If you look at the smartphone market today, there’s a good chance most of what’s on offer fits a specific design type: a slab of metal and glass, with a large touchscreen that is made for multitasking. Keeping up with emails, watching TV shows, recording family memories: your smartphone has become the hub for all those things.
And to fulfil all those tasks, it has evolved into the aforementioned large-screened slab, one you may have difficulty fitting into your pocket.
It wasn’t always that way. At one point, the most desirable mobile phones were the smallest, folding phones that you could lose under your credit card, if the ads were to be believed.
We may well get back to those days, thanks to the reintroduction of the folding phone. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip has brought us back to a time when phones were compact enough to slide into a small pocket, but has kept all the advances of the past decade or two: big screens, touch controls, and great cameras.
The latest is Z Flip5, the more punter-friendly sibling of the Fold5. And it comes with big changes that make it the best foldable phone you can buy – for now, at least.
The biggest change between last year’s Flip4 and the Flip5 is obvious from the outset: the larger cover screen. While the folding inner display remains at 6.7 inches, the small 1.9 inch AMOLED screen that the Flip4 offered has been significantly increased in size. The Flip5 now comes with a 3.4-inch super AMOLED screen on the outside, with small section of the folded phone given over to the dual camera array, although the layout has changed a little.
Samsung calls this outer screen its Flex Window, one that can access certain apps, such as messages, with a Qwerty keyboard without opening the phone.
It also gives users the chance to put their own stamp on the phone, with various widgets and customisations available. You can add a video wallpaper, check the weather forecast or shuffle between widgets on the screen.
You still have a slightly visible fold in the screen, though how visible it is depends on the content. That is the trade-off for the folding screen, and one that isn’t likely to be resolved in the near term
It is also the first cover screen on a Flip that can adapt to different lighting conditions, with peak brightness of 1,600 nits. It is noticeably brighter than its predecessor, which was capable of less than half that.
And while the screen inside hasn’t changed much, Samsung has made that one brighter, too, at up to 1,750 nits at peak brightness compared with the 1,200 of the Flip4. You still have a slightly visible fold in the screen, though how visible it is depends on the content. That is the trade-off for the folding screen, and one that isn’t likely to be resolved in the near term.
There are other changes. Like the Fold5, the Flip5 has a redesigned hinge that eliminates the slight gap seen on the Flip4. It is a small change but a worthwhile one nonetheless; the phone feels sturdier overall. The whole thing is IPX8 rated, as was the Flip4, so it will take a bit of water exposure even if dust protection isn’t guaranteed.
Samsung has brought new processing power to the new foldable device that should give you better photographs and videos
On paper, the camera systems of the Flip4 and Flip5 are the same – a 12-megapixel main camera on the rear, with a 12-megapixel ultra wide angle lens – but Samsung has brought new processing power to the new foldable device that should give you better photographs and videos. They certainly seem a bit sharper, with the Flip5 also doing a better job in portrait mode.
The front-facing 10-megapixel camera also takes in a wider angle, and works well in Flex mode, allowing the foldable design to act as a stand when you want to take a decent selfie with either camera. That is one of the advantages of the Flip5 – the larger display is more useful when you switch to the outer camera for a selfie. Better camera, better photographs, although the 10-megapixel inner camera is no slouch either.
Battery life is good but not outstanding. We would have liked to see more improvement in the overall battery life for the Flip, which has a similar battery to last year’s model. The newer, more efficient chip helps eke out an extra hour or so from the 3700mAh battery, but heavy users may need a quick top-up during the day.
Samsung is tweaking the design rather than making too many big changes, but that works fine. The larger outer screen is one of the most obvious improvements to the new Flip, and the most useful. And the inner screen, while largely the same, works well for a range of content.
The redesigned hinge also makes the phone more compact than its predecessors, and will satisfy those who were irritated by the gap in Flip4.
Battery life is fine, but the bigger outer screen will come at a cost. And as usual, cost may be a barrier here – at €1,239, the Flip5 is a premium product.
The new phone gets the obligatory chip upgrade, to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, making it more powerful and smoother to run than its predecessor, especially for more power-hungry apps.
Storage starts at 256GB, with Samsung eliminating the 128GB version and topping out at 512GB.
This year sees a new green colour added to the Flip range, replacing last year’s blue.
Compact, flexible and versatile, the Flip5 is probably the folding phone you need.