Upcoming Galaxy Z Flip 6 faces a real challenge this year — how will Samsung respond?

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 review photos.
(Image credit: Future)

If it's possible to feel nervous on behalf of smartphones, you'd have to feel some sympathy anxiety for the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 6. When this flip phone-style foldable arrives later this year, it's going to face a much more competitive landscape than any previous Z Flip model ever had to contend with. The pressure will be on for the new model to leap to the head of the class among the best foldable phones.

It wasn't always like this. Samsung phones used to be the gold standard when it came to foldables, even if that was primarily due to the fact that it was the only phone maker seeming capable of building a decent folding phone. The Galaxy Z Flip in particular stood out for its eye-catching design and compact form. It also helped that the Flip was the first foldable to cost less than $1,000 — a key milestone in a world where larger foldable phones like the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold still command $,1799 prices.

But other device makers started muscling in on Samsung's foldable phone dominance, with the Flip facing particularly formidable competition. Samsung's offering is no longer the best iteration of a foldable flip phone — Motorola has that locked down for now — so you can bet that all eyes will be on the Galaxy Z Flip 6 to see if it can retake the title.

Galaxy Z Flip 5 meets the competition

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 vs Motorola Razr+ faceoff comparison.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 (left) and Motorola Razr Plus (right) (Image credit: Future)

The glow started coming off the Galaxy Flip last year when the Motorola Razr Plus arrived on the scene. This was the first flip phone to really show up Samsung's foldable by outlasting the Galaxy Z Flip 4 on a charge and including a larger cover display that proved far more useful than the Flip's 1.9-inch exterior strip. It may have been a coincidence that the Galaxy Z Flip 5 adopted a larger cover display of its own when it arrived a few months after the Razr Plus, but it was quite clear Samsung's phone was no longer the undisputed leader in this category.

The second part of Motorola's one-two punch arrived toward the end of the year in the form of the Motorola Razr (2023). This was Motorola's budget-conscious Razr, available for $300 less than the Galaxy Z Flip 5. But don't let the price fool you — the Razr was no cut-rate foldable.

In our Motorola Razr (2023) vs. Galaxy Z Flip 5 face-off, Samsung's phone won — but just barely. The Razr boasted the better design and lasted nearly an hour longer on our battery test. While the Galaxy Z Flip 5 took better photos, they weren't substantially better — certainly not enough to justify paying $300 more for Samsung's foldable. Ultimately, the Galaxy Z Flip 5's better chipset and superior screen pushed it ahead of the less expensive Razr, but for Samsung, the comparisons were clearly too close for comfort.

And it's not going to get any easier for Samsung and the Galaxy Flip. Another Motorola Razr Plus will doubtlessly arrive at some point this year to challenge the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and its successor on the high end. And even cheaper foldables could be in the works, like the Nubia Flip 5G we saw at MWC 2024 last month. The Nubia flip phone starts at $599 — even less than the Motorola Razr (2023) — and once it ships, it could wind up being a viable low-cost alternative for people who find the Flip's price too much.

Galaxy Z Flip 5 flaws exposed

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 review photos.

(Image credit: Future)

None of this is to convince you that the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a bad phone. We appreciated the addition of the bigger Flex window as well as the redesign that got rid of the gap that existed when you tried to snap shut previous models. If you buy the Galaxy Z Flip 5, you're going to end up with a fine phone.

But the arrival of serious competitors to the Galaxy Z Flip has highlighted the areas that Samsung needs to work on for future foldables. Alternatives like the Razr mean Samsung can't afford to coast when it comes to the Galaxy Z Flip 6 and beyond.

Take the cameras on the current model for example. They certainly produce good photos, but the hardware hasn't changed from previous models, with a pair of 12MP sensors serving as your main and ultrawide cameras. Instead of more megapixels — or even a dedicated telephoto camera — Samsung has relied on improvements to AI and photo processing to help the Flip produce better photos than previous generations. You can be excused for wondering how long that approach can continue to work.

Samsung has also made strides in getting the Galaxy Z Flip to last longer on a charge — the Z Flip 5 improved on the Z Flip 4's battery test result by about an hour, which is no small feat. But the Galaxy Z Flip 5 just manages to match the average battery test results for the smartphones we've reviewed — other foldable phones top that figure.

Can the Galaxy Z Flip 6 fight back?

Galaxy Z Flip 6 2nd render

(Image credit: SmartPrix & @OnLeaks)

You have to figure that both cameras and battery life are high on the list of things Samsung will focus on with the Galaxy Z Flip 6, which we're expecting to see in late summer if the phone maker's usual foldable phone release schedule is anything to go by. And early Galaxy Z Flip 6 rumors are very promising, particularly on the camera front.

Early rumors point to Samsung possibly turning to a 50MP camera for the next Galaxy Flip. Presumably, that would be the phone's main camera just as the Galaxy S24 features a 50MP sensor for its main camera. 

The upgrade would mean sharper, more detailed shots for the Galaxy Z Flip 6. It could also, in theory, be a workaround for the lack of a dedicated telephoto lens on the flip phone. Other camera phones like the iPhone 15 use a high-resolution sensor to crop in on a subject, effectively creating a 2x optical zoom. Could Samsung adopt a similar approach with the Galaxy Z Flip 6? The rumored camera improvement would certainly allow it.

Samsung's hands may be tied in some respects when it comes to boosting battery life — there's only so much space inside the compact phone for including a larger battery. But the Galaxy Z Flip 6 will likely feature a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, and that Qualcomm silicon delivers outstanding power management features. It's no coincidence that all three S24 models we've tested that run on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 also landed on the best phone battery life list for posting 13-hour-plus results on our battery test.

Samsung is rumored to be working on other improvements as well that could re-establish the Galaxy Z Flip as the flip phone-style foldable to get. The cover screen on the Z Flip 6 could be even larger than the 3.4-inch panel on the Z Flip 5 — think 3.9 inches, according to one rumor. And Samsung may be looking at ways to make the Galaxy Z Flip 6 more durable than its predecessor, addressing a persistent concern about foldable phones.

Galaxy Z Flip 6 outlook

Even with the possibility of an earlier-than-usual launch for Samsung's next foldables, there's plenty of time for more Galaxy Z Flip 6 rumors to emerge, giving us a better look at how this year's version will be an improvement over previous models. And Samsung needs to deliver on those improvements — these days, there are a growing number of foldable flip phones to turn to if the Galaxy Z Flip doesn't impress.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.