I went hands-on with Nubia's $600 foldable — and it could be a genuine Galaxy Z Flip challenger

Nubia Flip 5G part folded, in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We're expecting the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 6 later this year, but while this phone is rumored to be getting some welcome upgrades, it may still resemble its predecessor in many ways, including its $1,000 price. But a phone I just tried at MWC 2024 - the Nubia Flip 5G - promises to do much the same as some of the best foldable phones but for $600 instead.

Nubia is a part of ZTE, a company you may know for its under-display camera tech on the Axon 40 Ultra,  and also its RedMagic-branded gaming phones, like the recent RedMagic 9 Pro. Both of these phones can be purchased in the U.S. via the sub-brands' web stores, meaning this, unlike many other foldable rivals, could be a genuine option for American foldable buyers.

Nubia Flip 5G folded, showing cover display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The price of the Flip 5G starts at $599, although ZTE admits this price could vary in different markets depending on spec differences. The pricing is part of the company's push to market this particular phone to younger users, but from my time with it, there wasn't anything stopping a more mature person from appreciating the phone, other than perhaps the funky wavy purple colorway of the unit I tried out.

Nubia Flip 5G from back, unfolded

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the outside, there's a large round cover screen with widget options, much like the Galaxy Z Flip 5 or Motorola Razr Plus offers. That includes a camera widget for taking selfies with the main cameras, again like rival foldables.

Nubia Flip 5G cover screen camera widget

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Inside, you have a 6.9-inch, 120Hz inner display. The crease is visible and feelable, but not to the extent that it detracts from using the screen. And since the hinge has multi-angle support, you can open the screen however much you need to for a given scenario, another similarity it has with the Galaxy Z Flip series.

Nubia Flip 5G inner display, held in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For photos, the Nubia Flip 5G offers dual 50MP cameras — a main and telephoto combo rather than the more common main/ultrawide pairing for flip foldables. There's also a 16MP selfie camera on the inside for when you've got the phone open too. It's hard to say if the photos will match up to Samsung foldables' generally excellent photography though, since software processing is just as important as sensor size and quality.

Nubia Flip 5G taking a photo

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Running things for the Flip 5G is a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chip, probably the biggest potential weakness compared to other foldables, which, up to now, have tended to use more powerful Snapdragon 8 series chips. However, that is likely a big part of why this foldable is cheaper, and if you don't use demanding apps or play many games, it could be a negligible downside.

Nubia Flip 5G cover screen weather widget

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One other possible advantage the Nubia flip phone could have over its rivals is battery life. It features a 4,310 mAh battery, which beats the capacity of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 by over 600 mAh, and the Razr Plus by over 500 mAh. Battery life is reliant on more than pure cell size, but it's a good sign all the same.

Nubia Flip 5G inner display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

ZTE is also showing off other devices at MWC, like the Focus series of photography phones, and its Z60 Ultra flagship. But Nubia Flip is the most interesting of the bunch. We have flagship and camera phones galore already in Europe and the U.S, but what we don't have many of are foldable phones, especially affordable ones.

If ZTE can start selling this phone quickly (there's currently no announced sale date), then it could catch its rivals unaware before they bring out their own cheaper foldables. There are rumors of Samsung working on cheaper foldables, but rumors don't match up to something you can actually see exits — and happens to look and feel good too.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.