There are two ways to look at foldable phones. One, they fold away so that a full-size smartphone becomes more portable. Two, they unfold to reveal a larger screen inside what looks like a regular-sized smartphone. Samsung has perfected both these forms over the past few years, but it has more experience with the latter. And that is what is up for show with the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5.
The Fold5 is way more portable than its predecessors (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review: What’s new?
With the new Fold5, Samsung has not gone for a design overhaul or added new hardware elements. But there are important changes. The most visible one is in terms of the Flex Hinge. Samsung’s latest version of this hinge lets the phone close more tightly than before and this means the device is about 2mm thinner when folded. This makes the Fold5 way more portable than its predecessors — the two sides now fold flat without any space between the two. Samsung has also made the S-Pen thinner, though you need to invest in an additional cover to get hold of one.
One other change that is significant is the addition of an app dock at the bottom of the screen when you are using the phone unfolded. This means you have one-tap access to your most used and recent apps, instead of cycling between them as we are used to with Android phones. And this bar is where you are browsing, writing notes, or just scribbling with the S-Pen. It is almost like the dock on a Mac, and as useful. This also means the phone now handles multitasking and natural user behaviour like drag and drop much better — you can use two fingers to drag items now on this screen.
Samsung has also made the S-Pen thinner, though you need to invest in an additional cover to get hold of one (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review: How do you use the extra large screen?
The Fold series phones have always reminded me of the extra large 7-inch phablets with calling that used to be the rage a few years back. There was nothing more awkward than holding a screen as large as your head to your ears to make a call.
The Fold is not that awkward. In fact, when folded it is (almost) like any other smartphone, just thicker (still) and less broader. And the good thing is that the front screen of the Fold5, or even its predecessors, does a good job of working like a full smartphone. In fact, I know someone who rarely opens up his two-generation old fold. So that is a problem Samsung solved years back.
With the Fold5, the Korean tech thinking seems to be on how to make people use the larger screen better. This will be crucial to the success of this form factor, especially since a lot of early adopters will now be expected to come to refresh their Folds this year. I tried to use the Fold5 as my business phone for a few days, setting up only my office email on it and also limiting the phone to productivity apps. I also made a conscious decision to use the S-Pen to take notes in meetings, not something that comes to me naturally.
Sitting in a half-day meeting, I was scribbling away motes on the Fold (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
I have to say, this is where the phone starts making more sense. Sitting in a half-day meeting, I was scribbling away motes on the Fold. It is almost like wiring on paper and S-Pen even gives you that feedback sound, though that sounds lags behind a bit. Still, this makes the experience feel natural and for someone like me who ends up writing notes in different places, the Notes app on the Fold is a much more organised way to collect your thoughts, quite literally.
Also, the dual-screen set-up is great for some of the use cases specific to me. For instance, when I notice something amiss on the website, I can take a screenshot, annotate, and drag-drop that into WhatsApp or Meets. It is much faster and easier to do it this way. The only issue though is that on the unfolded screen, and to some extent on the front screen, websites render a bit differently. There is confusion on whether to show a site as a mobile site or in desktop mode and this impacts the experience.
The dual-screen set-up is great for some of the use cases specific to me (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
Also, with large Google Sheets, the extra real estate as well as the S-Pen become a boon. And some of the sheets, which struggle to load on some computers, open up easily on the Fold5 thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor inside.
The Fold5 makes for a very capable business camera — remember this also has one lens more than the Flip. For one, you can click photos and immediately see a preview in near full size. But even when you are on a Zoom call, the experience is very similar to desktop and you actually get to see multiple video streams at the same time. Unlike the Flip5, this one also offers up to 30x zoom, but how sharp the results are will depend on how steady your hand is.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 camera sample 1 (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express) Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 camera sample 2 (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express) Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 camera sample 3 (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express) Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 camera sample 4 (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express) Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 camera sample 5 (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
The battery is great and easily lasts a full day which is an added advantage for the kind of users this is meant for.
The Fold5 is a flagship phone in every sense and capable of doing everything you expect from a top-shelf phone (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review: Are there any issues?
The Fold5 is a flagship phone in every sense and capable of doing everything you expect from a top-shelf phone. But the is not a regular phone and you need to keep that in mind before buying one. The main point is that despite becoming thinner this is still a thick and heavy phone at 253 grams. To highlight my point, if is not the phone you can put it in the pocket of a linen shirt without the pocket crying for help by the end of the day. But then this is a phone you will hold in your hand to let the world know where you stand in the hierarchy. But if you are not that type do consider the Flip5 (review) more than the Fold5.
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Samsung should have by now thought of a way to integrate the S-Pen natively into the fold. At the moment, the S-Pen, nested in a groove at the back, that too in a cover you have to buy additionally is something a lot of users might forget to use effectively. I love how the S-Pen has become thinner and how the cover makes for a natural home for the world’s best stylus, but it is still a layer away from the phone it should be used on.
This is clearly a phone to flaunt and not one to hide away (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review: Should you buy?
Yes, if you are using one of the older versions of the Fold.Yes, if you want to buy the most capable Android flagship as your next smartphone.Yes, if you are someone who loves to scribble notes all day long and use doodles to destress.
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Given the price for the Fold5 starts at Rs 154,999, this is clearly a phone to flaunt and not one to hide away. But also, this is among the few really premium phones out there, meant for those who take their productivity really seriously. My experience with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 over the past couple of weeks, underlines the fact that you can be really productive, and creative, with a phone like the Fold5. And that should be the primary reason to buy this phone.
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