I spent two hours with the Galaxy Z Flip 5. Here’s what I learned

Holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 with its cover screen on.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Of all the smartphones coming out this year, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 has been one of my most anticipated. Now, the phone is official — and I’ve had a chance to use it.

Why have I been looking forward to the Z Flip 5 so much? The answer is simple. Because last year’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 was so close to being a perfect flip phone-style foldable. It had reliable cameras, great performance, and an excellent design. Battery life wasn’t the best, and the cover screen was quite limited, but everything else about the phone was a joy to use.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5. It has a newer processor that promises better performance and battery efficiency. The cover screen is bigger and more functional than ever. Combine that with a new hinge, minor camera improvements, and double the internal storage, and there’s a whole lot to like. But just how well does it all come together?

Here’s what I learned after using the Galaxy Z Flip 5 for a couple of hours during an early hands-on session.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: the cover screen is a big deal … kind of

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 with its cover screen on.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Ever since the original Galaxy Z Flip launched in 2020, one of the biggest downsides for the series has been Samsung’s limited cover screens. The first two models shipped with minuscule 1.1-inch cover screens, while the Z Flip 3 and Z Flip 4 upped the ante with 1.9-inch displays. But for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 this year, Samsung is going all-out with a 3.4-inch display on the front. It’s an AMOLED panel with a 720 x 748 resolution and a pixel density of 306 pixels per inch (ppi), plus a 60Hz refresh rate.

Unlike the cover screen on the Motorola Razr Plus, which engulfs its two cameras, the Z Flip 5’s cover screen goes right up to them to create a folder-like shape. While it looks a bit odd in product renders, it didn’t bother me one bit while using the phone. It looks a little unusual, but unlike Motorola’s approach, it means none of the display is interrupted by the camera sensors.

As for what you can do with the larger display, it works very similarly to a Galaxy Watch. Swipe down from the top of the screen to view your Quick Settings, swipe right from the clock face to see your notifications, and swipe left to cycle through all of your widgets. There are 13 widgets to choose from out of the box, including things like a weather forecast, monthly calendar, stopwatch, timer, contact shortcuts, and more. You can enable/disable and reorder the position of these widgets however you want, and they all look quite nice.

One of these widgets is the “apps widget,” and it finally allows you to run Android apps on the Z Flip cover screen. But there are a few quirks.

Google Maps running on the cover screen of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Google Maps on the Z Flip 5 cover screen Joe Maring/Digital Trends

For starters, you have to enable the apps widget through the Labs portion of the Settings app before it will work — clearly suggesting that it’s still an experimental feature. And even when it is enabled, you can only use a small list of curated apps that Samsung has chosen for you. Right now, these include Google Messages, Samsung Messages, WhatsApp, Google Maps, YouTube, Netflix … and that’s it. Samsung says these apps have been “optimized” to run well on the cover screen, and to Samsung’s credit, they look good! But they also don’t look any different from using apps on the Razr Plus’ cover screen, so it’s unclear how much optimization is really happening.

If you want to run other apps on the cover screen, you’ll need to download Samsung’s Good Lock app from the Galaxy Store and then enable a separate “cover screen launcher” to make it work. Samsung didn’t have this available to test during my hands-on session, but from the sound of things, it won’t be all that dissimilar to how you can force apps to run on the Galaxy Z Flip 4’s cover screen.

I’ll need more time with the Z Flip 5 to see how this setup fits into my life, but at least during my couple of hours with the phone, it left a mixed impression on me. The cover screen looks great and is an objectively massive upgrade from the Z Flip 4. But Samsung’s approach to adding apps to the experience feels extremely undercooked. Having just six apps to use out of the box isn’t impressive, and while you will be able to force more to work on it, the implementation doesn’t sound any less clunky than it was on the Flip 4. Samsung is making steps in the right direction, but I’m not positive it crossed the finish line here.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: a brand new hinge

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 folded shut.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Beyond the larger cover screen, the other big change for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is Samsung’s new hinge. Samsung calls it the “Flex Hinge,” and the big draw is that it allows the Flip 5 to close completely flat when folded — no weird gap near the back to speak of. The gap on the Flip 4 never bothered me, personally, but it is nice being able to fully fold the phone shut now. It may be more of an aesthetic change than anything else, but it’s certainly welcome to have.

Something else I noticed is that the new hinge feels a bit different compared to the one on the Flip 4. It still feels very strong and well-constructed, but it doesn’t feel quite as stiff or rigid as on the Flip 4. It’s not floppy or loose, but the gear movement is noticeably smoother. I need more time to properly judge how it works throughout daily use, but I think it’ll be a welcome adjustment.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 folded shut.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Outside of being able to shut the phone flat, the rest of the hinge experience for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 works just like it did for the Flip 4. You can prop the Flip 5 up half-open to take a hands-free selfie or group photo, use it like a handheld camcorder of yesteryear, and select apps like YouTube can adapt to a half-folded position.

There also aren’t any significant durability improvements with the new hinge. Just like last year, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 has an IPX8 water resistance rating and has been tested to survive at least 200,000 folds.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: processor, battery, camera, and display

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 with its main display open.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

What about the rest of the Galaxy Z Flip 5? Well, it’s a pretty familiar affair. The main display is still a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x panel with a 2640 x 1080 Full HD+ resolution and a variable refresh rate that scales up to 120Hz and all the way down to 1Hz. Just like the Flip 4’s main screen, the one on the Flip 5 looked fantastic during my hands-on session.

The biggest spec change is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. It should result in better performance and power efficiency, but considering the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 in the Z Flip 4 was already a really good chip, don’t expect masses of improvement here. You still get 8GB of RAM, though the base internal storage has been upgraded from 128GB to 256GB. If you need more room, you can also step up to a 512GB model.

Something that hasn’t changed this year is the battery capacity. Just like last year, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is powered by a 3,700mAh dual-cell battery. The battery size on the Z Flip 4 made last year’s foldable a one-day smartphone, and I suspect the same will be true of the Flip 5. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a bit more efficient than the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, so battery life should be a bit better, but don’t hold your breath for anything too substantial.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 lying on oranges.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The same goes for the Galaxy Z Flip 5’s charging setup. The Z Flip 5 supports “Super Fast Charging” and “Fast Wireless Charging 2.0” — in other words, 25-watt wired charging and 15W wireless charging. And if you have a pair of wireless earbuds or a Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 you need to charge up, you can place it on the back of the Z Flip 5 for 4.5W reverse wireless charging. These are the exact same charging specs we saw on the Galaxy Z Flip 4, and while faster wired charging would have been great to see, this remains a pretty strong setup for a flip phone foldable in 2023.

Finally, we have the cameras. You’ll find two cameras next to the Galaxy Z Flip 5’s cover screen, including a 12MP main camera with optical image stabilization and an f/1.8 aperture. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a 123-degree field-of-view. And if you need to take selfies or make video calls while the phone is open, a 10MP camera with f/2.2 aperture is found in a small cutout at the top of the main display.

Using the camera app on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

If these specs sound familiar, that’s because they’re virtually identical to the camera setup on the Galaxy Z Flip 4. The 10MP selfie camera has a slightly improved aperture, jumping to f/2.2 compared to f/2.4 on the Flip 4. Samsung has added a “clear lens coating” over the main and ultrawide cameras to reduce lens flare in photos. Samsung is also promising some under-the-hood software improvements, which should result in things like better colors and skin tone reproduction. Otherwise, nothing else has changed.

While that’s not particularly exciting, it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 continues to have a very good camera system, with its main faults being some overly saturated colors and soft details in extremely lo-light settings. Photos snapped during my hands-on session looked good, but I’ll need to wait until I can use the Z Flip 5 outside of a perfectly lit studio setup before making any firm judgments.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: price and availability

Two Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 phones next to each other.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 begin on July 26, with the phone officially launching on August 11. It’s available in your choice of four main colors — including mint, graphite, cream, and lavender. The Samsung website will carry exclusive colors of gray, blue, green, and yellow.

Just like the Flip 4, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 starts at $1,000. However, as mentioned above, you now get 256GB of internal storage as the minimum amount instead of 128GB.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: the upgrade we needed?

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 half-folded open.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

I came away from my time with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 eager to use it more — and to me, that’s a good sign. It has one of the most powerful and efficient mobile chips in existence, a reliable set of cameras, a subtle (but welcome) hinge redesign, and a vastly upgraded cover screen experience. To get all of that with no price increase over the Flip 4’s MSRP — plus double the internal storage — is an exciting proposition.

But did Samsung do enough? That’s a question I’m still trying to find the answer to. I’m not thrilled with how Samsung is handling apps on the cover screen. It is progress compared to last year, but I would have liked to see more. The Motorola Razr Plus does a much better job in this regard, and it has a more technically impressive cover screen, too. I’m not sure how much that matters to the millions of people Samsung hopes to sell the Flip 5 to, but it matters a lot to me.

But even with these initial gripes, I still came away from my hands-on time with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 not wanting to put it down. The Flip 4 was already so darn good, and this is just an even better version of that same formula. Samsung knows what it’s doing when it comes to folding phones, and I’m eager to see if the Flip 5 can become my new favorite foldable of 2023.



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