Måns has browsed through Samsung's latest foldable mobile phones and first up is the Galaxy Flip Z 5...
Foldable cell phones were not an immediate success when they were launched a few years ago, even though we have been talking and dreaming about folding phones for decades. After all, there is something futuristic about a phone that can be folded, it's a bit retro-futuristic Star Trek-like, but at the same time, the dream and reality are two completely different things and we experienced this in 2018, when Chinese Royole launched the world's first foldable cell phone, FlexPai. Although it didn't reach our shores, according to unanimous reports it left a lot to be desired with weak construction, a clumsy design, poor software and lousy battery life. But it wasn't many weeks before Samsung revealed its vision for the future at a developer event. The concept, known as the Infinity Flex Display, drew the eyes of the tech world to the Korean tech giant, which out of nowhere unveiled a fully functional prototype, revealing a phone with a large inner screen that could fold up to reveal a secondary display on the front. In other words, it was the embryo of what would later become the Galaxy Fold.
Samsung claimed at the time that it would be ready to start mass producing its Infinity Flex Display in "a couple of months", and while the company stuck to that promise, the process after that didn't go as smoothly as expected as it turned out that the phone broke too easily. The test samples sent to the media collapsed on a regular basis and distribution had to be postponed for six months until the issue was resolved. Fast forward another six months and the Samsung Galaxy Flip is born. With a design inspired by the old GSM phones that were "flipped", where Motorola was an early style leader with its StarTAC back in 1996 and then revolutionized the market with Razr, with its remarkably thin and fashionable look. Here, Samsung found an opportunity to meet a need we didn't even know we had and is now more timely than ever. With its fast processor, long battery life, high-resolution display and multiple cameras, combined with a low price tag, the Galaxy Flip quickly became a favorite among young users and now we've reached the fifth generation of folding phones and what may be the most stylish folding handset yet.
At first glance, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between the Flip 4 and 5 but it soon becomes clear that two changes in particular stand out, the outer screen and the "hinge", or Flex Hinge as the technology is called. This simply means that the phone can be closed completely. On previous models, there has always been a small gap between the screens when folded, but this is now a thing of the past. This makes the phone slightly thinner, but above all it feels more robust and secure in its construction. That gap has always come with some concern that something sharp will find its way in between the screens and cause a lot of trouble because even though technology has undeniably advanced when it comes to folding phones, it's something I always wonder about. How fragile is a foldable phone really? How many times can I fold the phone before it breaks in half and what happens if some debris gets between the screens? Something that naturally never feels like a problem when it comes to "regular" phones. With Flex Hinge it feels a bit better but the thought is still there, all the time. How long will it last? And not just in terms of the number of times it can be folded but also other external stresses. However, it is IPX8-rated for wetness so it can handle rain, but so far it lacks a rating for dust so there is still some reason for concern even though the risk feels much smaller now that the gap is gone.
However, the outer screen, or Flex Window, is the best new feature, not only because the size of the screen has increased significantly to 3.4 inches, but also because it actually has a real purpose now and is not just a notification center like before. I can now actively use it for simple tasks that I previously had to unfold the phone to do. Like controlling the music, rejecting or answering calls, checking the weather, calendar, stock market and sending a short reply to messages. With Samsung Good Lock installed, it is also possible to add other apps, such as YouTube, Netflix and Google Maps, but it is important to note that not all apps will work in folded mode. However, that is not the purpose. Scrolling through the Instagram feed or replying to long emails is not optimal on the small screen with a clearly limited resolution of 720 x 748, but then it is time to unfold the phone in full screen mode.
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For those who want to take a quick selfie or group selfie, however, it's perfectly fine, especially with the Camera Controller feature on the Galaxy Watch 6 where you can zoom in and out from a distance and it's also clear that this is the primary target audience. The younger generation who are always on the go and like to express themselves. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 can be designed exactly as you want and there is also a designer mode where you can change the appearance completely with the help of different motif cards, or collaboration cards where you can get, for example, a Marvel theme, or Pringles. Maybe a little cat if you prefer. If you want to design something of your own and get a completely unique touch on your phone, that's fine too. Or at least it is possible in South Korea, in their stores. Whether you can do the same thing in other markets or not, I leave it unsaid, but in any case, there is no lack of choice and more partners are guaranteed to join over time because it is of course an excellent marketing place for companies that want to be seen.
It is also in the folded position that I personally appreciate the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 the most because as soon as I unfold the phone in full screen mode, it immediately becomes a little less fun. Firstly, I have to use both hands as there is a lot of resistance in the hinges. This means that I go from smooth one-handed mode where I have been able to handle everything quickly and smoothly to having to grip the phone with both fists and fold it out. Plus, I have to unlock the handset every time, which can be done in a variety of ways. Facial recognition, fingerprint, pattern or PIN. Or a combination. The fingerprint reader in particular leaves a lot to be desired as it tends to work only sporadically but also locks up if I access it too many times with the wrong finger, which is really annoying. As soon as I have unlocked the phone and unfolded it in full screen mode, it is like any other cell phone but with worse performance than most in the same price range, but with a very nice dynamic 120 Hz AMOLED screen of 6.7 inches and with 2640 x 1080 in resolution.
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However, if I flip it to "L-mode", or Flex Mode, it suddenly opens up a whole new range of possibilities. I can watch movies on the upper part of the screen and use the lower part to control the player. I can also use the phone for video calls in the same way. Camera at the top and control panel at the bottom. The possibilities are endless and this is where the Samsung Galaxy Flip 5's strength lies, when it comes to media content. Movies, music, photos and videos. It's not for the professional photographer, but the pictures are decent. Especially in Flex Mode, where both 12 Megapixel cameras are used. Performance-wise, it's okay. It is not a monster, but with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, it is still significantly faster and better than its predecessors. The battery level is also clearly acceptable. In normal use, I managed just over two days but when I tried to use it as my primary source for all playback, took lots of pictures, made video calls and had full power on the display mode, it was a completely different matter, then I had to charge it the same afternoon.
A foldable phone does not suit everyone, but for those who are looking for a stylish and flexible model that easily fits in your pocket or handbag, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is an excellent choice. If you also know that your main preferences revolve around media, it is an even better match as in Flex Mode it almost becomes a small TV on the table. It's also the ultimate selfie phone, as it not only has the outer screen that uses both main cameras, but it's also wonderfully discreet. Folded up, you can hold it cupped in your hand, so it's not so obvious that you're photographing yourself. A fun little party trick not to be underestimated.
8 / 10
Excellent for selfies, the outer screen allows for easy use, compact format, very good display
Poor support for third-party apps, not dust-resistant, problematic fingerprint reader