With the new Motorola Razr Plus, Samsung has new competition in the foldable phone arena. While last year’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 was a step in the right direction, there’s a lot Samsung could do to make its next flip phone more compelling.
With the Galaxy Z Flip 4, Samsung refined the phone’s design, added a few new software tricks, and improved key features like night photography and battery life. These are all welcome upgrades that address shortcomings from previous models and make the Galaxy Z Flip easier to recommend than in years past. Now that Samsung has perfected the Z Flip, I’d like to see it take it a step further by offering more new features that take advantage of its foldable design.
Google and Motorola, both of which are releasing new foldable phones in June, have shown that they’re thinking about how to make foldable phones stand out with features that show how the outer and inner screens can work together.
Now it’s Samsung’s turn. The company usually releases new foldable phones in August.
Larger roof screen
Even after spending just a few minutes with the Razr Plus, I’m convinced that the Galaxy Z Flip 5 needs a bigger roof screen. Motorola’s new phone has a 3.6-inch external display compared to the Z Flip 4’s 1.9-inch roof screen. You can do a lot with the Razr’s external display, from playing games to browsing Google Maps and typing email . The Galaxy Z Flip 4’s smaller roof screen is much more limited and is perfect for short interactions like sending a ready reply to a text message or peeking at your calendar.
You might be wondering why having a larger roof screen is so important if you plan to use the phone mostly when it’s open. While I haven’t used the new Razr extensively yet, the roof screen seems to have the potential to add more convenience on the go. Since it’s small enough to fit in my palm when closed, I can imagine it being useful for replying to a text message or scrolling through my inbox when I only have one hand free.
If the rumors turn out to be true, Samsung may indeed give the Galaxy Z Flip 5 a larger external screen. The Twitter account Ice universewho has a solid history of leaking details about unreleased Samsung products, says the Z Flip 5 will have a 3.4-inch coated display.
More flexible mode features
Samsung popularized the idea of using flip phones as a built-in tripod for taking photos and video. Samsung calls this feature Flex Mode, and it allows the Z Flip and Fold to split apps between the top and bottom of the display when folded in half. Samsung has expanded Flex Mode since the release of the original Flip, adding new features like the ability to use the bottom of the display as a mini trackpad.
While it’s nice to see Samsung thinking of new ways to use the Z Flip’s unconventional shape, the trackpad functionality isn’t very practical, as my colleague Patrick Holland wrote in his review. It feels like a solution looking for a problem, not a reason to want a foldable phone in the first place.
In the Z Flip 5, I’d like to see Samsung add more functionality to Flex Mode, which taps into the phone’s ability to bend and fold in different ways. Having a bigger screen up front could also open up some new possibilities in this regard.
Samsung could take notes from Google and Motorola, both of which have shown some creative applications for foldable phones. The new Razr, for example, can preview a captured photo on its external screen, allowing the subject to see what it looks like before you press the shutter button. The Pixel Fold can use its dual screens to display translated speech on the external and internal displays during a conversation, potentially making real-world encounters in different languages less awkward.
Of course, I won’t know how useful these features are until I test both phones. But the use cases that Motorola and Google are presenting seem more practical than gimmicky, which feels like a step in the right direction for foldable devices.
A less noticeable crease
One of the biggest challenges with today’s foldable devices is the crease that runs through the center of the screen. Now that Samsung is heading into the fifth generation of its foldable phones, I’d like to see a fold that’s significantly less noticeable — if not invisible. Oppo and Huawei have done a better job of eliminating creases in their foldable devices in recent years, as my colleagues have noted, which makes me hopeful that Samsung’s next device will show similar progress.
There is a chance that this is the case. Ice universe also reports that the Z Flip 5 and Fold 5 will have a new hinge that will allow the phones to close completely when closed without a gap, a change that could also make the fold more subtle.
Longer battery life
Samsung has improved battery life on the Galaxy Z Flip 4 compared to the Z Flip 3, and I hope it continues to do so on the Galaxy Z Flip 5. As noted in CNET’s review of the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the phone’s battery can to last all day, but it drains faster if you’re watching videos and making video calls—two tasks the Z Flip is well-suited for because it can be easily placed.
Battery life in the phone can never seem long enough, so I hope to see more improvements in the Z Flip 5. If the Z Flip 5 runs on the same processor as the Galaxy S23 series, a version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which is optimized for Samsung devices, we may see some gains in power efficiency.
The Galaxy Z Flip 4’s 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide cameras take decent photos, but I’d like to see Samsung bring the Z Flip 5’s cameras up to par with the Galaxy S23’s. Samsung’s non-folding phone has a 50-megapixel primary camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 10-megapixel telephoto camera.
I don’t expect Samsung to add a telephoto lens to the Galaxy Z Flip 5, as that would make it difficult to increase the size of the screen covering. But I hope Samsung improves the camera in other ways, such as increasing the resolution or pixel size. In his review, CNET’s Patrick Holland described the Z Flip 4’s cameras as B-grade, indicating that there is certainly room for improvement. But if the Galaxy Z Flip 5 inherits the Galaxy S23’s processor, we’ll likely see upgrades on the back that also improve how photos are handled.
Overall, I hope to see Samsung add more functionality to make the Z Flip stand out, while reducing the trade-offs that have to be made when choosing a foldable phone over a standard phone. Changes like these could go a long way toward making foldable devices broadly appealing in the way Samsung envisions.