Saturday 20 April 2024

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 Progress Report

Some fairly random thoughts regarding the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 follow as I’ve never formally reviewed the device, rather dipped in and out with feature-coverage as I come across them, or problems as I find them, for discussion and further analysis by the good folks out there along for the journey. So here’s my current thinking, not in-depth reviewing…

The Flip5 folds flat for the first time in Samsung’s Flip-range! The front screen is (obviously) plastic, layered, ‘Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X’ with a substantial ‘crease’ but after a while, as usual, most of us have brains that will ignore it. Sometimes when swiping I am reminded, but a lot of swiping is done on the bottom or top of the screen, not top/bottom or bottom/top. It refreshes at 120Hz (if you like), has HDR10+ support and is very bright when cranked up (in auto) at 1750nits. It’s a rather large 6.7”, though that’s smaller than Moto’s Razr and others which are often now 6.9”. 1080p with 425ppi.

The cover screen is Super AMOLED, 3.4”, 720p at 306ppi. It’s got a ‘dogleg’ around the camera lenses and I found that anything other than Samsung’s own official TPU ‘case’ means that swipes up from the bottom-left are really difficult to execute. Especially with my big fingers. There’s GGV2 on the cover screen and back, which is encouraging - especially for those using the outside screen more than the inside one, now that it’s bigger, and the frame is reassuringly the tougher drop and scratch resistant Armour aluminium.

IPX8 means that it’s water resistant up to 1.5m for 30 min and no dust protection, but again, users are likely to be opening the phone less than ever before and you’d like to hope they won’t be using it as a spade to build sandcastles at the beach! As far as I can see, the protector on my screen is still in perfect condition and there’s no question of any damage to the ‘crease’. I know many people do report this being a problem but my family now have the Flip3, Flip4 and now Flip5 in regular use and all three are simply perfect.

The Samsung updates and software support is not quite the market-leading version that the S24-series gets, 7 years, along with Google, but at 4 OS updates (so Android 13-17) and 5 years of Security (so to Summer 2028), it really is enough - assuming the screen holds out that long!

The chipset flies through anything that I ask of it, SnapDragon 8 Gen 2, last year’s as it might be, and my unit has 512GB of storage, plenty (or indeed too much) for the huge majority of people (with UFS 4.0 supported) and the 8GB RAM doesn’t seem to be an issue (even if the unit supported DeX I still think 8GB is fine, based on tests with other phones, such as the S23). The baseline storage for the range is now 256GB, so nice to see 128GB being dropped, especially as most of the big players don’t even want a sniff of microSD now.

The stereo speakers are surprisingly good for playing audio/media, given that physics will clearly play a part. The ‘right’ one is ‘bottom’ firing and the ‘left’ being the ‘earpiece’ speaker. When it’s open, in landscape, it’s actually pretty good for stereo separation for watching film/video but when closed, clearly the speakers are very close to each other and one of them firing ‘inside’ the ‘shell’. Having said that, it’s perfectly usable even with the various cases I’ve tried. The quality is pretty good, supported by Dolby Atmos, and top volume seems decent enough too, for a physically compromised form. Much better than many - folding, flipping or not!

There’s no 3.5mm audio-out available but there is support for 32-bit/384kHz audio. Music played via the USB-C will clearly depend on the attached equipment and how good that is, but via Bluetooth 5.3, for which the same is true, sounds great to my ageing ears. No complaints with any of my 101 pairs of headphones, earphones and speakers that I have tried in tests here.

Connectivity by 5G seems good for data and voice - the latter making great use of the ‘flip’ form in terms of answering/ending phone calls by opening/closing the clam. It’s great fun, retro and practical.

WiFi works really well in my tests here with a range of routers and situations. It supports 6e for that and GPS seems to lock on well and keep a hold. NFC is a bit odd in that the aerial needs to be in the ‘bottom’ half of the phone and Google Pay only works if the phone is opened. Retraining needed for those of us who are expecting to present the top-back of the phone to the scanner, aerial usually being up-top somewhere alongside cameras.

As I mentioned above, there’s no DeX support here but there is USB-C 3.2 (OTG) with the switch thrown (for the first time with a flipping phone from Samsung) for HDMI-Out support. Which is a great addition over previous generations and enables some of us who prefer the cabled route to make more use of all that storage, to TV, monitor or whatever. It even works (in screen-echo mode) with my NexDock Touch here - and unlike Motorola’s Ready For, the touch-screen, audio passthrough and keyboard work as well! Landscape media can be switched on the fly but most of the time the UI is in portrait.

The side-mounted, capacitive fingerprint scanner is perfectly placed for open or closed use on the right, works flawlessly, first time, every time, and the face unlock supporting it means that the user is ready for action at lightning speed!

The battery is pretty good in my tests since I’ve had it here, though in various clinical tests online people are questioning it. It’s certainly longer-lasting than the slightly smaller battery in the Flip4, but then the Flip4 needed to be opened up for more tasks than the Flip5. In turn, the Flip3’s battery was worse again. So it’s steady progress, wings clipped by physics largely. It is a 3,700mAh unit which offers 25W charging, so not great, but gets half the battery full from flat in about half an hour. There’s 15W Qi and 4.5W reverse wireless in the mix, so options all-round, slow as they might be.

The main camera is a 12MP f/1.8 shooter with OIS and in support is a wide-angle 12MP f/2.2 unit. It can shoot 4K video at 60fps, 1080 at 240 and 720 at 960. There’s a 10MP f2.2 Selfie inside the clamshell. It has Samsung’s camera software of course and it’s very capable, limited only by the hardware they were able to squeeze into the small, folding, flipping body!

Like Pixels these days, a lot of the appeal of Samsung phones is in the evolving software, version by version, update by update, as the tech world is flooded with the buzz of AI this, AI that and AI the other! We try to keep up with what’s going on but don’t forget that Samsung has a flavour all of its own in the shape of OneUI, currently on v6.1, with all that comes with it - including the bells and whistles, depth of Good Lock modules and whatever can be baked in by these clever engineers, now, apparently, working squarely hand-in-hand with those from Google. There’s tons of stuff to cover in the software, so head for YouTube and take your pick from a million and one videos!

I’m more interested in the form factor, though. The Flip5 in the hand, in the pocket, is certainly dinky and I am finding that over time I am using the cover screen more and more. I sneak applications into the Good Lock cover screen module and before I realise, I’m out there using the phone a lot. The phone folded nestles nicely in my hand and by the use of pinky-finger and scrolling thumb it balances nicely. There are some applications which are a bit rubbish and you just have to open the phone up, but I’ve been surprised at how useful it has been of late, running those apps. Typing on the keyboard is fiddly of course and sometimes, with some apps, you simply can’t see the text input field when typing. So voice input is encouraged - which works very well in most instances.

Flex Mode is great! Yeah, yeah, I know, in reality it's of limited use (especially on the small Flip5 screen and not the bigger Fold5's) but it's just great tinkering fun. With the device sitting up looking at me, playing with a cursor using the Touchpad is wicked fun - and screenshots - and more usefully, probably, music controls in various Music Playing apps. Tent mode (so almost closed and forming a ‘v’ shape standing facing me) and playing/watching Music Video is one of my favourite uses for the Flip5. I often do this and love it. It's kinda nostalgic. Like using an iPod Classic. It's charming.

I’m still finding out more as I go, including the hookup with a Samsung Galaxy Watch for health tracking (and even Blood pressure - well, except currently in the USA apparently), integrating use with my Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and loads more. Nobody can deny that with joined-up thinking going on, Samsung does provide a playground with oodles of fun, productivity and functionality at every turn. Anyway, these have been some random thoughts - a kind of progress report really, having never actually ever done a formal review on the unit as such. Great fun and I continue to enjoy it.

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