It wasn’t the first flip-style foldable smartphone, but the original Galaxy Z Flip quickly usurped the reborn Moto Razr and made Samsung the brand to beat through three generations. Now though, rivals have started to muscle in with convincing clamshells of their own. To maintain a lead, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 tackles its predecessor’s two biggest pain points.
Instead of a compact external screen of limited usefulness, there’s now a giant Flex Window display that lets you do more without having to unfold the phone first; and the unwanted gap is gone, courtesy of a new hinge that means this latest foldable phone is finally able to close completely.
Add in the latest Snapdragon CPU and some streamlined software that takes full advantage of the form factor, and suddenly those rivals are going to have to work a lot harder to compete. Or at least, it seems that way on the surface. Do these upgrades go more than skin deep?
Design & build: finessed features
Let’s be honest: the Galaxy Z Flip 4‘s hinge gap wasn’t huge. But when Oppo, Motorola and the rest proved it could be eliminated altogether, Samsung didn’t really have a choice. It had to go, and the waterdrop mechanism that replaces it works brilliantly; light enough to open one-handed, but sturdy enough to keep the phone open part-way even at wide angles. That it also helps disguise the inner screen’s crease a little better is a bonus.
Unfolded, the Z Flip 5 is no thinner than the last-gen model, but removing the gap has shaved off 2mm when shut. That still makes it chunkier than any traditional smartphone, but means it doesn’t bulge out of your pocket quite as much any more. The polished aluminium frame contrasts nicely with the matte pastel colour options: Mint is new for 2023 and our personal fave, but Lavender, Cream and Graphite black all make a reappearance. Whichever you go for, you’re getting a premium-feeling phone.
The power button/fingerprint sensor combo and volume controls remain on the right side of the phone, and the USB-C port at the bottom edge is still flanked by a speaker grille. The camera lenses still protrude out a bit from the main body, and have been relocated to horizontally along the top edge, rather than vertically down from it.
Why the change? To make room for the substantial Flex Window outer display. Samsung opted for a distinctive angular bezel, rather than go down the punch-hole route Motorola did for the Razr 40 Ultra. It’s smaller as a result, but doesn’t have to make space for any camera lenses.
Screen & software: outside looking in
At 3.4in, the Flex Window screen is almost three times as big as the Z Flip 4’s rectangular cover display. There’s a 60Hz OLED panel underneath, which at 720×748 is satisfyingly crisp even up close, and provides plenty of pixels to squeeze lots of information onscreen at once.
For the time being that’ll be a mix of colourful clock faces, photo albums and the 10+ pre-loaded widgets. Think countdown timers, weather reports, step counts, favourite contacts and the like, as well as third-party support from WhatsApp and Spotify. You swipe between them individually, or pinch inwards to show up to nine at once in an overview. It’s handy for jumping between specific widgets, rather than scrolling through the whole lot.
The screen is just about big enough for a full QWERTY keyboard, so you can peck out full replies to notifications rather than choose from canned messages. Quick settings shortcuts and Samsung Wallet are also revealed with a swipe, saving us from flipping open the phone quite as much as we did with previous generations. And yes, you can use it to frame selfies using the external cameras.
Samsung has worked with third parties to add specific support for the screen, rather than simply rescale the regular versions of apps – and even then they’re locked behind a Labs section of the settings menu. Niche favourites are unlikely to ever make the cut, but the official Good Lock tool does offer a workaround. There’s just no guarantee they’ll be particularly usable on the small square screen.
Unfold the Z Flip 5 and you’ll find an inner screen which isn’t all that different from last year. The 2640×1080 flexible AMOLED panel is good for a silky smooth 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, with excellent viewing angles and punchy colours. We were told Samsung had slimmed the bezels down a tiny bit, but to our eyes there’s nothing in it. This is still a tasty folding touchscreen, which got seriously bright during our testing. It copes just fine outdoors under strong sunshine, and does real justice to HDR video.
Beyond the bespoke widgets for the outer display, the Z Flip 5 will feel very familiar to anyone that’s used a Samsung phone recently. It has the firm’s OneUI interface running on top of Android 13, with all the usual suspects in terms of preinstalled apps.
Useful multitasking gestures also make a comeback, making it easy to launch multi-window with a few swipes, and Samsung’s own app library adapting well to the folding screen. Third-party support continues to improve, with the Flex Mode multimedia controls adding rewind and fast forward buttons for easier scrubbing though YouTube vids. Few flip phones put as much effort into software features that take full advantage of the form factor – possibly because they can’t stay part-way open at as many angles as the Z Flip 5 can.
Performance & battery life: power where it counts
The Z Flip 5 follows the rest of Samsung’s top-tier smartphones with Qualcomm power. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy is a custom-tuned version of the CPU you’ll find in most flagship phones right now, with a higher clock bringing a small but welcome performance boost. Here it’s paired to 8GB of RAM and either 256 or 512GB of storage – the 128GB option has been ditched.
There was more than enough grunt to make Android 13 feel gloriously responsive, opening apps swiftly and running them in split view without breaking a sweat. It maybe gets a little hotter than an S23 under load, but there’s very little in it, so you’re not giving up much in terms of performance by picking a flip phone over a traditional handset. Gaming was equally zippy, with more demanding titles like COD Mobile and Diablo Immortal running well at high frame rates.
While the processor is a fair bit more energy efficient than last year, Samsung hasn’t found any extra room inside the Galaxy Z Flip 5 for a bigger battery. It sticks with the same 3700mAh capacity as the previous-gen phone, so at best you’re looking at an extra hour or two of power away from the mains than before. That said, being able to use more apps through the smaller external display helped us stretch through an entire day of otherwise heavy use. With more typical use you could make it into a second morning.
We can’t ignore the fact that charging speeds are a bit pedestrian compared to rival flip phones, though. The Z Flip 4 will max out at 25W over USB-C, which is enough for a 50% top-up in half an hour – but the Oppo Find N2 Flip takes less time to refuel its larger battery to the same degree. It’s great to see wireless and reverse wireless charging make a comeback, though. The latter is great for giving your other gadgets some extra juice in a pinch.
Cameras: snap happy
Samsung hasn’t made any major strides with phone photography this year, so the Galaxy Z Flip 5 keeps the same dual lens setup as the outgoing Z Flip 4. That means a 12MP wide-angle with f/1.8 aperture, paired to a 12MP ultra-wide. It has a 123-degree field of view, which is a fair bit wider than the one found on the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra, so is able to squeeze more of each scene into every shot.
The lenses have been upgraded to reduce light flaring, and Samsung’s already stellar image processing has been given another year’s worth of algorithm updates; low-light photos and videos in particular are a minor step up from the previous generation in terms of image noise. You miss out on any sort of telephoto, though, relying instead on Samsung’s digital zoom trickery. It’ll manage 2-3x without too much loss of detail, but anything beyond is asking too much of the software.
For daylight shooting, Samsung seems to have better dialled in the dynamic range, preserving more details in the clouds and sky while also exposing the foreground well. Colours are satisfyingly vibrant and impactful, if not always entirely true to life, as we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s phones. The increased contrast really makes your pictures pop compared to rivals like the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra.
Once the sun sets, the algorithms work harder to preserve shadow detail while also exposing for bright light sources. It does a better job than last year’s Z Flip 4, although it still sits behind the very best smartphone cameras. Fairly long exposure times can result in occasionally soft-looking shots, and colours lean towards the warm side.
It’s also a familiar story with the 10MP, f/2.2 punch-hole webcam built into the inner screen. The few selfies we snapped seemed well-exposed and detailed enough for social sharing, but you’ll mainly be using it for video calling. The expanded cover screen and gesture controls for remotely activating the shutter mean it’s a cinch to use the superior rear cameras for self portraits or group shots instead.
Last year’s Z Flip 4 impressed us with dynamic and well-defined shots, even if they weren’t quite as good as the very best traditional smartphones. The story is largely the same here, only rival foldables haven’t managed to do any better in the interim. Accept you’re getting a serviceable shooter for the money and you won’t be disappointed.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 verdict
In the face of much stronger clamshell competition, Samsung needed to up its game for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 to stay ahead. We reckon it has done just that, without dramatically changing what was already a winning formula. That redesigned hinge irons things out on the styling front, and the expansive cover screen is a lot more versatile. The software remains streamlined and performance is up there with the best around right now.
With only so-so battery life and cameras that aren’t all that much better than last year though, there’s not quite enough here to appeal to shoppers who would otherwise stick with a traditional phone. Axing the 128GB entry-grade model has also widened the gulf between it and the Galaxy S23, too, even if the difference isn’t quite so dramatic when you compare the 256GB versions.
Ultimately however, if you’re already sold on a flip phone, none are quite as complete as this.
This fun and feature-packed phone isn’t quite perfect, but it nails the flip-style brief better than any rival.
Sublime design and capable cover screen
Streamlined software makes good use of flip form factor
Cameras haven’t stepped up in a meaningful way
Battery life is just fine, and charging speeds could be better
No 128GB option means higher price barrier
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 technical specifications
|6.7in, 2640×1080 flexible OLED w/ 120Hz (inner)
3.4in, 720×748 OLED (outer)
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
|12MP, f/1.8 w/ dual pixel PDAF, OIS + 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide rear
10MP, f/2.2 front
|Android 13 w/ OneUI
|165x72x6.9mm (unfolded), 85x72x15.1mm (folded)