What is the point of the so-called “foldable” smartphone? I ask this question every time a new foldable crosses my path with an inflated price point. I would describe myself as a foldables cynic, believing that the technology that allows a smartphone to bend in half, while impressive, is otherwise redundant in the larger scheme of things.
What is the innovation of returning to an aesthetic from the early oughts? Does it make my life easier? More convenient? Motorola and Nokia in those days made foldables as a smart design choice since half of the phone was screen and the other half was the number pad – remember those? But the advent of the iPhone, the smartphone that was all screen, no number pad, essentially made this design choice vestigial, right?
That is until Samsung brought it back. The manufacturer has two series of foldables in the market, of which it is the leader – the Galaxy Z Fold (you can read our review of the latest Fold5 here), and the Galaxy Z Flip.
We received a model of the Galaxy Z Flip5 from Samsung representatives in South Africa for review, and personally, I took that as a chance to see if I could be shaken from my cynicism about the technology.
TLDR? The Z Flip5 is a great smartphone that is unfortunately over-priced when the foldable aspect is removed from the equation and compared to its creator’s finest handsets.
Galaxy Z Flip5 – aesthetics and display
Semantics about what technology is supposed to be and do aside, there is no doubt that the Galaxy Z Flip5 is a beautiful little device. The gloss of the folding screen, the silver finish of the back, the way the Samsung logo emerges from the flex hinge – a marvel of engineering and design in its own right – complete what is essentially an “ooooh” machine.
People will be looking, family will be asking to hold and to touch. Showing off is top of mind when you have something as new-looking and as fancy as a Samsung foldable. It screams “This is the latest in smartphones” and everyone knows it.
That is until they retract their mitts when you tell them how much it costs.
In terms of display, the foldable main screen is an AMOLED 2X HDR10+ beast. Whatever you decide to look at through the window that is this dynamic foldable screen, it will look fantastic. Deeper, wondrously vibrant colours are on offer.
Then there is the Flex Window, much larger now than the Z Flip4, which comes with all-new and improved accessibilities. These come in the guise of widgets, like the weather app, calendar and all of your communication needs. You can make calls, read emails and reply to WhatsApp messages right from the Flex Window. There is so much functionality involved with this extra little screen that Samsung South Africa marketing told the media that some users may not even have to unfold the device in their day-to-day usage. Why then have the smartphone be a foldable? A question perhaps above our meagre paygrade.
Like the main screen, the Flex Window pops with colour and can be used to further customise the look of your smartphone. It was one of my favourite additions to the Z Flip5.
Specifications and performance
|||Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5|
|Display||Foldable dynamic AMOLED 2X HDR10+, 120Hz|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU, Adreno 740 GPU|
|Battery||3 700mAh Li-Po capable of reaching 50 percent in 30 minutes (according to Samsung)|
|Camera||Two 12MP cameras (wide and ultrawide), one selfie cam|
The Galaxy Z Flip5 flies along on the carpet that its Gen 2 Snapdragon chipset. It is among the best-performing phones we have tested with a Geekbench score of 5 241 in multi-core tests, and 2 018 in single-core tests. It is just beaten out by its bigger sibling the Galaxy Z Fold5. No other smartphones we have reviewed come as close.
This cosmic power is immediately noticeable. There is no wait for the Z Flip5, apps are open now. Videos are loading now. The Adrena 740 graphics card ensures that gaming is buttery smooth on the ZFlip 5. Testing on 3DMark saw the Z Flip5 max out Wild Life and even SlingShot Extreme. It saw a score of 3 582 on Wild Life Extreme, which many smartphones can’t even run.
It is evident that Samsung has pumped in flagship-level performance with its foldables, comparable to the Galaxy S23 series.
The Z Flip5 can end calls by shutting the clamshell-like folding phones of the bygone past, which makes ghosting telemarketers even more fun. Nostalgia is a throughline of the marketing of the device, which seeks to find customers in Gen-Zers that revere millennial pop culture.
What else does the folding get you? Well, you can sit the phone by folding half of the screen, which YouTube automatically reacts to. But then you have to watch a small YouTube player in the top half of the screen. Why not just turn the screen horizontally and use something to prop it up? You have more screen for your video then.
Not many apps leverage the foldable feature like YouTube does. In fact, I could not find another notable example during the review period.
A 12MP array of shooters may seem like not enough especially when compared to what Samsung offers installed in its flagships. Even the Z Fold5 offers a much greater selection of higher-definition snappers.
Camera buffs and photographers may want to check out those options if fantastic shots are what you are after. But for what it has, the Z Flip5 does a serviceable job with its 12MP lenses. Contrasts are high, capturing exquisite colours and AI software automatically adds Gaussian depth of field to the background, making the subject pop.
While its macro shooting capabilities aren’t as pronounced as even the Galaxy A54, they are adequate if that’s something that impresses you. I also need to discuss the Flex Window and its selfie-taking capabilities. While the unfolded form of the smartphone has a selfie camera, most users will be following Samsung’s suggestions and taking selfies with the Flex Window, which then leverages the main camera array.
Once in photo mode on the Flex Window, you can simply tap the screen to take a selfie, which are usually of high quality compared to some contemporary smartphones given the higher definition camera you gain access to through this mode.
Before I detail my experience with the 3 700mAh cell that the Z Flip5 offers, I need to talk about the elephant in the room. The smartphone comes with only a USB Type-C to Type-C charging cable, and no charger, in the box. This is infuriating.
On the topic of the battery itself, at this point with cheaper smartphones offering 5 000mAh batteries as a standard, the Z Flip5’s cell is a bit disappointing. With all the power you have in terms of the hardware, large spates of high-performance time like gaming will drain the battery quickly. The phone will also noticeably get hot to the touch.
During benchmarking, the nearly topped-up Z Flip5 went to about 60 percent in about two hours. Samsung says that it can charge from 0 to 50 percent in half an hour, but the fast-charging capabilities weren’t as noticeable to us (probably because IK couldn’t use its charger) as the somewhat limited battery life. The Z Flip5 is definitely the type of smartphone you will have to charge every night.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 – Verdict
A beautiful, eye-catching smartphone capable of industry-leading performance, that is bogged down by a somewhat limited battery and cameras that could have been a bit better, the mixed bag of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 can be yours for R29 999.
That’s right, it costs as much as the highest possible end Galaxy flagship, the S23 Ultra.
But with a far inferior camera setup, a smaller battery, no stylus and the same performance capabilities, without all the innovative design and work additions of the Z Fold5, I have to ask where this price comes from. The answer is evidently the fact that it can fold and that it has an extra screen in the Flex Window.
For a R30 000 smartphone, you should expect the best of the best and unfortunately, the Z Flip5 is not that. Not by a long shot. I believe it just isn’t worth the price for what little the Flex Window offers in the long run, nor for how genuinely stunning it is.
I suggest that if you have the money to spend just get the Ultra and leave the Z Flip5 where it belongs. With the other phones that can end calls by folding shut. In the year 2005.
I guess I’m still a cynic.
FINAL SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10.