I’m buying a Samsung folding phone, but not the one you’d expect

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Fold 4, and Galaxy Z Flip 5 standing upright on a table.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right), and Galaxy Z Flip 5 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I bought the original Samsung Galaxy Fold, which I still have today, and I absolutely loved its futuristic design, multimedia ability, and feeling like I was right on the cutting edge of consumer mobile tech. I purchased the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in 2021 and upgraded to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in 2022 — so surely I’ve already pre-ordered the Galaxy Z Fold 5, right?

Wrong. I’m jumping over to the Galaxy Z Flip 5, and this is why.

I love the Galaxy Z Fold series, but…

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Fold 4, and Galaxy Z Flip 5 showing the sides and ends of the frame.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (top) Galaxy Z Fold 4 (bottom), and Galaxy Z Flip 5 (side) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the evening of July 26, a few hours after Samsung’s massive Galaxy Unpacked event where the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Flip 5, two smartwatches, and three tablets were announced, I preordered the Galaxy Z Flip 5. Until that point, I’d really considered myself a big-screen foldable smartphone advocate, but the Galaxy Z Fold 5 just hasn’t quite tempted me enough to choose it this year.

I first realized that maybe it wouldn’t get my money when I spent an hour or so with it ahead of its launch. It’s brilliant, make no mistake about that. Samsung has ticked a few of the things off my wishlist for the Z Fold 5, and it’s genuinely a superior phone to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, just not by enough of a margin to encourage an upgrade. It’s everything I love about the current phone, just ever-so-slightly refined.

The question of upgrading was also on my mind when I spoke to Samsung about the new range, and although various compelling arguments were made about upgrading, I still wasn’t convinced. In fact, it didn’t really sound like Samsung expected Z Fold 4 owners to be that tempted by the Z Fold 5. This says more about the level of complexity and engineering quality the Z Fold series has reached than it does about the device’s appeal.

Why I chose the Galaxy Z Flip 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Fold 4, and Galaxy Z Flip 5 resting on a table.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right), and Galaxy Z Flip 5 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I made my final decision on the morning of July 26 when I went to London for Samsung’s satellite Unpacked event. I’m going to review the Galaxy Z Fold 5, which I can’t wait to do, but it was the Galaxy Z Flip 5 I was more excited to try out for an extended period of time. The new cover screen and its software improvements, in addition to the new hinge and no-gap closure, made it an intriguing step forward over the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Immediately I felt this about the two phones — I knew I should buy the Z Flip 5 instead of the Z Fold 5.

Actually, the decision had been some time in the making. When I used first used the Galaxy Z Flip 4, I had the feeling maybe I should have bought it over the Z Fold 4, but since then, I’ve returned to it often enough not to make me regret my initial purchase. The big inner screen fits into my lifestyle so well, and I’ve got used to typing on and using the tall, thin cover screen too. I’ve used its major competition this year too, and it’s leagues ahead of each one.

But then I spent a few weeks with the Motorola Razr 40 (or the Motorola Razr 2023 as it’s known in the U.S.), a fantastic compact folding smartphone that competes with the Z Flip series, and it really emphasized how freeing it is to carry around such a small device. The Razr 40 isn’t quite powerful enough for my needs, but there are no such concerns with the Z Flip 5, and all of this combined saw me tap the “Preorder now” button on Samsung’s website.

Future values

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

There’s something else I want to talk about, and that’s the argument that I could have just lived with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 for another year and not upgraded at all. It’s a very fair point, as the Z Fold 4 is fantastic, still has many years of use in it, and doesn’t feel “old” or outdated in any way. If I was a normal person, this is the decision I would have likely made. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is more than enough smartphone for most people for several years to come.

However, while I do use the phone to inform my work, it’s also my “personal” Android phone, and I pay for it with my own money. If I kept the Z Fold 4 for another year, the trade-in value would drop considerably. I may as well trade it in now and make the most of Samsung’s launch offer, and then in 2024, have the same opportunity to get the top trade-in amount again. I’m sure there’s a degree of “man math” at work here, but it seems like the sensible course of action.

On the subject of preorders and trade-ins, I live in the U.K., and Samsung has not been anywhere near as generous with its offers here as it has been in the U.S. I still had to pay 490 British pounds for the Galaxy Z Flip 5, despite trading in the Galaxy Z Fold 4. In the U.S., Samsung would give me $900 for the same phone, meaning I’d pay just $99 for the Z Flip 5. Waiting to see the pittance Samsung would give me for the same phone in 2024 was another reason it didn’t seem like a good idea to wait.

No more Fold?

A person holding the half open Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Is this the end of the Fold road for me? Is my future now all about the compact folding smartphone? Not necessarily. As I’ve said already, the Z Fold 4 does fit in with my lifestyle really well, so there’s a degree of trepidation over going to the smaller Z Flip 5. But as I’m traveling less these days, having a single device that does everything is less important, and pocketing a smaller phone is more beneficial.

Plus, I’ve no idea what 2024 and the Galaxy Z Fold 6 will hold. Perhaps next year, the very best big-screen foldable you can buy — yes, I firmly believe the Z Fold 5 will retain that title — will take a big step forward, just as the Z Flip 5 did this year. If it does, it may not take much to convince me to swap back again.

Where should all this leave you if you’re on the fence about choosing a foldable phone? If the Z Fold 5 is going to be your first folding phone, you’re going to love it, and you shouldn’t take my hesitance as a reason not to buy it. But if you’re already a Z Fold owner, think very hard about upgrading to it — and just as hard about perhaps giving the smaller foldable a try.

We’re in the enviable situation of having two fantastic Samsung foldable phones to choose from this year, and I’m pretty sure you won’t go wrong with either.

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