The time to overhaul the design of a product is when it’s not working out well or when it has thoroughly saturated the market. For Samsung’s Fold, that time is not now. The Z Fold5 is a refinement over the previous Fold4, which in turn was a refinement over the Fold3, and so on. Recently launched along with its smaller sibling, the Flip5, the Z Fold5 comes in as an overall better product, expensive, but worthwhile for those who can afford the luxury and like to truly use technology.
Like the Flip5, the Fold5 also comes in a minimal box that’s too thin to house a charger because Samsung has figured this is a great move after Apple set the trend. If you decide to purchase this device, make sure you pick up all the accessories you need including a charger and case. The case will be especially important as it comes with the S-Pen, which brings an additional layer of functionality to the device. The three variants of the Fold5 cost between ₹1,54,999 and ₹1,84,999, depending on the storage. Look out for deals and schemes that bring the price down significantly. These smartphone-tablets come in elegant shades including beige, which is our review unit.
The appeal of the smaller foldable, the Z Flip5, may be in how it folds to become a compact ultra portable fashionable gadget, letting you use call, message, keep track etc., without getting too involved in phone usage. But for the Z Fold5, it’s much the opposite: the appeal is in unfolding the phone from a regular (though rather thick) form to open up as a squarish tablet, becoming a small computer that can go into your pocket. The Fold5 is about the same as the previous version, so if you own a Fold4, it isn’t really time to upgrade. But if you have an older Fold — or no Fold at all — the Fold5 offers a more refined experience.
Folded and unfolded
The folded cover screen is 6.2 inches. Of course, it’s Samsung’s signature AMOLED and looks very good. But it is a little narrower than on regular phones. This isn’t a problem until you use the keyboard, but that too depends on your individual inputting method. Many do find the keyboard and screen too cramped.
You can do everything from that top screen — it is, for all practical purposes, a regular Android phone. All apps are accessible and usable. If you wanted to, you could use it in this folded form for long sessions, but of course, the form factor is actually meant for the unfolded format to be used more.
As with the Flip5, the Fold also has a strengthened hinge. On this phone too, you can rely on it to position the folded half at different points. This is one of the more enjoyable aspects of using a foldable. The slight crease can be felt in the centre of the unfolded Fold5 vertically, but doesn’t prove to be any sort of obstacle and is easily forgotten. The displays have Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection. It’s also IPX8 water-resistant and can take more than a few splashes.
The unfolded screen takes the device into tablet mode. It now has 7.6 inches worth of 1812 x 2176 pixels screen space in a squarish form. It’s now a 30% brighter screen compared with the previous Fold. Now it’s time to get productive. Samsung has done a brilliant job with the software for this device. The apps open on an unfolded screen can continue on the cover screen and vice versa, the screen can be split to accommodate several apps in their own smaller windows, and an enhanced taskbar on the bottom of the screen lets you access apps quickly.
Now you can also have your frequently used ones ready at hand. Also, some apps flow into the two halves of a partially folded screen so that the viewing part is on the top and controls on the bottom. This happens with the camera, calculator, Duo, YouTube, and several others and is again, rather enjoyable especially as it works very smoothly. Now and then one does, however, come across apps that haven’t been optimised for tablets, let alone a device like the Fold.
Samsung uses Android 13 and its OneUI to make up the software package. Both will be upgraded when updates roll in.
All of this software is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, though what is specific to Galaxy is not clear. The phone is as fast as it should be and has no lag. There’s 256GB or 512GB UFS 4.0 storage with 12GB RAM. The battery is 4,400mAh. On the face of it, this seems a little less than one needs for a tablet-like device, but anything more might have compromised the form factor and variables such as weight and portability, especially considering the folded form, which is a little thick and dense even as it is. Battery life is as expected. Charging is at 25W wired and 15W wireless.
The previous models of the Fold also had flagship specifications and didn’t tend to slow down over time. With the upgraded specs of the Fold5, it should be a good option for those who do a lot with their phones over the long term.
A pen in hand
A whole additional layer of productivity can be added if you opt to buy Samsung’s case with the S-Pen included in it. The S-Pen doesn’t have a slot on the phone itself as the S23 Ultra does, but the case has the slot needed, and the pen sits firmly clicked in place there. The S-Pen has seen some modification and is slimmer now. You can only use the S-Pen specifically meant for the Fold. With it, you can take notes, mark up documents, sketch, etc., as well as use the many features that the Pen is associated with — such as selecting text to translate.
The cameras on the Fold5 are different from the Fold4 and are the same triple-lens setup Samsung uses elsewhere. Not on a par with the S23 Ultra, the camera is good enough for casual photos but perhaps should have seen a leap forward, considering the folding screen can allow for interesting photographs to be taken. There’s a 50-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilisation, a 10-megapixel 3x telephoto, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide. There’s a 4-megapixel under-display camera on the inside that users are not too fond of though it does all right for video calls if there’s enough light.
The Z Fold5 is not a big upgrade over the Fold4, but for those who haven’t bought a previous Fold at all, it’s been strengthened enough for one to be confident using it on an everyday basis. The uniqueness of its materials, however, does need some gentle usage, including closing the device carefully without digging one’s thumbs into the screen.