3 reasons I’m disappointed by the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

1690498787 samsung galaxy z flip 5 unpacked hands on 18.jpeg
1690498787 samsung galaxy z flip 5 unpacked hands on 18.jpeg
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 with its main display open.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

During its Galaxy Unpacked July 2023 event, Samsung dropped a bunch of new products for everyone — from next-generation foldable phones to new wearables and a diverse range of tablets. One of the new device reveals was the Galaxy Z Flip 5, which has been expected along with the Galaxy Z Fold 5.

Though I’m still fairly new to the scene of foldables, I have seen the appeal — and in some cases, I prefer the form factor over the standard glass slab that most phones are nowadays. But honestly, there isn’t a lot with the new Galaxy Z Flip 5 that’s drawing me in. Instead, it’s a bit underwhelming.

A larger cover display that’s poorly implemented

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 next to the Motorola Razr Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

One of the biggest changes with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 from its predecessor is the cover screen. On the Galaxy Z Flip 4, it was just a tiny 1.9-inch cover screen that was only meant to show widgets and notifications. The Z Flip 5 has a larger 3.4-inch cover display that’s great for showing notifications and widgets, but Samsung dropped the ball in one key area: running Android apps.

The Motorola Razr Plus came out not that long ago, and it’s similar to the Z Flip 5 by having a larger, 3.6-inch cover display. But Motorola allows the cover display, which is basically a secondary display, to have full functionality with various panels, Quick Settings, and even the ability to run any Android app out of the box.

Samsung does allow you to run any Android app on the cover display of the Z Flip 5 but with some caveats. Out of the box, it will only show widgets, though there are some new ones added. Once you enable the Labs setting, then you have an “Apps widget,” which has six curated apps that work on the cover display: YouTube, Netflix, Samsung Messages, Google Messages, Google Maps, and WhatsApp.

Google Maps running on the cover screen of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 Joe Maring/Digital Trends

If you download the Good Lock app from the Samsung Galaxy Store (it’s not even available on the standard Google Play Store), then you get a “cover screen launcher,” which allows you to run any app on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover screen.

So the capability is there, but Samsung makes you enable a setting and also download yet another app just to get the same functionality as the Razr Plus out of the box. It’s disappointing, and one of the reasons why Motorola has a one-up on Samsung right now in terms of flip phones.

Also, the cover display on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 only has a 60Hz refresh rate, whereas the Motorola Razr Plus has a 144Hz refresh rate on the cover display. Though the Razr Plus may seem like overkill, the measly 60Hz on the Z Flip 5 is also pretty disappointing, considering that the phone starts at $1,000.

The cameras are basically the same

Using the camera app on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

One reason why I like to upgrade my phone every year is because there are usually significant improvements to the cameras on new models. But that isn’t the case with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 when compared to its predecessor.

The camera hardware is virtually identical on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 compared to the Z Flip 4. The rear dual camera system consists of 12MP wide and 12MP ultrawide sensors, and the front selfie camera is still 10MP. When I used the Galaxy Z Flip 4, I thought it took decent photos, though Samsung tends to oversaturate colors a bit too much.

The biggest change is that the Flip 5 has a “clear lens coating” over the cameras to help reduce lens flare, but that’s basically it. In other words, I don’t expect that much of an improvement with the Z Flip 5 on the camera front. And for me, that’s underwhelming, especially when you consider that even the Razr Plus has marginally better specs with a 13MP ultrawide camera rear camera and a 32MP selfie camera. It’s safe to say that the Flip 5 will take good photos, but don’t expect them to look much different from last year’s phone.

No battery improvements either

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 lying on oranges.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 had a 3,700mAh battery paired with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip. With average use, it would be a typical one-day phone.

Samsung didn’t make the battery on the Z Flip 5 larger, as it still remains at 3,700mAh. It may be slightly better than the Z Flip 4 since the Flip 5 has a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip (which is a little more power efficient than the 8+ Gen 1), but the difference likely won’t be that substantial.

The main disappointment is not seeing any change in the battery capacity from its predecessor. Even with slightly better efficiency, I’m not sure the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will be so much better that it will extend the Z Flip 5’s battery life to more than a single day — and that’s a missed opportunity.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is trailing its competition

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 next to the Motorola Razr Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Samsung is typically regarded as the champion of the foldable market in the U.S., but I’m starting to wonder if that’s beginning to falter.

Motorola’s recently released Razr Plus is a folding flip phone that just looks so much more enticing than the Galaxy Z Flip 5. The cover screen is way more impressive, with a 144Hz refresh rate, higher ppi density (413 ppi versus 306 ppi on Z Flip 5), and it can run any Android app by default — along with the unique panels on the home screen. There’s just so much you can do with it that it just makes the Z Flip 5 cover screen look like a joke. And when the cover screen is such a critical component of a folding flip phone, that’s a big deal.

The main screen on the Razr Plus is also more impressive than the Z Flip 5, as it has a 165Hz refresh rate versus the 120Hz max rate on the Z Flip 5. The crease on the Razr Plus is less noticeable too. I haven’t experienced the Z Flip 5 yet, but based on my time on the Z Flip 4, it’s hard to ignore Samsung’s crease.

Maybe the Galaxy Z Flip 5 will be better once we get our hands on it, but from the specs I’m looking at, it’s just underwhelming compared to what else is out there.

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