I didn’t get the hype around foldable phones, but the Galaxy Z Fold 5 changed my mind — here's why

Galaxy Z Fold 5
(Image credit: Future)

Foldable phones have been one of the latest trends in smartphone design, with most major companies working to release some form of "foldable" device. We've seen some of the best foldable phones from Samsung, Motorola and even Google. There are (of course) rumors that Apple has been looking into a so-called iPhone Flip, but the company's first foray into foldable devices could actually start with a foldable screen Mac.

Recently I wrote about how the Galaxy Z Fold 6 could be the device that will change my mind about foldable phones. There were rumored aspects of the phone that piqued my interest, but I still had concerns. And while the Galaxy Z Fold 6 hasn't been released yet, I did manage to get my hands on a Galaxy Z Fold 5 for the last week. Has using it convinced me about the promise of foldables, or are some of my concerns still valid?

The screen size makes using the phone as a media device much better

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 viewing Barbie trailer

(Image credit: Future)

One of the main draws in my mind was the bigger screen offered by foldable phones. We have seen phone screens get bigger and bigger, but they mostly retain the same rectangular shape and still feel small. I thought the larger screen would make watching videos more engaging than the smaller screen of a normal phone.

Having used the Galaxy Z Fold 5 I can say that, for the most part, I was correct in my assumption. For one thing, the bigger screen does make watching YouTube videos better. It also makes streaming services on phones more viable in my eyes. I always hated watching Netflix or Disney+ on the smaller screen, but I have no issue with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Honestly, it has gotten to the point where I can’t watch anything on my iPhone 14 Pro Max anymore without noticing how relatively compact the screen is versus Samsung's foldable. 

The screen makes gaming and typing better (once you get used to them)

Galaxy Z Fold 5 gaming

(Image credit: Future)

Another issue that I've found recently is typing on a smaller screen is getting progressively harder. 

I imagined that having a larger screen would lessen that difficulty. For the most part, I was correct, and typing on the larger screen was much easier. However, it took me a while to get used to it, as it does require slightly different hand movements to get the best out of the screen. I should also point out that the front-facing screen is too small for me to ever text on it, which is a problem.

Gaming is, likewise, mostly improved when it works. The issue is that many apps I use daily aren’t well-optimized for the foldable screen. For instance, Twitch would often hide the chat or make the keyboard so big you couldn’t see what you were typing. Some games seem to have had the same issue with a few of them resorting to massive black bars to cover the screen, instead of increasing the actual size of the app. 

 The ability to move apps around is great 

Three-app split screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One feature offered by the Galaxy Z Fold 5 that I had never considered appealing was the ability to split the apps on the screen. Honestly, I hadn't realized how useful such a concept was until I got my hands on it. I ended up taking the phone to my local table-top gaming club and using it to have both the army app and the rules on one screen, both of which were big enough to see without any issues.

This kind of functionality would entice me to any device, and it's one that phone developers should be looking to add more of. I know the OnePlus Open lets users shift the individual sizes of the apps on the screen to their preference. Unfortunately, the Z Fold 5 doesn’t offer that level of customization, but the feature is still welcome. 

 The cameras and the AI additions are great 

Galaxy Z Fold 5 camera

(Image credit: Future)

For a bit of pretext, I have never owned a Samsung before but I did work as an engineer at the company for a while. This means most of my knowledge about Samsung phones is more hardware and repair-based, instead of practical, everyday use. So you can imagine my surprise when I got to try out the camera and the editing on the Galaxy Z Fold 5. I expected to have some fun, but the quality is genuinely amazing — especially the zoom features. 

Adding to this is how easy it was to edit my pictures, especially on a larger screen. Recently, Samsung brought a lot of the Galaxy S24's editing features to some of the other models with the One UI 6.1 update. Those features are handy, including zooming into the photo and accurately circling objects in each picture, and then removing them seamlessly was fantastic. Honestly, it wasn’t a feature I thought would be a big thing for me but I was happily surprised.

It isn't all perfect 

Galaxy Z Fold 5 with S Pen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For the most part, my experience with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has been good, and I’m excited to keep trying it out and finding new things but some issues need to be addressed. Firstly, the size of the phone when it is folded is a bit much, at least when it comes to thickness. I found it uncomfortable to have in my pocket, and even to hold.

I also found that, while watching things was better on the bigger screen, that only really came about when I bought a case with a stand. Honestly, I think it might have been better if the phone came with an a built-in stand, although that seems to be the goal of the new foldable screens shown off at MWC 2024

Another issue I found was the crease in the screen where it folds. It wasn’t always noticeable, but when you caught the phone at the wrong angle it suddenly became more of an issue. It doesn’t ruin the experience exactly, but it is there and certainly should be addressed in future phones. 

 The bottom line

The real question is: has this experience convinced me to buy a foldable phone? I think the answer is yes, except for one caveat. Foldable phones are great and offer a lot to the right user, but to get the best out of them is expensive. For one thing, the device alone is nearly $1,799, but you'll also need a case and ideally an S pen. 

If you have the money to spend then yes, a foldable phone is worth your time. These phones have a lot to offer and exceed their contemporaries in several areas. However, there are some issues that it is worth being aware of. I don't know if the Galaxy Z Fold 6 will solve these, but I hope it does.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.