The Galaxy Z Flip range is the most popular of Samsung’s foldable line-up, and until the Motorola Razr+ launched in June, Samsung had no real competition in Western markets. However, the Razr+ provides credible competition and a different thought process for the larger front display.
I’ve used the Galaxy Z Flip 5 for the past week, and while it’s a fantastic phone in its own right, there are a few ways Samsung can improve the experience in a future software update.
Accessing notifications from anywhere
One of the key benefits of the front display is the prominence of notifications, so you don’t need to use the main display. The Motorola Razr+ allows you to triage and action notifications and ensures the notification tray is available from anywhere on the Cover Display just by swiping down from the top of the screen.
Samsung needs a significantly better approach than the one it is currently using. Rather than ensure you can access notifications from anywhere, the Flex Window on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 forces you to return to the main display and swipe to the left to access the dedicated notifications pane.
The result is that opening the phone and using the larger main display, rather than the more easily accessible exterior display, is faster and more intuitive. This defeats one of the key reasons a consumer would buy a foldable device with an exterior display.
Like any company, Samsung wants to ensure the adoption of its products and services over the competition. We’ve seen this with the number of Samsung alternatives to capable Google apps preloaded on Galaxy phones, but choosing only to support its keyboard on the Flip 5’s Flex Window is a mistake.
The average consumer might not know that they can change the keyboard on their phone, but with more than 5 billion downloads of Gboard and over 1 billion SwiftKey, there’s an obvious demand for alternative keyboards. As a power user, one of my biggest complaints about the Razr+ is that it only supports Gboard on the front display – and I’ve been a loyal SwiftKey user for over ten years.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 goes further in the wrong direction: it only supports the Samsung keyboard. There isn’t a technical cause – as Gboard works flawlessly on the Razr+ – but it forces you to use an objectively worse keyboard app. This suits Samsung’s objectives (increasing adoption of its products), but I seldom use the keyboard on the Flip 5’s Flex Window, which is in stark contrast to the Razr+, where I use the Cover Display more than the main display.
Better App support
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 can technically run any app on the front display, but Samsung has limited the process to provide a more curated experience. The Verge suggests you don’t want to scroll Instagram on a screen this small, but that’s precisely why I love the Razr+: it feels like a small phone, rather than the enhanced smartwatch experience on the Galaxy Z Flip 5.
The apps panel on the Motorola Razr+ allows you to easily add any app on your phone with a tap or two. In comparison, you can easily run messaging apps, Google Maps, or YouTube on the Flip 5, but for anything else, you need to download Good Lock (and a module called MultiStar) from the Galaxy App Store.
Most Flip 5 owners won’t go through this hassle or may not even realize that it is possible to enable this function, but it shouldn’t be something we have to do in the first place.
Where the Flip 5 gets it seriously right
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover display does many things exceptionally well. It features an Always On Display (AOD), offering valuable information at a glance; Samsung’s widgets are handy and take advantage of the larger display, and you can heavily customize the colors to personalize your Galaxy Z Flip 5.
The preloaded widgets showcase the possibilities of the front display, and rather than providing snippets of information like the Motorola Razr+, the Flip 5’s widgets feel intuitive.
For example, the weather widget is fantastic as it shows the current weather, and you can scroll down for next week’s forecast. Similarly, the calendar widget shows your daily schedule and lets you tap events to see the full details.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is also better at a hardware level than the Razr+. It’s more durable, extremely well-built, and even survived a 6-foot drop onto concrete.
With a few tweaks in the software, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 could be significantly better, so here’s hoping that Samsung borrows some inspiration from its chief competitor. Even if most regular users won’t need these tweaks, there’s little reason that Samsung shouldn’t still make them available.