To date, a lot of the focus on foldable phones has been on their style and fashion sense. You’d want a foldable phone, the marketing suggested, because it would look super slick when you pulled it out of your pocket on the train or in the club. The meeting room? Less so, it seems.
Now, Samsung has launched new models of its foldable and flip phones — the Galaxy Z Flip5 and Galaxy Z Fold5 — along with new Galaxy Tab S9 tablets. So my question is this. Could these new foldables make the jump from chic accessory to true business tool?
The answer? Well, it’s complicated.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 for business
Much of Samsung’s marketing for the Z Fold5 focuses on consumers. You’ll find extremely pretty people playing games, for instance. But the above image suggests that Samsung has at least half an eye on business scenarios. That could easily be a sketch by an industrial designer.
It’s a little thing, but Samsung has also got a new case cover for the Fold5 that incorporates a new, considerably flatter S Pen. (We think she’s holding it.)
Really, it’s more of an S Stick at this size, but it’s an S Stick that significantly reduces the bulk of the Fold5 overall. That smaller size footprint has clearly been a focus for Samsung this year.
Then we come to the enhanced power in the new Z line. The Z Fold5, Z Flip5 and the new Tab S9 tablets all run on Qualcomm’s current most powerful processor: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 For Galaxy SoC. That’s the same enhanced chip that purrs away in Samsung’s Galaxy S23 phones, released earlier this year.
While in my brief hands-on with the Fold5 I couldn’t benchmark performance, I really didn’t need to. I’ve seen what the S23 phones can all do, and that’s some serious work.
What’s interesting about the Fold5 is that it solves an issue for recent flagship phones. They’re all plenty powerful enough, but in that sportscar way where there’s often not a lot of purpose to the power they have.
But the Fold5, like its predecessors, has an extra Samsung software tweak that could not only make it a good match for mobile business purposes but also utilise all that power. For the Fold5 expands out into a 7.6in tablet with better multitasking and multi-window displays that any other Android phone I’ve tested in that way. And that expanded screen brings with it distinct possibilities for mobile workers.
Take notes during meetings. Respond to an email whilst keeping the original message in view. Consume a lengthy report (and annotate directly on it). The possibilities stretch on and on.
Now combine that extra, flexible screen space with the power of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, and you have a genuine productivity booster.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 for business
Then we come to the Z Flip5… and the arguments for its business applications are trickier. The above Samsung promo material is the closest we could find (the rest major on selfies).
I’m not suggesting the Galaxy Z Flip5 isn’t attractive. It’s slimmer, it’s got a 3.4in external display for widgets, and it uses the same powerful Qualcomm chip as the Fold5.
However from a productivity sense, at least based on my early hands-on time with the Z Flip5, I couldn’t help but feel that Motorola’s gotten there first with the Razr 40 Ultra. See my video review below.
The Razr 40 Ultra (or Razr+ in some markets) is a less powerful phone, but also one that’s slightly cheaper. Critically, it also allows Android apps to run on its external screen, not just widgets.
Samsung is going to be stuck convincing app makers to produce useful widgetised versions of their apps, where Motorola can make the business case that an app that can survive being shrunk a little is an app that doesn’t even need an unfolded phone.
But Samsung does have something up its sleeve…
Extra DeXterity could be Samsung’s secret weapon (that we already know about)
Samsung’s not-so-secret weapon – because it’s been on Samsung phones for a few generations now – is its DeX platform.
DeX is Samsung’s take on a productive mobile desktop UI, connecting wired or wirelessly to PCs, Macs and Miracast-compatible smart TVs and displays.
Early on, DeX felt clunky, because it was early software and the processors of the time were strained to breaking point by its demands. With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 on board, that may not be a problem any more.
The canned demos that Samsung showed me of DeX making the Fold5 a “computer in your pocket” were just that – canned, pre-planned demos – but there’s absolutely some promise here if you only wanted to carry a phone-shaped device as your one business tool.
DeX is a play for a wider Samsung ecosystem, because it’s also part of the newer Galaxy Tab S9 series. Here, Samsung is taking on Apple’s impressive iPad Pro line in size, features and price points. It’s trying to make the tablet an essential business or creative professional tool, but also one that can leverage the DeX experience if that’s what you need.
Which raises yet another question. Does that make the Tab S9 the better business tool, given that even the 14.6in Tab S9 is a significant degree less costly than the Fold5?
As always, it will depend on your precise business needs, especially as either device also falls well within the price range of many ultraportable business laptops.
Read next by Alex Kidman: Does Apple’s Vision Pro have a business case?
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