Any gadget that flips open plays into many a childhood fantasy nurtured over the years of watching James Bond and Inspector Gadget movies. But despite the success of the form factor in the early days of the mobile phone revolution, it is only now that it has become practical for use on smartphones. Even as many new companies are now gearing up to launch foldable smartphones, the credit for sticking its neck out and persisting with the same has to go to Samsung. Samsung’s latest iteration of its Flip series shows that it has almost perfected the concept of a phone that folds into half to offer you extra portability.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: What’s new
Samsung has put in a lot of thought into making the Flip form factor more usable. This time it has tackled the main pain point users have had over the years — unlike the Fold, the Flip was not that usable when closed. Now Samsung has added a 3.5-inch Lock Screen to the front of the folded phone so that users can get a lot of information without actually opening the phone itself.
Samsung has added a 3.5-inch Lock Screen to the front of the folded phone so that users can get a lot of information without actually opening the phone itself. (Nandagopal Rajan / Express photo)
Most of the notifications, the control panel and a dozen-odd apps can open here, including Netflix and YouTube. But the best use case that I felt in the time I used the Flip5 was that you don’t have to open the phone anymore to reply to messages or get a detailed view of the weather. This usability should go up a notch when WhatsApp comes to this screen, along with email. And some of the preset screens here show you time, pending messages and give quick access to the camera.
And this Flex Window makes the Flip5 maybe the best selfie camera around because you can now click yourself using the best camera on the phone using this small screen to frame the shot perfectly. I liked how this also gives slightly different angles given how you are keeping the phone, which the camera below or above the square. The ability to just wave you hand to initiate the shot also adds a lot of value for users.
The other aspect Samsung has worked on is improving its Flex Hinge technology to make the phone thinner when folded. It has clearly shaved away a couple of centimeters in thickness, making a significant impact inside your shirt or jeans pocket. The phone does not feel lighter, though.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold4 (top) and the Galaxy Fold5 (below) (Credit: Nandagopal Rajan / Express photo)
This is also the first time I have used the Flip5 with a cover. While this new cover from Samsung protects the phone well and even offers you a loop to put your finger in and clasp the Flip5 better, it does make the phone a lot bulkier, almost like you are carrying an old-fashioned gaming device in your hand, or a small makeup kit. Though I love this case, I might leave it at home when I am in the mood to flaunt the Flip5.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: How is the usability now?
I have always been impressed by the form factor of the Flip phones. I have thought of this as a great second phone for someone like me, one that you keep in your pocket and used only when needed. But in the past week, I have used this more like a primary phone and the experience has been pretty good. There is nothing this phone limits me from doing and the Flex Window is now an added advantage over regular phones, especially with time and other notifications available on one tap — the Flex Window does not stay on for more than 30 seconds.
Yes, now a lot of stuff can be done or handled using just the Flex Window and without opening the phone fully. I think you will soon see much more happen on this screen as more apps develop their interfaces to fit this space. For now, you are left wanting more from this screen in terms of apps, but we are getting there. But with the camera, there are no such frustrations and you actually get a liberated experience that you can do so much with this window, especially if you are a creator — like recording a full YouTube video using this screen.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold5 (left) and Fold4 (right) (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan / Express photo)
The Flip5 is like any normal phone when opened up and as powerful because of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. This can do everything easily and does not heat up, either. However, as you browse the web with your fingers, it is hard to ignore the fact that there is a bit of a recess in the middle where the hinge is. Your finger goes down into this curve as you slide. Also, I got the feeling some of the apps were loading with too much inset from the edges, maybe due to some confusing signals on the screen size. But none of this impacts your experience in any way.
The battery is something that you will have to keep in mind. With heavy usage, you will be able to get a day out of the 3700 mAh battery, also because you are not using the full screen at all times. But yes, this is a small battery for the times we live in. But the phone juices back up really fast. Interestingly, the metal loop on the Flip5 cover lets you charge the phone wirelessly even with the cover on.
The Fllip5 is like any normal phone when opened up and as powerful because of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor.
The Flip5 has a pretty decent camera, though it does not have three lenses as many are used to. But personally, I think the third lens is overkill as there will always be one most of us don’t use, either the wide-angle or the macro.
A shot under indoor lighting conditions. (Image: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express) Colour reproduction is excellent. (Image: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)
All the cameras on this one do a good job and I loved the sharpness of the main 12MP wide angle. Even in low light, the camera does a decent job. I also loved how the phone can be bent like an L to use the camera like a handycam, giving you some unique angles for videos.
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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: Can you use this as your primary phone?
Well, this is a tough question. But I would now say yes to this. Most users will not have any trouble doing anything on this phone. And if I take a philosophical view, this form factor, I think, makes you waste lesser time on the phone. Since you are now using the smaller screen for a lot of things, a simple Facebook notification about your mother liking a photo you have posted is not going to suck you into a rather long session of Reels.
I loved how the phone can be bent like an L to use the camera like a handycam, giving you some unique angles for videos. (Nandagopal Rajan / Express photo)
You dismiss a lot of work from the smaller screen and the larger screen is not there to entice you into giving apps time you don’t need to. And this I think makes the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 a perfect phone to start your journey towards some smartphone abstinence.
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At an effective price starting Rs 79,999 and with usability going up many notches, I would say the Flip form factor has now reached that tipping point where you can consider it as a regular phone option with the added convenience of a foldable form factor and an extra screen that adds real user value. If you are looking for a new Android flagship for regular use, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is now standing up to be considered.
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