5 sees the entire front as the screen, and therefore it black.
It’s an evolution on last year’s design, which we liked, and we’re particularly enamoured with this one, as well.
The Flip 5 is slick, easy to look at, and offers some nice metallic framing that harks back to the S23 design we saw earlier in the year.
Inside, the vibe of “not much has changed” continues, largely because the internals can feel a lot like a spec shift.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 in last year’s Flip 4 has been upgraded to a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but you’ll get the same 8GB RAM and a choice of either 256GB or 512GB, neither of which can be upgraded with a microSD slot.
Cameras are much the same, at least on paper, offering a 12 megapixel F1.8 wide and a 12 megapixel F2.2 ultra-wide, while the inside camera with the screen sports a 10 megapixel F2.2 selfie camera. Neither is particularly as impressive as what’s in the S23 range, but they’re not necessarily designed to be.
Of course, the screens are meant to be the impressive parts. The inside foldable screen is a 6.7 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display sporting 2640×1080 Full HD+ working at 120Hz, while the outside display — the big black box — is a 3.4 inch Super AMOLED display running at 720×748, making it practically square, yet also not quite.
Over on connections, you’ll find the regular players, including sub-6 5G, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, GPS, NFC for Google Pay and Samsung Pay, and a USB Type C port at the bottom for charging, data, and earphones. Google’s Android 13 comes equipped on this phone, arriving on a handset supporting IPX8 water resistance, which doesn’t make it so much waterproof, though it can survive some splashes of water.
There’s also a fingerprint sensor on the power button, facial security via the upfront camera, and wireless charging, supporting the 3700mAh battery built in.
|Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 (SM-F731B)
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
|8GB RAM; 256GB or 512GB
|Google Android 13
|5G (sub-6), WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, GPS, NFC, USB-C
|6.9mm unfolded, 15.1mm folded; 187g
|Starting from $1649 AUD
Open up the phone and you’ll find a familiar Android interface, thanks in part to the solid work Samsung has made with One UI. As close to Google’s standard approach for Android but with a few little tweaks, Samsung’s take on Android is slick and easy to use, with minimal changes overall.
Using the Flip 5 is pretty much the same as using any other phone, especially any other Flip model, complete with the fingerprint sensor on the side and the extra tall display, which is so big when opened, it’s roughly the same height as the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Where the Flip 5 differs is the front screen, which is no longer a small blip on the front, but mostly a full display. There’s a little shelf cut out, but by and large, you get an extra display that gives you most of the front of the phone to work with, much like the extra screen on the front of the Fold 5.
The screen on Flip 5 is a little bit different, though.
While the Fold 5 (and previous Fold models) offer a full Android experience for the front-facing screen, the Flip 5’s extra front screen is a little more limited, giving you a handful of apps as well as messaging notifications.
This isn’t quite the same extensive front-screen experience Motorola provides in the Razr 40 Ultra, with something a touch limited by comparison.
At least the performance is solid, with the same hardware we’ve seen a few times over in Samsung models from this year making a similar dent.
Granted, we should be seeing identical performance from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the Flip 5 as to what it is in the S23, but for some reason, the latter edges out the Flip just that little bit.
You won’t notice, though. The hardware delivers similar performance, making it ideal for apps and games for years to come, and you can see just how much more oomph the Flip 5 has against previous Flip models in general.
In fact, the Flip 5 delivers the best performance out of any foldable clamshell phone released in 2023, at least based on our tests.
We’ve reviewed them all, from the Oppo Find N2 Flip, the Razr 40, the Razr 40 Ultra, and even the Razr 2022 that appeared at the beginning of this year, and on benchmarks alone, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 5 has the most going for it.
Over in the world of 5G, Samsung is at least on par with practically everyone else, delivering high speeds if you’re within reach of a mobile tower with bandwidth to spare.
Tested in Sydney, Australia on the Telstra 5G network by way of Mate (which limits the maximum speed), we found download rates as fast as 208Mbps, which is decent enough, though your results may vary. There are a lot of factors that determine mobile speeds, and so while you might see higher speeds, you might also see lower ones, as well.
While there are improvements to the performance that are obvious, the improvements to the camera system are less easy to see, if there are any at all.
Much like what we’ve seen in previous generations, you’re still going to see a two camera system made up of one wide and one ultra-wide, both of which offer a fairly ho-hum 12 megapixels. In fairness to Samsung, the sensors have improved and megapixels clearly aren’t everything, but the tech here isn’t a substantial update.
In fact, the S23 standard has more going for it, as does the Z Fold, both of which deliver an extra camera the Z Flip 5 misses out on.
In practice, shots work nicely in daylight, providing crisp images with nice colours, while the low light capability is acceptable but nothing amazing. It’s certainly not as improved as the rest of the internal hardware.
It’s a similar picture with the battery life, which really sees the Z Flip 5 needing a nightly charge at the best of times, though you might be able to wrench a little extra life out if needed.
Mostly, that means you should be charging overnight comfortably, but if you need to get more than 24 hours, you can.
Samsung offers some power saving options that can help you achieve a little more battery life, and while we disagree with the power graph’s expectation of how much life we’re probably going to get, there’s a touch more here than it being a one-day phone.
But the pricing could be more competitive, that’s for sure, with the $1649 price about normal for the type of phone it is and the high-grade of technology, even if the market is shifting.
What needs work?
While a starting price of $1649 isn’t bad for a foldable flagship, it’s also a good $150 more than the foldable flagship Motorola delivers in the Razr 40 Ultra, and we’re pretty sure Motorola’s phone is giving a better experience, too.
Take the crease in the screen: in the Moto Razr 40 Ultra, it’s barely noticeable, but in the Flip 5, it’s very much there. We can get over this and have largely trained our eyes to see it as no big deal — seriously, you’re getting a foldable screen, so a crease in the display isn’t that big of a problem — but it’s definitely there.
Motorola seems to have made more strides in this category, that’s for sure. The crease on the Flip 5 feels like it did last year, and we’re not so sure that’s a great thing. It’s almost as if nothing has changed.
In fact, outside of that front screen, the Flip 5 can feel a lot like that where nothing has changed. It is very much last year’s Flip, but with an extra screen.
Yeah, sure, you get the new Snapdragon processor inside, but we doubt anyone would be able to push either generation of Snapdragon to its limits, so this isn’t that big of a deal from where we sit.
We just want something else in the design. Better cameras. A thinner design. Less crease. Something.
An extra front-facing screen that limits what you can do ain’t enough.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
In total, Samsung’s update is just that: more screen, less change. You get slightly more from the display department at the front, and that is largely it.
The approach for using that screen feels like a minor change to what Samsung had going for it with the smaller front screens in previous models, and doesn’t quite go to the same length Motorola offered.
Even the big internal screen can feel like yesterday’s news, because while Motorola’s crease feels barely there, Samsung’s is more prominent. It’s marginal, and a fair sight better than when the first foldable models popped up a few years ago, but now that there’s actual genuine competition in folding phones, the Flip 5 doesn’t feel as strong as it once did.
Make no mistake, the Flip 5 is a good foldable, but given what’s out, you can also do better. If the price drops below $1400, this would be a more compelling device, but right now, the Flip 5 isn’t much of an update, and new foldable buyers can do better to look around.