Samsung foldables for 2023 are boring – that can’t happen again


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    Foldables are still a rather new technology, but just a few generations in, things have gotten a bit boring and iterative. Last year’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 were only slight improvements over their predecessors, but each upgrade felt meaningful in a world where Samsung wasn’t facing much competition.

    The Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5, though, are just boring on the whole. There are only two major upgrades happening. The Flip 5 has a new cover display, which is admittedly a big deal, and both foldables have a new hinge design that improves the hardware overall. And, really, this is not a bad thing.

    Samsung’s foldable hardware has gone basically unchallenged outside of China for the past few years, and even in 2023, there’s really not much in terms of alternatives. The other options that do exist – Pixel Fold, Motorola Razr+, and the upcoming OnePlus Open – currently don’t have the same experience or polish that Samsung’s hardware has under its belt.

    The Galaxy Z Flip 5 brings the improvement we’ve all been waiting for – a big cover display – and places it on what was already a great flip phone. The original Flip was a slightly gaudy device with a tiny outer display, but the Flip 3 upgraded that with a less flashy look, a more useful display, and improvements to battery life and the hardware. Flip 4 then brought even further refinements to that, and now, the Flip 5 gets to use that foundation to introduce the big cover display.

    The Galaxy Z Fold series has been especially iterative in a field that’s ripe for improvements. The move from the original Fold to the Fold 2 was big. The outer screen became more useful, and Samsung delivered real durability improvements. From Fold 2 to Fold 3, the company added water resistance and S Pen support, which were also major upgrades. From Fold 3 to Fold 4, tweaks were much more minor, with some slight hardware changes and a new main camera. But, really, even with that the upgrade started to feel rather boring. And now, with Fold 4 to Fold 5, the sole difference is the hinge, which feels rather minor in the larger context of Oppo, Google, Honor, and others pushing the boundaries with better outer displays, incredibly thin designs, and more.

    Google’s Pixel Fold is still thinner than the Galaxy Z Fold 5.

    The Flip 5 and Fold 5 don’t change much, but they continue to improve what is the best foldable that most people can buy today, and improving on the same proven formula means Samsung can reliably keep producing these devices. But this same iterative situation can’t keep going.

    Samsung can’t do this again next year.

    Google and Motorola opened the door to real competition in the US foldable market, and the Pixel Fold and Razr+ both have genuine advantages over even Samsung’s newer hardware. OnePlus is also set to bring Oppo’s two years of masterful foldable experience to the States in the “OnePlus Open.” And beyond that, it’s likely we’ll see even more names bringing foldables to the global market as this year goes on.

    2023 has been the first real year of competition for foldables everywhere, and while Samsung can coast on its established success for this generation, 2024 needs to be when the company steps up. The Galaxy Z Fold 6 needs to go all out on hardware changes, and the Flip 6, I feel, really needs to work on the camera and its display crease. Will that happen? It’s hard to say for sure, but surely things can’t be quite so boring for a third year in a row – right?

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