Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: a step towards the future, a nod to the past

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 5 blends flip phone nostalgia with cutting edge tech. Image supplied by Samsung

In an increasingly crowded smartphone market, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 5 stands out with its unique blend of nostalgia and cutting-edge technology, offering a glimpse into the potential future of mobile tech while also harking back to the flip phones of yesteryear.

Design and display: aesthetics meet functionality

The Z Flip 5’s design is a harmonious marriage of form and function. Its sleek, gapless hinge allows the device to fold into a compact form, reminiscent of the flip phones of the early 2000s. Yet, when unfolded, it reveals a vibrant 6.7-inch AMOLED display that offers a bright, crisp, and smooth user experience.

The display’s foldable nature doesn’t compromise its quality; colours are vivid, blacks are deep, and the brightness is sufficient for outdoor use. The crease at the fold is there, but it’s something that most users find fades into the background of their daily experience.

The outer cover screen has received a significant upgrade, now boasting a 3.4-inch display that offers more than just notifications and time. It’s a fully interactive experience, allowing users to respond to messages, control music, and even use it as a viewfinder for the camera.

This enhancement in functionality transforms the cover screen from a passive feature into an active tool that complements the main display, ensuring that the phone’s design is not just about aesthetics, but about adding real value to the user experience.

Performance: power in your pocket

The performance of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is where the device truly flexes its technological muscles. Armed with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, the same chip powering many flagship models, the Z Flip 5 handles tasks with remarkable agility.

This is complemented by 8GB of RAM, which ensures that multitasking is a breeze, allowing users to flip between apps with no perceptible lag. Whether it’s for casual browsing, streaming high-definition videos, or engaging in graphic-intensive gaming, the Z Flip 5 stands tall amongst its competitors, delivering a seamless performance that belies its foldable form factor.

The device comes with a choice of 256GB or 512GB of internal storage, catering to a range of users from the media-hungry who may carry an extensive library of apps, photos, and videos, to the more casual user. The absence of a microSD card slot for expandable storage is a point of contention for some. However, the generous onboard storage should suffice for most users, especially in an age where cloud services are increasingly prevalent for additional storage needs.

The Z Flip 5’s performance prowess is not just about raw power; it’s also about the efficiency and smoothness of the user experience. Samsung’s One UI interface, layered over Android 13, is optimized for the foldable display, offering intuitive interactions and a user-friendly experience that leverages the unique form factor of the device.

Features like Flex Mode, which splits apps between the top and bottom halves of the display when partially folded, showcase Samsung’s dedication to not just providing power but also enhancing usability through thoughtful software design.

Camera: competent but not class-leading

The camera system on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, while not breaking new ground, delivers a performance that is more than just serviceable—it’s downright enjoyable for the everyday photographer. The dual 12-megapixel rear cameras, comprising a wide and ultra-wide lens, capture images with commendable clarity and colour accuracy.

In well-lit conditions, photos are vibrant and detailed, showcasing Samsung’s ability to produce cameras that perform consistently across various lighting scenarios. The night mode also sees a slight improvement, allowing for better low-light photography—a welcome tweak that extends the camera’s versatility.

However, it’s in the finer details of camera innovation where the Z Flip 5 maintains a conservative stance. The absence of a telephoto lens means that users looking to zoom in on distant subjects will have to rely on digital zoom, which, despite software enhancements, cannot match the quality of optical zoom found in some of the Z Flip 5’s peers.

This omission is felt more keenly when considering the device’s premium positioning in the market, where expectations for a more comprehensive camera setup are naturally higher.

The 10-megapixel front-facing camera is adept for selfies and video calls, producing clear and flattering results. Yet, the true camera delight comes from the ability to use the main cameras for self-portraits, thanks to the cover screen acting as a viewfinder. This clever use of the Z Flip’s form factor not only provides superior selfie quality but also exemplifies the innovative spirit of the device.

Again, it’s a fusion of form and function that elevates the user experience, making the most of the hardware at hand.

Battery life: adequate but not exceptional

The battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a study in balance, providing enough power to get through a day but not stretching much beyond. The 3,700mAh battery is a modest offering in the current landscape where larger batteries are becoming the norm.

For the average user, this capacity translates to a day’s worth of emails, social media browsing, video streaming, and photography, all without the anxiety of a midday charge. However, it’s worth noting that ‘normal usage’ is a variable term, and for those whose phone usage leans towards the heavier side, the Z Flip 5 may struggle to keep up without a supplementary boost of power.

The charging speed of the Z Flip 5 is competent, with the ability to reach a full charge in about 90 minutes using a 25W charger. While this is not groundbreaking when compared to the ultra-fast charging capabilities some competitors offer, it is sufficient for a quick top-up. The convenience of wireless charging is also present, adding to the device’s modern credentials and providing users with an alternative charging method that fits seamlessly into a wireless ecosystem at home or in the office.

The adaptive battery software within the Z Flip 5 does its part to extend battery life, learning user habits and adjusting power consumption accordingly. This intelligent power management can help squeeze more life out of each charge, ensuring that the phone prioritizes energy for the apps and services you use most. Despite this, the reality remains that the Z Flip 5’s battery life is not its standout feature, and while it doesn’t underperform, it doesn’t dazzle either.

Price: innovation at a premium

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5’s price tag, starting at R 26,999, is a reflection of its position at the forefront of smartphone innovation. The cost is not just for the hardware but for the novelty and design ingenuity that a foldable phone represents. It’s a luxury statement, a piece of technology that doubles as a fashion accessory and a conversation starter.

However, the premium pricing also invites scrutiny and comparison with the top-tier devices across the smartphone spectrum. When matched against flagships that boast superior camera systems, larger batteries, or more robust displays, the Z Flip 5’s value proposition hinges heavily on its unique foldable feature. It’s a price that demands justification through daily use, where the convenience of a large screen that folds down to fit comfortably in one’s pocket must be weighed against the cost.

The Z Flip 5 does come with twice the starting storage of its predecessor and a suite of incremental upgrades that enhance its overall user experience. These improvements, while subtle, contribute to the device’s premium feel and performance, making it a solid choice within the foldable niche. Moreover, the cost includes not just the physical device but also the extensive research and development that has gone into refining the foldable technology to its current iteration.

For consumers, the decision to purchase the Z Flip 5 will come down to how much value they place on its foldable design and the flexibility it offers. It’s a device that stands out in a sea of standard smartphones, offering a glimpse into what the future of mobile technology could look like. For those who are captivated by this vision, the price may well be worth it. –