How a tiny, fun phone changed my mind about foldables

A person folding up the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

That’s it: the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 has completely changed the way I feel about foldable smartphones.

When the phone was released, its advances over the Galaxy Z Flip 4 prompted me to buy it instead of upgrading my Galaxy Z Fold 4 to a Galaxy Z Fold 5, and now having returned to it after several months, I know I made the right decision. Here’s why.

Big folding phones aren’t changing enough

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 rear panels.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I liked the Galaxy Z Fold 5 when I reviewed it, and I liked the Google Pixel Fold too. But neither one really grabbed me, as they aren’t all that different from what came before or what’s out there in the non-foldable space, tech and ability-wise. The Z Fold 5 is suitably different from the Z Fold 4 if you’re a newcomer and still a brilliant buy if you want it, but there’s no strong reason to upgrade from an older model. The Pixel Fold’s camera is excellent, but I am one of the few who seems to prefer Samsung’s tall-and-thin approach to big-screen foldables.

I haven’t had the chance to use the OnePlus Open yet, and while I understand it’s equally as good, the admittedly innovative multitasking system is what I see many people talking about, and this just doesn’t excite me at all. I’m looking forward to giving it a try, and maybe I’ll eat my words when I do, but if the Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold failed to open my wallet wide enough, I can’t see OnePlus managing to do anything different.

Galaxy Fold (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 3 (right) cover screens.
Galaxy Fold (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 3 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The thing is, I still really love folding phones. Ever since I used the original Galaxy Fold and played with the Huawei Mate X, I have been fascinated by the mixture of a mechanical hinge and cutting-edge tech, and I still find the idea of folding glass and screens so impressive.

More importantly, I immediately saw multiple ways they would fit into my life and made the correct decision to use the original Fold as my main phone for multiple trips abroad, where it was simply brilliant. I want to use a folding phone, but the big, expensive ones aren’t for me at the moment.

Go small, not large

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, showing the cover screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Large screen foldables have advanced a lot in durability and build quality since those early days, but compact folding phones are just as good in this respect and have suddenly evolved more noticeably in ability and technology by comparison, and over a short amount of time too. I may have loved the big foldables more at first, but that has changed. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is an entirely different phone from the original Galaxy Z Flip and has become much more usable, with more to offer outside of simply folding down to a smaller size. Now is the golden age of compact folding phones.

The other thing is, the world is full of massive phones that do everything, from the Galaxy S23 Ultra to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but how many small phones that do everything are there? The answer is not many, and even fewer that get as small as the Galaxy Z Flip 5. The design is just right, with a very compact footprint matched with sleek, flat sides, yet Samsung has sensibly thought about making it easy to grip the phone and open it up. Not every foldable is like that, and it makes living with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 effortless.

A person using the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Z Flip 5, unlike previous small foldables, is also perfectly usable closed up. The 3.6-inch cover screen runs the apps I want, and the widgets cover everything else I would ever want to do on a small screen. It shows the time and date, and a little orange dot appears to show there are notifications waiting. I’d like normal notification icons, but at least the cover screen shows something when it’s locked.

There are some downsides

A person taking photos with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When I want to do normal phone things, I just open the phone up and use it like any other device. Sounds obvious, and I know you’ve almost certainly heard it before, but the fact I’m still saying it proves how useful and innovative this new generation of compact foldable phones has become. The Z Flip 5’s screen is bright and colorful, and videos look great. The phone is light at 187 grams, and it never becomes fatiguing to hold it in one hand or support it when watching video.

Much as I like using an open Galaxy Z Fold 5, it’s nowhere near as manageable as a Z Flip 5, which is not really any different from using a regular non-folding phone. Unfortunately, the camera isn’t as versatile as the Z Fold 5’s, and while it’s not terrible, it doesn’t get close to a phone like the Google Pixel 8. Shots are often oversaturated, and there’s no telephoto mode either, and it’s one of two downsides of the phone.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5's hinge.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The other downside is battery life. It’s really not good at all, and even with moderate use, the 3,700mAh cell is on its last 10% or 20% by the time I’m going to bed. A single day of battery life without much gaming doesn’t give much flexibility and is the primary compromise you’ll have to make when choosing the Z Flip 5 over a non-folding phone with a massive 5,000mAh battery capable of returning strong, two-day battery life.

A fun phone to own

The open Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

My lifestyle and phone use mean a single day of battery life isn’t a big deal. The convenience of a compact folding phone is far more meaningful, especially now such a small phone is usable both open and closed. The design is great, there’s a pleasingly wide choice of colors, and it still feels futuristic (and attracts glances from others) when you open or close the phone. It’s fun to own, and outside of the Nothing Phone 2, few others available today can make the same claim.

I was worried going back to the Z Flip 5 would make me yearn for the Z Fold 5, but it hasn’t done so. My life isn’t so hectic that I need in-depth, comprehensive multitasking on my phone, and as I also carry around an iPhone 15 Pro Max, my pockets are weighed down enough already thank you. I’d rather have a fun, interesting, and easily pocketable phone on my adventures today. Provided you accept the battery life isn’t great and understand the main camera is the one worth using, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a hugely enjoyable smartphone to own.

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