Should You Upgrade to the Galaxy Z Flip 5? How It Compares to Older Flips
If you have a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 or older, the answer is yes.
Lisa EadiciccoSenior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5, which launched Aug. 11, is the biggest step forward that Samsung's flip phone has taken in years. That's largely thanks to the new cover screen on the outside of the phone, which is significantly larger than in years past. The new outer screen makes it possible to use apps and send text messages without opening the Z Flip, potentially boosting its appeal to first-time buyers of a foldable.
However, for people who already own an older Galaxy Z Flip, is it worth upgrading? The answer largely depends on your budget, priorities and the condition of your phone. The new cover screen makes using the Galaxy Z Flip 5 considerably different from previous models, even compared with last year's Z Flip 4.
But starting at $1,000, Samsung's flip phones don't come cheap. If you bought a Galaxy Z Flip 4 last year and it's still in nice condition, you can feel good about hanging onto it for another year or two. However, with carriers essentially giving away the Galaxy Z Flip 5 through trade-in offers, upgrading to Samsung's new flip phone also isn't a bad idea.
Here's a look at how the Galaxy Z Flip 5 compares to previous generations, to help you decide whether it's worth the upgrade. If you do decide to upgrade, be sure to see if you qualify for a trade-in offer. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are all offering big trade-in discounts, which could enable you to snag a Z Flip 5 for free.
Watch this: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 Review: Flip Phones Are Cool Again
Galaxy Z Flip 5 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 4
The biggest difference between the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is the new model's cover screen. The Z Flip 5's external display measures 3.4 inches, making it almost the size of the iPhone 4's screen, while the Z Flip 4's outer display is 1.9 inches.
The Z Flip 5's cover screen dramatically expands what you can do on the Z Flip without opening it. Though you can still see notifications and check the time or your calendar on the Z Flip 4's cover screen, the Galaxy Z Flip 5's display is big enough for typing texts, watching YouTube and looking up directions on Google Maps. You'll likely want to open the phone for most tasks, but having the option to read a notification or send a message easily with one hand is surprisingly useful.
It feels like a middle ground between a smartwatch and a smartphone. The screen is larger and easier to see than the wrist-size display on a watch, but it still fits in the palm of your hand, unlike a standard phone.
The other major change in the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is its new processor. Samsung's latest flip phone runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, the same chip that powers the Galaxy S23 lineup. This brings subtle improvements to the image processing, resulting in better photos, and it also helps battery life. And you'll get more storage at the base level, which could be important to consider if you're currently using a 128GB Galaxy Z Flip 4.
Samsung has also improved the Z Flip's design with the newest generation by giving it a hinge that lets it fold completely flat when shut. So, there's no longer a gap near the hinge when the device is closed, making it feel more compact.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 Looks Chic With Its New Cover Display
The bottom line: Annual phone upgrades usually aren't very dramatic, but the Galaxy Z Flip 5's bigger cover screen makes it the rare exception. This, combined with the additional storage in the cheaper model, the new hinge, and the minor improvements to camera and battery life, actually make it a compelling year-over-year upgrade. But if you aren't rushing to embrace a bigger external screen, don't qualify for a trade-in deal, and your Z Flip 4 is in good condition, I'd recommend waiting. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 should still have plenty of life in it, since it's only a year old.
Galaxy Z Flip 5 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3
Samsung's 2-year-old Flip phone has a lot in common with the Z Flip 4. But since the Galaxy Z Flip 3 runs on an older processor and has a smaller battery than the Z Flip 4, you'll have plenty to gain by upgrading to the Z Flip 5. Not only are you getting that significantly larger cover screen, but you should also see notable gains in battery life, thanks to the Z Flip 5's new chip and larger battery (3,700 mAh capacity versus 3,300 mAh on the Z Flip 3). Plus, the new hinge makes the Z Flip 5 feel sleeker than the Z Flip 3 when closed.
Samsung hasn't noticeably changed other aspects of the Galaxy Z Flip in recent years. The newest model still has a 12-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 10-megapixel selfie camera. But the new processor should bring some improvements to image processing, especially now that the Z Flip 3's chip is about two years old.
Still, if you're happy with your Z Flip 3 and don't qualify for a trade-in offer, you'll be safe holding onto it for another year. Samsung provides five years of security updates and four generations of Android version updates, so your device shouldn't feel out of date just yet. Since the Z Flip 3 came out in 2021, it should get new Android version updates until 2025.
The bottom line: When it comes to whether you should upgrade, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 falls right in the middle. The changes in the Galaxy Z Flip 5 are significant enough to justify upgrading. But Samsung's third-generation Flip also isn't so old that you're missing out on staple features, like water resistance, Android version upgrades or 5G.
Galaxy Z Flip 5 vs. 2020 Galaxy Z Flip (original and 5G model)
Samsung launched two Galaxy Z Flip models in 2020. There's the original version, which debuted in February, and a second model with 5G and a newer chip that came out just a few months later, in August. If you have either of these Z Flips, you can feel good about upgrading. Both phones are roughly three years old, meaning they may be starting to feel sluggish, and the battery life likely isn't what it used to be.
Beyond the basics, like better performance and battery life, there's a lot to gain from upgrading. The Z Flip 5's cover screen will feel even more significant, since the first two models had an even smaller outer display than the Z Flip 3 and Z Flip 4. The tiny screen on the outside of the first two Z Flips measured 1.1 inches, making it just barely large enough to see the time and battery level. Both phones also have smaller batteries than the Z Flip 5 and lack water resistance. And remember, the model that launched in February doesn't even support 5G.
If they haven't already, these phones are also likely to stop receiving Android version updates soon. Samsung extended its software update policy to include four generations of Android updates in 2021, meaning the first Z Flips were only guaranteed to get three generations of upgrades.
The bottom line: If you have a 2020-era Galaxy Z Flip, it's time to upgrade. Just about everything on the Z Flip 5 will feel new, from the massive cover screen to the longer battery life to the improved design.