Ahead of the Galaxy Unpacked event where Samsung revealed the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5, I’ve had a brief hands-on with the new foldables, as well as the TabS9 and Galaxy Watch 6. Here’s my early thoughts.
As expected, Samsung formally unveiled the Galaxy Z Fold5, Galaxy Z Flip5, Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Tab S9 families at its Galaxy Unpacked even in Seoul. A total aside, but it is nice to have product launches on this side of the globe so I don’t have to get up at 3am to cover them. Ahem.
Really though I didn’t need to, because a week prior under the weight of a heavy NDA, Samsung showed off all of its new devices coming to The Australian market to me and other Australian technology journalists, YouTubers and commentators.
This was a brief hands-on session, to be clear, nowhere near long enough to manage any kind of effective review. They’re mostly so that people can get their own photos and videos, basically.
Still, I’ve been covering the Fold series all the way back to its original incarnation, so I’m kind of au fait with the series and where it’s been. Look, here’s me taking some similar hands-on time with the OG Galaxy Fold all the way back at IFA 2019.
And here’s last year’s Galaxy Z Fold4/Flip4 hands-on:
So what do I think? I’ll break this down by device:
Samsung Z Fold5: Steady as she goes
The Z Fold5 feels like the least “changed’ foldable in Samsung’s lineup at first glance, and indeed first use. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, because this larger phone-to-tablet category is one where (at least in Western markets) Samsung just doesn’t have any competition to speak of.
Samsung was at some pains to point out that the Fold5 continues to get thinner and thinner year on year. That’s an impressive bit of engineering to be sure, though it was one of those details where unless you’re an existing Fold user, you might not feel the difference day to day. And if you are an existing Fold user — and especially of the Fold 4 — then the reasons to upgrade aren’t great enough that 2mm less thickness should lead you to opening your wallet to speak of.
The processor jump is expected but could be quite good for those who like Samsung’s DeX platform. Samsung’s also done nice work since last year’s Z Fold5 in terms of multitasking and the app bar at the base of the primary display, making this more of a “computer in your pocket” style device than it might first appear.
This might seem like a small stupid thing, but I was also rather taken with the new model S-Pen that Samsung has for the Fold5. Folds have always needed their own S-Pens, because of that flexible screen’s relative durability, but they’ve been chunky numbers that sat in exterior cases with a distinct bulge in play.
The new S-Pen — which I’m dubbing the S-Stick, and if Samsung wants to send me marketing money for that particular bit of inspiration, they know where to find me — is significantly thinner and lighter, so that it can sit in the actual cover part of its case. It’s sadly not supplied with the Galaxy Z Fold5, though, so budget a little extra if you want the S-Stick as well.
However… the Galaxy Z Fold5 is still stuck with the same cameras as last year’s model, and it is still on the pricey side at that. This creates a bit of a dual problem to my way of thinking, because you’re paying the most you can for a Samsung phone by a wide margin, but you’re not getting the best cameras. I have no idea if this is an engineering challenge or just Samsung deciding it doesn’t want to sacrifice any Galaxy S23 sales to the Z Fold5, leaving it as the superior camera phone.
I am still in the camp that prefers the Fold idea to the Flip, however. Which brings me to..
Samsung Z Flip5: The screen’s the thing
Where Samsung hasn’t radically changed the Z Fold5 design, the same isn’t true for the Z Flip5. Sure, it’s also thinner and lighter and all those good things, and it runs on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor, same as the Fold5.
But the real story that Samsung’s going to sell — or at least try to sell — the Galaxy Z Flip5 with is the massive jump in external screen real estate. Out with tiny narrow external windows, in with a much more impressive looking 3.4 inch external display with a choice of 13 widgets to cycle through. In theory, you might never need to open your phone up ever again.
Well… in theory. There’s little doubting that the Z Flip5 is an improvement in this area over the Z Flip4, especially for selfie taking, but here Samsung has competition that may just have beaten them to the punch.
That would be via the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra. It features a 3.6 inch pOLED display that can show slightly fewer widgets… but also full on Android apps.
Yes, as my review showed, they don’t all work that well on a 3.6 inch screen, but it’s a much more flexible approach than Samsung has taken here.
I’m keen to get hands-on with the Z Flip5, and I am totally aware that it’s a more powerful phone than the Razr 40 Ultra… but it feels like the Z Flip5 has its work cut out for it.
Motorola Razr 40 Ultra Review: Exceptional
Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: Shut up and take my money
The spinning selection dial is back on the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
That’s pretty much all Samsung needed to say to get me on board.
Yes, OK, there’s also a less expensive Galaxy Watch 6, and the promise of irregular heart rhythm monitoring when and if it passes TGA approval.
But still, I have a strong passion for that rotating dial approach, which I do genuinely think is the biggest selling point for Samsung’s wearables, hands down.
Galaxy Tab S9: Good looking tablets (for a price)
My time with the new Galaxy devices was limited by a variety of factors, including a ticking clock, and so I spent the least amount of time with the new Tab S9 devices. Samsung’s got a good track record here, but was left with two primary thoughts for the new premium Samsung tablets.
Firstly, it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the Android tablet app problem that I hit with the Pixel Tablet and screen sizes, especially for that massive 13.4 inch model.
Second up, there’s the price points. $1,299, $1,699 and $1,999 respectively is laptop money, and while they’re taking on the iPad Pro in this space — and it’s notable that Samsung doesn’t really have a laptop business in Australia to speak of — that’s also a lot for a tablet.
I’m equally keen to get one in for review (though Samsung hasn’t been keen on me doing so in the past) to see how they fully justify that price point.