[Review] Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 - is flip better than fold?

So I've reviewed a couple different foldable phones in the past, but they have been 'fold' types, meaning the screen bends horizontally, like a book.  But, for us older folks out there, we remember our 'folding' phones as being 'flips', meaning it opens up vertically - like a clam.

I had wondered which would be better for my use.  One of my first phones, and I'll even say first, was a Motorola StarTAC, way back when.  I had another phone for a week when the phone hit our shelves and I pleaded with the boss to let me swap out this phone I had used for just a week to go to THE flip phone.  It was pretty cool back and the ay and this new one I'm reviewing today brought back all sorts of nostalgia.

So, today I'm giving you my thoughts I've developed on using the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 after a bit.  

The phone is a decently priced $1299.99CDN, which is not bad for a 'flagship'.  

What do you get for the price point:

  • 6.7" @ 2640x1080
  • + 3.4" @ 720x748
  • Snapdragon 8 SM8550 (3.36GHz x1 + 2.8GHz x4 + 2GHz x3)
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB storage (the 512GB is another $160)
  • Main Cameras 12MP (f/1.8, 24mm, 1/1.76", 1.8µm) + 12MP (f/2.2, 123°, 1.12µm)
  • Selfie Camera 10MP (f/2.2, 23mm, 1.22µm)
  • 3700mAh (Qi)
  • IPX8

Okay, so looking over the specs, it's not a true 'flagship' in terms of its guts, but you have a phone that the screen is BENDING.  So you have to make some sacrifices.  And honestly, after using it, I didn't really notice it was underpowered or was left wanting (camera was somewhat noticeable, but I'll get to it).

Let's start off with how this device feels.

I've got to admit, I do like how small it folds into that square and that fits so easily into my pocket that it's a treat (compared to having these tall phones in my pocket).  Folded over it doesn't feel THAT much thicker than a regular phone (that being said, I don't have a case for it).

Feeling around the phone, you'll notice how sleek it feels.  Almost slippery.  Often I'd put it down and if that surface wasn't exactly flat, it'd slide away (chargers, arms of seats etc...).

slip slidin' away

First off you're met with it (as folded), what I'll call the 'face' of the phone.  

The sub display with the 2 rear cameras now facing you.  It is only viewable in one orientation (I would have liked that display be able to rotate it if I was upside down).

I'll get into more of the face display later, but you'll notice the buttons are now on the top half of the fold, a layer now further away from the back, where your fingers may be.  I would have put them on the lower half of the fold, meaning they would then be on the 2nd layer of the fold.  But that's just me.

The buttons are the volume controls and the power button, which doubles as a fingerprint reader (and it's a habit you need to get into to not try to immediately go to use an in-display fingerprint reader like other devices I'm used to).  

You also noticed the neat branding on the bend part.  Flipping it open that band disappears and I have to say, even after 2 weeks with the phone, I do not get tired of opening up the phone and seeing that as well as feeling it.  Same with closing it shut as a way to put it away.  Something satisfying about shutting it closed as a finality of 'done'.

Open, the device looks like every other Samsung phone we've reviewed in the past - just feels a bit taller and skinnier (it's like 2.4:1 type ratio).

A big reminder when you first set the phone up, and something that tugs at my OCD everytime I open it is the appearance of what looks like a screen protector, and the little 'edge' of it that shows a corner by the selfie camera.  

And I don't know why, but I just want to peel at it.

But don't!

For Samsung type apps, it's got their full gamut, and you're almost not concerned with that 'bloat' because you have 256GB of space - plenty for most peoples out there (I'm used to 128GB with my Pixels and never felt a pinch yet).

We have the 'edge' panel we've seen in others (a 'slide out'-able panel from an edge of the display for easy access to apps or contacts or other info).  

edge panels

I liked stacked widgets

The camera app can recognize text based items and frame where they are

I do like to 'stack' widgets, something my Pixel can't do.

Interestingly, there is no DeX option tho'.

I set it up like I do most Samsung devices, I hide a lot of the Samsung versions, install Google's, change the navigation so that instead of buttons, I'm using navigation gestures.

But those other Samsung'ish features are not what you're here for, you're here for how does the fold work?

Let's first talk about the face display - that bonus screen when it's closed.  On my old StarTAC I had the battery there, but later models would put caller ID on the LCD panel.  This flip phone you have almost a small version of the 'inside' phone.  On 'fold' models, that's what you'd normally have.  A skinny version of the inside 'wide' display.

Here, we have just essentially a 'widget' viewer.  

There's the time, but when you unlock it you have access to a series of widget tiles.  Limited options, calendar, step counts, quick access to contacts, etc...

You can turn on a 'lab' to allow some even more limited apps to run - I've made Maps and YouTube a widget, and it's neat.  

Set the device up as a 'tent' and you have a mini mini display you can put on your desktop to watch some videos.

On the far left screen you have your notification list for quick access.

The 'face display' is handy, but not super overly 'useful'.  It's definitely novel, and I think 'cute'.  I like it.  Did I use it a lot?  No.  If I had a notification pop up, I tended to open the phone rather than try to interact with it on the face.  Maybe it's just habit.

What I did like it for was being to able to use it as a selfie.  Normally, a selfie camera is less than it's main.  With the face I can bring up the camera and take a photo using the main camera(s).  

It's a little awkward using it, but I just need to get used to it, is all.

So let's take a look at what else it can do with a fold.  When open, you can open it to 'half fold' mode.  And this is where things get really interesting.

Firstly, being able to lay it down on the back and have it fold up is pretty neat.  Note, that sometimes if you use it that way, the button you want to tap may just be at the bend and inaccessible (like the sign in for a wifi hotspot).  You'll find what works for you.

Some apps automatically switch to a 'clamshell' kind of mode.  Like the camera, where the preview now is relegated to the top half, and shutter and other settings are on the bottom.

Deep in the settings you can set up the half fold settings to bring up a little button.  So that apps where it can work the bottom can pop up with a little tray of buttons and/or a trackpad.  

That is super cool.

Feels like a little mini 3DS or something!  Doesn't work for every app, but is nice.  Again, like the face display, is this something I use often?  No.  But it feels cool to have it available.

So it's got a really cool 'wow' factor to show off to other people.  But, for that new tech (I say new, but this is now the 5th iteration) there are some tradeoffs.  For that, you are reduced in some of the specs.  

It's not a QuadHD display.  Will you notice... not really.  It still flies at 120Hz and displays a vibrant array of colours.

The camera isn't quite up to par.  Sure, the photos look good, but still compared to my Pixel it's a bit lower.  Now, it's only 12MP (I have to stop myself a little when I say 'only', but many of us are used to 40+ MP), and I do notice the difference between a photo from my Pixel and this when you zoom in on it.  You just really can't much.  If you try to do any digital zooming, you'll really notice it then.  Is it a bad camera?  No.  But if you're one who's really using it for social media and/or you want a great starting picture for you to edit, you may find yourself struggling a little.

nothing super exciting with the quality

why would I even try the regular selfie when I have the outside selfie (using the email cameras)

Overall, I think the phone's a great phone.  Honestly, of all the 'novelty' type phones I've tried out there, this one has to be the one that I most think would be something I'd actually use.  Personally, if the camera was better and the display higher... I'd honestly be really REALLY tempted to put down the Pixel.

I mean, just the feeling alone of finishing with the engine and snapping it shut - very satisfying.  Plus, there is the 'whoah' factor I got as I would use it and several people noticing it and asking about it (for a tech guy, that's always appealing).