2023 will likely go down as the year of foldable phones, in case the launch of the Motorola Razor Plus, Samsung’s two Galaxy Z models, Google’s Pixel Fold, and the upcoming OnePlus Open (Fold?) hasn’t made that clear already.
But two options stand above the rest if performance and power are what you’re after: the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Google Pixel Fold. They both start at $1,799, transform into 7.6-inch mini-tablets when unfolded, and represent the best that their respective manufacturers have to offer in a foldable form factor.
For me, the two also happen to be the foldables that have accumulated the most pocket time over the past summer, with the Pixel Fold being my daily driver from June to August and the Galaxy Z Fold 5, courtesy of AT&T, taking its place this past month.
I plan to keep it that way, because after test-driving both devices for the long term, one aspect makes the Galaxy Z Fold 5 the clear favorite for me, and I’d argue many others would feel the same.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
The company’s flagship foldable offers high performance in arguably the best phone-to-tablet design.
If you’ve held a foldable phone before — and I’m talking phone-to-tablet style ones — your first impressions may have included some excitement about the design, a bit of curiosity about how to use it, and a whole lot of “Wow, is this thing heavy!” That’s how it’s gone every year when I pass the latest models around the dinner table, and was especially true with the Pixel Fold.
At 283 grams, the Pixel Fold is noticeably heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (252g) and more so when stacked against Apple’s latest iPhone Pro Max model (240g). So I can do basic math. What’s the big deal?
Well, if there’s one thing I learned from using foldable phones all these years, it’s that hand feel is one of the most overlooked aspects of the user experience. It’s easy to get lost in all the multitasking features and immersive viewing that a pocketable tablet can bring, but at the end of the day, these are gadgets that you’ll be holding up for hours a day.
As you lift that device up to scan a map, read the news on a subway, and watch videos at night, the tension and stress that a heavier device puts on your wrist slowly becomes noticeable, and I haven’t even touched on the long-term effects.
From having done all of the above tasks with both the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5, I can confidently say that if a comfortable mobile experience is what you’re after, pick the latter of the two.
In fact the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the first big-screen foldable that didn’t get the “Wow, this is heavy!” remark when it made its rounds at the dinner table, and that was the moment I knew Samsung had something special this year.
Perhaps it’s the new and improved hinge design or the use of lighter yet still durable materials, but the difference in hand feel is night and day compared to the Pixel Fold, and that alone makes the Galaxy Z Fold 5 the $1,799 foldable I’d recommend to shoppers right now. Because if you’re going to splurge on a foldable phone, you should rest assured that hand fatigue won’t be a reason to stop using it.