Samsung messed up the Galaxy Z Flip 5’s most important feature

Timer running on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover screen.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Samsung just held its latest Galaxy Unpacked July 2023 event in Seoul, Korea, and it was packed with a ton of new upcoming products. We have the next generation of foldables with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5, as well as the Galaxy Watch 6 series and Galaxy Tab S9 lineup.

But let’s take a closer look at the Galaxy Z Flip 5, which is hot on the heels of the latest Motorola Razr Plus. Both flip phones are pretty similar with that larger cover display, but unfortunately, this is where Samsung really fumbled the ball.

Motorola streamlines the cover screen

The apps page on the Motorola Razr Plus cover screen.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

One of the best new features of the Motorola Razr Plus is the cover screen, which works like a regular screen, despite being designed as a “secondary” display. Its 3.6-inch pOLED panel has all of the qualifications you’d want from a display, including HDR10+ certification, a crisp 1066 x 1056 pixel resolution with a 413 pixels per inch (ppi) density, and even a whopping 144Hz refresh rate.

But one of the best things about the cover display on the Razr Plus is what you can actually do with it, which includes running full Android apps right out of the box. Yes, if the app is installed on your Razr Plus, you can run it on the cover screen — albeit with compromises due to a smaller screen size, of course.

Starbucks app running on the Motorola Razr Plus cover screen.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Digital Trends’ Mobile section editor Joe Maring, who originally reviewed the Razr Plus, stated in the review that he enjoys using the cover screen to scan his gym or Starbucks barcode without having to fully open up the phone. Another use for it includes viewing a shopping list, reading and replying to Telegram messages, and even finding new podcasts.

Of course, since the cover screen does have the camera lenses and LED flash, those cut into whatever app you run on the cover display. But the convenience factor of not having to open up the phone for quick situations makes up for it. There are even granular per-app controls that let you allow or deny certain apps from running on the cover screen, as well as how they transition from the main screen to the cover display.

The gist of all of this is, well, Motorola nailed it with the Razr Plus cover display. Even though it’s about half the size of the main display, there’s just so much you can do with it — including running full Android apps without any extra steps.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a missed opportunity

Apps widget on the cover screen for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

You would think that since Samsung also added a 3.4-inch cover screen on the Galaxy Z Flip 5, it would work similarly to the Motorola Razr Plus.

Wrong!

Samsung is still primarily utilizing the Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover display for widgets — there are over a dozen widgets to use on the phone. One of those is the “Apps” widget, which you need to enable first in the Labs portion of the Settings app (Settings > Advanced Features > Labs). Once this setting is enabled, you have access to only a handful of very specific apps that can run on the cover screen through the Apps widget. These apps include YouTube, Netflix, Google Messages, Samsung Messages, Google Maps, and WhatsApp.

Yes, that’s right — only six apps become available through this very limited, experimental setting.

Calender widget on the cover screen on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

But that’s not to say that it’s impossible to run any Android app on the cover screen. It is actually possible to do, but you need to install Samsung’s Good Lock app first, which is not in the Google Play Store, but in Samsung’s Galaxy Store, which is pre-installed on all Galaxy devices.

Once you have Good Lock, you can fully change up the aesthetic of the home and lock screens, recent app layout, clock face, Quick Settings panel, and more. With the Galaxy Z Flip 5, there will also be a “cover screen launcher” option. Only with this are you able to run any Android app on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover display, which sounds a lot like the workarounds we already have for running apps on the Z Flip 4 cover screen.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 next to the Motorola Razr Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

After you jump through all of the hoops that Samsung put into place, you can run any app on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover screen. But all this shows is that the capability is there, but for some reason, it’s not an option by default like with the Motorola Razr Plus. Why?

If someone goes and buys a Samsung Galaxy Flip 5 right now because they want a flip phone, but doesn’t know how to find the Labs features, then they could very well overlook that functionality. Similarly, if you’ve never heard of Good Lock and don’t know what it is or what it does, then you won’t be able to run any apps you choose on the cover screen — leading you to think the cover screen is a potential waste.

Motorola’s simple approach by just making it possible to run any Android app on the cover display by default really is the way to go here. It just works out of the box, without any extra steps or settings required. Samsung made it overly complicated and for no good reason.


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