The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 sounds super-boring — but this one thing could save it

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 render half folded
(Image credit: OnLeaks / Smartprix)

Samsung has been the king on our best foldable phones list for a while, though it wasn't just because it made good phones. Samsung’s Galaxy Z series was mostly unopposed in the American market, with the only competition coming from sporadic Motorola Razr releases. You’d forgive Samsung for being a little bit complacent.

Unfortunately, things have changed. Samsung isn’t the only foldable phonemaker on the block, thanks to the Google Pixel Fold and upcoming OnePlus Open. And that means the company could be in a serious bind because the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 sounds about as exciting as a slice of white bread. 

If all those rumors about the Z Fold 5’s hardware are true, then there’s only one thing Samsung can do to stay competitive — start slashing prices so fast it would put ‘80s horror villains to shame.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 rumors paint a very bland picture

Alleged renders of the Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: SnoopyTech)

In the early days the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 rumors were rather exciting. Back then there was no limit on what the upcoming foldable might have in store, with rumors alleging features like a 108MP main camera and IP58 dust and water resistance could be on the way.

Both of those things would be pretty major upgrades for Samsung’s flagship foldable. A 108MP camera isn’t quite as impressive as the S23 Ultra’s 200MP lens, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the 50MP lens in the Z Fold 4 — especially if it could produce photos as well as the 108MP S22 Ultra. Similarly, no Samsung foldable has had an official IP rating against dust ingress in the past — and those foreign particles have caused issues on past devices.

Instead those rumors have fizzled. Recent claims say that the Z Fold 5 will lack a formal dust protection rating and will have the same camera hardware as the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Frankly, it’s now at the point where the Galaxy Z Fold 5 feels like one of the world’s laziest upgrades. To the point where sources from within Samsung are said to be throwing shade at the device

One source even went so far as to state that the upgrades are so meager that you couldn’t call the device the Galaxy Z Fold 4S.

Right now the only major rumor that hasn’t been refuted in some shape or form is the inclusion of Samsung’s new “waterdrop” hinge. This hinge is reportedly 50% more durable than previous hinges, rated to 300,000 folds instead of 200,000, as well as being lighter and thinner than before. 

The hinge’s main focus will apparently be to reduce the appearance of the display crease, offering a larger crease that’s also much shallower — and thus harder to see. Recent photos also suggest the hinge will feature a gapless design.

But, no matter how advanced the hinge might be, or how impressive it may be to design and engineering nerds, it isn’t particularly exciting. This isn’t the kind of feature that’s going to sell many phones. Neither is the inclusion of a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, despite the potential to improve performance and battery life.

The Z Fold 5’s success lies with the price

A leak-based render of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: Technizo Concept / Super Roader)

Boring phone updates are not unheard of. There have been countless examples of phones coming out more or less identical to their predecessors — with only a few minor changes to differentiate them. Just look at the iPhone 14 vs iPhone 13. The question of whether people will accept that change lies in how much the phone actually costs.

The only thing worse than a phone with few solid upgrades is being expected to pay a premium for it.

The iPhone 14 is a great example, having launched for the same $799 price tag as the iPhone 13 — and was met with widespread mockery for the lack of upgrades. Worse still, the iPhone 13’s price dropped almost immediately, and to this day we still recommend the phone as a cheaper alternative to the iPhone 14. 

Really the only way to make a weak upgrade more palatable is to ensure that the phone is priced accordingly. Or, to put it another way, make sure it’s cheaper than whatever came before. Because the only thing worse than a phone with few solid upgrades is being expected to pay a premium for it.

Paying less is an entirely different story, especially if you’re offered a pretty sizable discount. Whether it would be enough to prompt owners of past Galaxy Z Fold devices is debatable, but it would certainly make the Z Fold 5 more enticing for those of us who still use a regular non-folding phone.

The issue is that we don’t really know what’s going on with the Z Fold 5’s price tag in the U.S. There have been rumors that Samsung may reduce the price this year, but another leak claims the phone will experience a €100 price hike in Europe. That doesn’t guarantee a U.S. price hike is imminent, but it doesn’t bode well either.

A high price combined with bland upgrades is only going to drive people away from the Z Fold 5 — and potentially push them towards a competing device. The Google Pixel Fold is already proving to be an exceptional foldable, knocking the Z Fold 4 off the top of our best foldable phones list, and rocking the same $1,799 price tag.

The OnePlus Open hasn’t arrived yet, but considering OnePlus’s track record of offering premium features for a slightly lower price than most, Samsung ought to be worried. Especially if the Z Fold 5 is as boring as the rumors make out.

Bottom line

Given what we know about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, it certainly feels as though Samsung has got a little complacent. It’s understandable to a point, given the relative lack of competition and the fact major competitors never seemed to materialize. But those rivals are no longer whispers on the grape vine, they’re very real products hell bent on taking Samsung’s crown.

Assuming these rumors are accurate, and Samsung hasn’t kept the Z Fold 5’s biggest secrets off the internet, the only thing it can do is make sure the phone is priced as aggressively as possible. If only to ensure the Z Fold brand is kept afloat until next year — and the rumored design overhaul. If it’s not, then Samsung may be handing over its advantage to Google and OnePlus on a platter. 

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.