I’ve been using this phone for just about a month now, and I have been pleasantly surprised. I have decided to keep it as my daily driver indefinitely, and here are some of the reasons why.
Table of Contents
Hardware and Performance:
First, I will just say that this is a high quality phone and you are getting out of it just what you would with any other Samsung flagship level device. I think this phone most resembles the Galaxy S23 Plus when it is unfolded. The screen is about the same size although it has a slightly different aspect ratio. The screen on the Z Flip 5 is a little taller and a little more narrow than on the S23 Plus. They both have the same starting price here in the US, however the Z Flip 5 starts with twice the storage at 256 gigabytes instead of 128 GB. They both have the same amount of RAM and the same processor. Just like on any other Samsung flagship phone, the speakers and microphones are great and the display quality is awesome.
While the Z Flip 5 has both the wide and ultra wide angle lenses that the S23 Plus has, it is missing the third lens which is the telephoto lens.
a lot has been made out of the crease on the main display where it folds, so I will mention it. yes, you can feel it, but it does not interfere with usage of the phone. it does not prevent you from swiping and TalkBack registers all gestures even when swiping past the crease. personally, it doesn’t bother me and it does actually help me to find items faster when exploring by touch. for example, I know that the crease is right through my third row of icons on my home screen.
The battery life is what impressed me the most with this device. It’s not great, but it’s good enough, and that is saying a lot for a foldable. Compared to my Galaxy Z Flip 3 from 2 years ago, the battery life on this is much better.
It can get me through a full day most days. I think I only went over using more than 100% battery in a single day once or twice in the time I have been using it. With my Z Flip 3, I had to make it a normal part of my routine to charge the phone at some point during the day. on the Z Flip 5, I was usually getting between 4 and 5 hours of screen on time out of a single charge, depending on how often I was opening the phone to use the full size screen. Keep in mind that I use this phone with both the main display and cover display brightness set to 100% and the refresh rate lowered to 60Hz, so your mileage may vary.
There are a few factors that improved the battery life for me.
- First, the snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is just much more efficient. It is the most efficient processor I have used on a flagship phone.
- Second, the battery is physically a little bit larger than it was on the Z Flip 3. It is 3700mAh rather than 3300mAh.
- And third, the fact that this cover screen is so much more usable, which I will touch on later, means that you will be doing far less on this phone with it unfolded and having to have it power the full-size screen. So while this is by no means a battery beast, I think it will easily get you through the day.
Also, the charging is pretty quick. The charging speed is 45w and the battery isn’t that large, so that results in pretty good charging speeds. For example, a 15 minute charge will get you around 25% battery or a 30 minute charge will get you around 50% battery.
The Cover Screen
The cover screen is what sets this device apart from all of the previous iterations by Samsung. It is a much larger screen and much more functional. It basically takes up the entire front of the device when folded except for the area in the bottom right where the cameras and flash module are.
However, the cover screen has its own user interface that is different from that of the main display. It kind of resembles a watch UI. When you first power on the screen you will have the time presented to you and that’s about it. You can choose to have your battery level as well as how many notifications you haven’t dismissed. There is also a button for a shortcut on the home screen that you can customize but I left mine set to open the camera.
Swiping left with two fingers will take you through your widgets. These are customizable in that you can choose which ones will be displayed or not. There are a few different ones to choose from and some examples are calendar, missed calls, steps and other health information or activity tracking, stopwatch or alarm, whether, etc. Once you’ve navigated to a widget, you can then swipe up or down with two fingers to scroll through the information on that widgets page.
Swiping right with two fingers from the clock face or home screen will take you to your notifications page. This is a vertical list of notifications that you can either act on or dismiss. When using TalkBack unfortunately these notifications do not have actions and you cannot currently dismiss them this way. You either have to swipe right with two fingers or double tap and hold then swipe right to dismiss the notifications. I personally use the second method because swiping with two fingers in the wrong place can result in dismissing the wrong notification.
swiping down with two fingers from the very top of the cover screen will take you to the quick settings panel. This is separate from the regular quick settings panel on the main display. here you will find a brightness slider that controls the brightness of the cover screen as well as eight quick settings toggles that as far as I can tell are not customizable. these include wi-fi, sound mode, bluetooth, airplane mode, flashlight, Mobile data, screen recorder, and modes.
There is a way to add a widget to the cover screen that will act as a launcher using Good Lock, but unfortunately this widget is not accessible and all of your apps will be unlabeled. However, adding your apps to this cover screen widget will allow them to function on the cover screen. This means if you tap on a notification from one of these apps you’ve added, it will open the app on the cover screen rather than asking you to open your phone to continue. This also means that you can use Bixby to launch these apps on the cover screen as well.
It takes a bit of setting up, but there is a way to have an accessible launcher of your own on the cover screen if you want to. I recorded a demonstration of this process for the Blind Android Users Podcast, and that can be found on our YouTube channel.
You can run just about any app you want on the cover screen in this way. The only exceptions I have found are apps that require being displayed over other apps such as Reading Mode.
Also, I should mention that although you can use a full-size keyboard on the cover screen, you have to use Samsung’s keyboard. This is not a deal breaker for me, because you can still go into the Samsung keyboard settings and change the voice input to use Google’s instead of Samsung’s. And yes, you can still initiate voice typing with a long press of the side key if the on screen keyboard is currently displayed.
TalkBack behaves exactly as it should on the internal main display, so I won’t go into any of the details there, I will just tell you how the experience is different on the cover display while the phone is folded.
I will start by telling you what you can do with TalkBack. All gestures work on the cover display including multi-finger gestures, and yes even 4-finger gestures if you can make all your fingers fit on the screen. TalkBack will function as it does on the main display for the most part. You can explore by touch or swipe through items. And most of TalkBacks functions will work such as voice commands, copy and paste, read from next item, and so on .
But of course there are some exceptions, here is what you cannot do with TalkBack on the cover screen:
- First, hide screen does not work. It will tell you the screen is hidden but the only screen that is being hidden is the main display, the cover display will still be showing. So this is definitely something that you need to keep in mind while using it.
- Second, you cannot do a pass-through gesture on the cover screen. When you perform a gesture that you have assigned to pass through, it will make the sound but when you touch the screen it will behave as if you have not initiated a pass through.
- Third, no TalkBack menus will be displayed on the cover display. This means you can’t access any features you have in your TalkBack menu and you cannot bring up an actions menu if you have that assigned to a gesture. The cover screen does however support actions as a reading control if you are running Talkback 14. similar to the TalkBack menus, you cannot use the TalkBack Braille keyboard on the cover screen because it also requires an overlay.
- It should also be mentioned that the auto focus does not work on the cover screen. When going back a page, TalkBack will not remember the last item you had in focus. And when opening a new page, it will not automatically focus and announce the first item on that page.
Other Accessibility Features
As in the previous section, this only applies to the cover screen.
- Color inversion does work as it should.
- Magnification does work, but your magnification level is not saved. So for example, if you have your magnification saved to 800%, when magnifying on the cover screen it will only initially zoom in at 200%, and you will have to manually adjust it every time. This also means that you cannot use the triple tap and hold method or similar at the full magnification. It can only be done at 200%.
- Most accessibility shortcuts do not work on the cover screen. The hardware shortcuts of holding both volume keys or pressing the volume up and side key just plain don’t work. The only way you can toggle an accessibility service from the cover screen is by assigning it to the accessibility gesture or button, and then assigning the accessibility shortcut to a Talkback gesture. Because although the accessibility shortcut will work on the cover screen, you have to assign it to a talkback gesture because the accessibility button whether it be floating or in the navigation bar will not show on the cover screen. And the accessibility gesture of swiping up from the bottom with three fingers does not seem to work either.
As you’ve probably noticed, the focus of this review has been on the cover screen. That was intentional because that’s what sets this phone apart from any other Samsung phone. While the cover display is very functional, it’s not fully functional, and I hope I have done a good job explaining exactly what it can and can’t do.
Unfortunately, I can report that whether you are using Samsung’s version or Google’s version of TalkBack, there is no difference in what you can and cannot do on the cover screen. This is the perfect opportunity for Samsung to actually do something with their version of Talkback to improve the experience, but as of yet that hasn’t happened. Hopefully they will add improvements in the future.