The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is hands down the most interesting phone I’ve ever used. It offers so many ways to use it, and if you lined up every Fold4 user in a row, you’d probably never find two people who use it the same. This thing is incredibly cool, physics-defyingly cool, actually. It’s just let down by the fact I feel it wants me to hustle 24/7. And, of course, its price.
Throughout my eight days with the Fold, I kept shaking my head in amazement that this thing has a folding screen. If we compare it to the first folding phone Samsung made, the innovation is clear. And it’s very clear the Galaxy Z Fold5 isn’t the last we’ll see from Samsung in a foldable formfactor. Even as others try to compete, the Z Fold is still years out in front.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5
The Fold5 is lighter, thinner, and brighter than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. It’s also $3,149 for the 1TB model – $2,599 if you can settle for 256GB and $2,799 for 512GB. When folded, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 looks around the size of a ‘normal’ phone; opened, it’s two of ‘em side by side. This year, however, the Fold is 10 grams lighter than the current Fold4 – 36 grams lighter than the first Fold phone. It’s also thinner, thanks to its new hinge technology – 2.4mm thinner than the Fold4. And, it’s also brighter than its predecessor – the peak brightness is now in line with the S23 Ultra.
The screen feels more sturdy this year – it’s still not on par with the ‘block’ feel you get from non-folding handsets, but it’s getting there. To expect it to feel as ‘thick’ would be, as I said in my review of the Z Flip5, asking too much from technology in 2023.
While the innovation this year spans a better hinge, more responsive screen, and of course the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, my favourite year-on-year addition has to be the case.
Fixating on an accessory
The Z Fold5 has S Pen compatibility (you have to buy it separately, $109) and last year this pen could attach to the rear of the Fold thanks to a case. That’s the case this year too, however, this year the case is thinner and holds the pen flush. It’s called the Galaxy Z Fold5 Slim S Pen Case and it’ll cost an extra $169 (currently selling for $126.75 as part of a promo). While the case I’ve had on my device makes the otherwise premium-looking phone look cheap thanks to the colour choices made by Samsung, the black one is a lot more classic looking and I would think would appeal more to the user who has around $3,000 to splash on a phone.
Either way, it still fits in a woman’s pocket with a case – a space that is usually unusable.
The elephant in the room
Even if we take the 256GB model, the Galaxy Z Fold5 is $2,599. To get the most out of it, you need the pen case, or at minimum, the pen. Say you choose the case option, for the cheapest Fold5, you’re looking at $2,768. The most expensive iPhone 14 Pro Max is a 1TB handset that costs $1 more – $2,769.
It’s Australia’s most expensive phone and unless you’re going to use it to work from, you’re buying it purely because it’s cool.
Which brings us to the other elephant in the room…
Samsung is pitching the Galaxy Z Fold5 as a “productivity powerhouse”. Working on a phone like the Galaxy S23 Ultra is doable, not brilliant, and you’re let down by a number of things such as the screen size and the ability to have two windows up simultaneously like you would on say a PC. The Z Fold5 solves this by having the option of two screens or one big screen.
The power from the processor also means you can open a spreadsheet or presentation and pick up where you left off on your laptop. And although the Z Fold5 is still a phone, folding up to neatly slot into your pocket as your usual slab phone would, it seems to be more focused on ALL THE STUFF you can do on it that you can’t on your usual phone. It reeks of hustle culture, but there are a tonne of people/roles/businesses who would get so much from a phone that can be used like a normal phone when closed and opened to be a laptop on the go.
The other other elephant, the creased one
When talking about this phone to friends, or testing it around the office, everyone made a comment about the crease. Ya, it’s got a crease and the crease allows it to fold I don’t know what you want, do you want a square phone without a crease that’s the size of two stuck together? Get a tablet. It has a crease because it folds. There’s not a whole lot more to it. To be completely honest, I found it most noticeable when trying to take nice photos of the phone for this review. Of course, it’s noticeable when you use it, with your finger brushing past it, and one day we will get to a place where the crease disappears, but to expect that now is just silly.
I didn’t have an issue with the crease, but the issues I had with the phone include having to use both hands to hold it and type if it’s not placed on the table in front of you; the fact that despite the Z Fold5 being touted as a perfect phone for gaming, the main game I play, Beatstar, hasn’t been optimised for the Fold and behaves pretty poorly as a result; and the fact I have cleaned the screens 3-4 times a day simply because I have to put my filthy fingers all over it to get it to close. But, I have small hands, developers take time/decide what’s worth optimising, and the fingerprints were mostly an issue because I wanted to take photos of the phone for this review.
Getting used to the keyboard takes a little bit, but.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 has a brilliant battery, too. On every phone/gadget we can, we play all three hours of Avengers: Endgame, getting a gauge for how good the battery is against other devices. On best quality, full volume, brightness all the way up (not boosted, however), by the end of the first hour, from 100 per cent full, the Galaxy Z Fold5 had 92 per cent battery left. Hour two it was at 84 per cent, and by the third, 76 per cent. For comparison, the Z Flip5 had 55 per cent when we did the same test, the iPhone 14 Pro Max battery was down to 63 per cent and the Google Pixel 7 Pro had 62 per cent.
A gorgeous camera system
The camera system remains the same this year, but you will notice year-on-year improvements in the shots you take, that’s mostly thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor (made for Galaxy) and the software capabilities this chip unlocks. Although not specific to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, worth a mention is image stabilisation. It’s something that I, as someone with shaky hands, can absolutely appreciate – no way I could get these shots without it given how big the phone is.
The first few snaps are actually a hell of a lot better than they appear here. These have been sent through Google drive to my MacBook, uploaded to Canva, grouped together, downloaded and then uploaded to our CMS before being served up to you. I promise they’re actually much better.
The ultrawide camera doing its thing, looking out over Seoul from the top of a very foggy mountain.
And my gorgeous model Pogi sitting for a snap taken in portrait mode.
1x zoom, then 10x, and 30x. You can stop at every point along the way, too.
And lastly, night time. Same goes here for the quality of the snaps. The third pic was taken with portrait mode.
Pretty decent – and of course, I haven’t even had the time to fiddle around with the camera settings like you would if you bought the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5. But out of the box, it goes A-OK.
Final thoughts on the Galaxy Z Fold5
While I’ve fallen in love with the Galaxy Z Flip5, I haven’t with the Z Fold5. For how I personally use a phone, it seems like more money and hassle than it’s worth to make the leap. When closed, the phone behaves much like a ‘normal’ phone, but the keypad is too small to type and you’d be silly to buy this phone and not mostly use it opened. The proposition for working from the phone doesn’t work in my line of work, but there are so many people who it would work for and for that reason, I think it’s a brilliant idea.
I haven’t even touched on using the S Pen properly, all the different ways you can use the Galaxy Z Fold5, nor the smarts that come with using Samsung’s version of Android.
It’s almost like Samsung has packed every bit of phone innovation it could into the Galaxy Z Fold5 and from a tech nerd perspective, I think it’s so bloody phenomenal. But for ~$3,000, it’s just too much money. I get it, though, reducing the guts wouldn’t make it as fast, reducing the camera would make you opt instead for the S23 Ultra, no S Pen compatibility would remove so many use cases, and having the fold not as refined would be a waste of R&D. There’s nothing I would remove from the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, but I can’t sit here in this economic climate and tell you it’s worth throwing $3,000 at a phone when Samsung’s budget range could perhaps suffice.
Its undoing is how powerful and jam-packed with innovation it is, which is somewhat poetic. I’m so excited for what Samsung does with the Fold range and hope they don’t ever stop.
Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is available from August 14 and will cost:
- RRP $2,599 for 256GB
- RRP $2,799 for 512GB
- RRP $3,149 for 1TB.
The S Pen Fold 5 Edition is $109.
Asha Barbaschow travelled to Seoul as a guest of Samsung Australia.