Saturday, April 13, 2024
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How a few small changes made me love the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 held in both hands.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is far from an open-and-shut case. On the surface, it successfully deludes us by appearing to be a minimal upgrade over the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Other than a more powerful processor and improved cameras, you barely see something intriguingly new when you compare the two phones’ specs sheets. In real life, too, it is difficult to tell the two phones apart — unless you’re closely observing the gap around the crease.

But what’s inside makes the Galaxy Z Fold 5 a considerable upgrade over its predecessors. The small changes go a long way and offer an experience unmatched by previous smartphones in Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold series.

Small changes have a big impact

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Flex hinge improvements.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

What I’m talking about is Samsung’s new “Flex” hinge mechanism. Instead of forming a crease, the new hinge wraps the folding display in a droplet shape. In turn, this leads to a tinier gap between the two faces.

The experience goes beyond visual subtleties as the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s hinge feels reinvented on a whole new experiential level. Besides reducing the gap between the two faces, the improved mechanism makes the hinge much smoother than on the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Therefore, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 requires much less effort to open and close, especially when the angle is less than 90 degrees.

The improvements over the Fold 4 are almost immediately observable — and appreciated, especially since a critical part of using any folding phone is the extra mechanical endeavor to open and shut the phone multiple times throughout the day. A smoother hinge for a folding phone is absolutely critical because the ceaseless opening and closing can feel tedious — and can deter many people from actually switching to a folding phone.

Why using the Galaxy Z Fold 4 felt tedious

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Galaxy Z Fold 4, showing the gapless closure.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

For me, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is more advantageous from a perspective of durability. The smoother hinge and, therefore, the improved ease of opening the Fold 5 facilities a sense of assurance that the Fold 4 lacked — it even discouraged me from using it as my long-term device.

I found it arduous to open the Galaxy Z Fold 4; the opening mechanism felt more rigid, and the two sides would often snap shut during an attempt to open it. Trying to open the Fold 4 with sweaty or wet hands would almost always result in a tiring tussle — and often required multiple tries before I could exert the correct pressure at the ideal point on the phone’s frame to open it.

While toiling to open it, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 would sometimes slip out of my hands, giving me mini heart attacks. These experiences, although insignificant in isolation, compounded and resulted in an aversion to using the phone altogether.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 opening mechanism.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

This specifically applied to the Fold 4 — and not the Galaxy Z Flip 4, which sat more firmly in the hand and didn’t feel too difficult to open despite a similarly firm hinge. The perceived stiffness of the Fold 4’s hinge was primarily due to how the phone is meant to be opened.

While opening the Z Flip, the top half is rotated while the bottom remains planted within the palm. For the Z Fold, however, force is applied on both faces simultaneously to open them into a wider device — similar to opening a book.

A lighter, more convenient build

Reading from Kindle app on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 held in one hand.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Besides the hinge, a thinner and lighter form factor adds to the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s allure. On paper, the Fold 5 is 0.2mm thinner than the Fold 4 when unfolded. But when folded back, the changes in dimensions do not directly add up for both faces. The Fold 5 is 0.8mm thinner than the Fold 4 (at its thinnest point, i.e., away from the hinge). However, eliminating the gap significantly reduces the thickness at the hinge, streamlining it by 2.4mm.

While these changes in the submillimeter range may not immediately grab your attention at the end away from the hinge, the edge along the hinge feels instantly thinner and easier to hold and use. The convenience is especially felt when using the Galaxy Z Fold 5 with one hand in the folded orientation.

On top of that, Samsung has managed to shrink the weight of the Fold 5 by 10 grams. It still weighs 253 grams, which is unquestionably hefty — especially in the folded position — compared to slab phones. Even so, it’s considerably lighter than other sideways folding phones, such as the Google Pixel Fold, which is 30 grams heavier. Combined with the improvements while carrying the phone, the shaved-off mass not only alleviates physical force on your palm, but also constant uneasiness about wanting to keep the phone secure.

The improved build also makes it a lot less tiring to use the Galaxy Z Fold 5 for longer stretches of time.

The safer ideal

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 in a TPU bumper case.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Besides Samsung’s contribution to improving the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s handling, I have also found respite by using a case with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. While it does add noticeable bulk and thickness to the phone (and seriously hinders navigation gestures on the already narrow cover screen), it blesses me with additional peace of mind. Further, most cases are made of a flexible plastic-like material called TPU, which has a better grip (thanks to more friction) than the bare aluminum frame, aiding in opening the phone.

Fortunately, the same solution applies to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 if you already have that phone — or find it at a more attractive price a year after its launch.

What Samsung needs to do for the Fold 6

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 rear panels.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The improved sense of handling does not fully address all durability concerns about the Galaxy Z Fold 5, especially when it comes to keeping foreign substances from creeping into the phone. Currently, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 — as well as the Galaxy Z Flip 5 — only offer water resistance. Even the latest Samsung foldables lack protection against dust or other solids like lint or sand that might get caught up between the display when the phone is folded — or worse, sneak under the hinge mechanism. These issues aren’t specific to the Galaxy Z Fold or Flip, but apply generally to all foldable devices and are among the primary reasons many people stray from the form factor.

Samsung is reportedly working to add dust resistance to its foldable in the near future, although it refrains from targeting a clear timeline or generation to receive these improvements. Following the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s launch in Korea earlier this year, Samsung’s head of mobile business, TM Roh, said that the company is aware of consumers’ demand for dust resistance on foldables, which is difficult to achieve due to multiple moving parts.

Citing how the earliest Fold also lacked water resistance, Roh assured customers that the feature will arrive in the coming generations.

My love for the Galaxy Z Fold 5 grows

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 cover sreen selfies.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

With each passing year and shinier upgrades, our beloved smartphones get smarter, swankier, and rife with features we didn’t know we wanted. But in this race to craft the finest piece of technology, durability remains a concern that’s far from addressed. Meanwhile, the intersection between durable and elegant phones has become even more nonexistent than before.

While luxury artifacts are seldom analyzed from an angle of durability, the rule cannot apply to utility wares such as expensive phones. Despite being an exquisite engineering marvel, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is bound to face constant adversities that will force you to consider its durability.

Since it is a phone that many of us can’t afford to drop, I’m grateful the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s smoother hinge mitigates my concerns to a significant degree. The requirement of lesser force to open or close the phone, in turn, ensures better handling of the Fold 5 and fewer possibilities of applying too much or too little pressure while opening or closing it. These improvements finally gave me the courage to use it as my primary phone. I have been using it since the first week of August and can safely say that I cherish the ease of opening it every single day.

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