OPINION: Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 5 is official, and it heralds in plenty of changes for Samsung’s clamshell foldable both in terms of performance and the fundamental way you interact with the phone. But as handy as a new large cover display is, it’s curtailed by odd software limitations, meaning it’s not quite as capable as it could be.
The new 3.4-inch cover display, up from the piddly little 1.9-inch cover display from previous entries in the Z Flip line, is no longer just for reading notifications. The expansive folder-shaped display takes up much of the lid of the foldable, with the return of twin 12MP shooters nestled in the bottom right.
With much more screen real estate to play with, Samsung has developed a range of heavily customisable clock faces and plenty of widgets. These range from rather basic widgets, like Weather, Calendar, and shortcuts to favourite contacts, to more handy options like the Camera app and Google Stocks. A quick pinch of the display will reveal all your widgets, with a tap to bring them front and centre.
It’s not just about widgets though; you can use the large display as a viewfinder in the Camera app, allowing you to use the dual 12MP lenses to take high-quality selfies, and with full QWERTY keyboard support, you can even reply to incoming texts without having to unfold the device.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not the first foldable to go down this route. The Oppo Find N2 Flip’s 3.26-inch display also boasts a range of widgets, as does the top-end Motorola Razr 40 Ultra’s 3.6-inch cover display, arguably the Z Flip 5’s biggest competitor. The problem is that Samsung just stops short of offering the perfect cover screen experience that the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra offers.
I’m talking about app support. Samsung claims that the Z Flip 5 can run apps on the cover display, and while this is technically true, it’s very limited. In fact, once you’ve found the option to enable the functionality buried deep within the Labs section of the Settings app, you’ll see that you can only enable a small handful of apps, including Messages, WhatsApp, Netflix and YouTube.
That would’ve been fine if the Razr 40 Ultra didn’t offer the option to run any app on the cover display you’d like. This further negates the need to unfold the phone for small tasks, as you can quickly adjust smart home controls, change the music you’re listening to or get a heads-up on who’s knocking at the front door from that cover display. Granted, not all apps work perfectly on the compact display, but a surprising number do.
It also means that I could tap on incoming notifications and open the app on the cover display – something not possible with the Z Flip 5, with the phone telling you to unfold the device to interact with most notifications.
The Razr 40 Ultra’s cover display also has more capable quick settings controls, allowing you not only to customise which quick settings appear on the lock screen but the ability to access their respective settings menus to connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth headphones, again without needing to unfold the device.
Small features like this make the cover display experience on the Razr 40 Ultra stand out from the rest, and it’s surprising to see it curtailed so much with the Z Flip 5, especially considering that, software aside, the two cover displays are incredibly similar.
It may not seem like a dealbreaker on the surface, but it’s a fundamental part of the clamshell experience in 2023, and simply put, the Z Flip 5’s cover display isn’t quite up to scratch. There’s always a chance this could change via a software update in the next few months, but I’m not holding out much hope.
Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is now available to pre-order at Samsung.