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Nubia Flip 5G hands-on review: New blood in the flip phone game

Nubia’s first swing at a folding phone, the Flip 5G, could be a strong rival for the Motorola Razr 40 – if it comes to the UK, that is

Folding phones tend towards the pricier end of the spectrum, but the Nubia Flip 5G has its eyes set firmly on more affordable ground. If you’re in the market for a clamshell foldable, there’s not much in the way of competition in this price range – with the Oppo Find N2 Flip discontinued and the Find N3 Flip not yet out in the UK, the only real contender here is the Motorola Razr 40 (£769 at time of writing).

The stage is set, therefore, for Nubia to swoop in with its first folding phone and make a splash as a “budget” handset. With competitive specifications and a uniquely designed external display, the Nubia Flip 5G has the potential to be a real challenger to the Motorola Razr 40.

The only snag is that Nubia hasn’t yet revealed whether or not the Flip 5G will actually be coming to the UK (only a vague European launch is confirmed at the time of writing). If it does, this hands-on session makes me think that Motorola could be in for a fight over the title of the best affordable flip phone.

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Nubia Flip 5G hands-on review: Specifications, price and release date

  • 6.9in 120Hz LTPO AMOLED 2,790 x 1,188 display
  • 1.43in 466 x 466 OLED cover display
  • Octa-core 2.4GHz Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 processor
  • 6GB or 8GB RAM
  • 128GB or 256GB storage
  • Dual rear cameras: 50MP main, 2MP depth
  • Selfie camera: 16MP
  • 4,310mAh battery
  • 76 x 16 x 88mm (folded)
  • 76 x 7.3 x 170mm (unfolded)
  • 214g
  • Black, Gold
  • Release date: March 2024
  • Price: From $599

Nubia Flip 5G hands-on review: Design, key features and first impressions

Before we dive deeper into those specs, let’s talk design. Coming off the back of the sleek Motorola Razr 40 Ultra and the refined Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, the Nubia Flip 5G feels a little drab: the flat edges and rounded corners are definitely Galaxy imitators, but the frosted plastic sides don’t look or feel as premium as the Z Flip 5’s aluminium trim.

Not that the Nubia Flip 5G is trying to compete with the most premium clamshells around, but even compared to the Motorola Razr 40 and its bold colours and vegan leather coating, the Nubia Flip 5G feels overly utilitarian. It’s also the heaviest flip phone by a fair margin, at 214g; for comparison, the Razr 40 is 187g and the Find N2 Flip was 191g.

That bulk must all be beneath the surface, because the dimensions are all roughly in line with the competition. Unfolded, the phone measures 170 x 76mm, with a thickness of just 7.3mm, while folded it comes in at 76 x 16 x 88mm (WDH).

While we’ve got the phone closed, let’s talk about the most interesting part of the design – the external display. The circular screen is a 1.43in OLED panel, nestled neatly inside the ring-shaped camera housing. It’s a far cry from the usual rectangular external displays I’m used to seeing on flip phones, and it certainly helps to make the Flip 5G stand out among the competition.

Much like a smartwatch, this external display has a few cards that you can swipe through, including a calendar, a pedometer and the camera app. Opening the latter transforms the external display into a small, rounded viewfinder. It’s not that great to use – the display only has a resolution of 466 x 466, after all – but it works well enough for lining up selfies.

There’s not much information about the cameras that encircle the external display at this point, with the only confirmed details being that one of them is the 50MP main lens and the other is a 2MP depth sensor. This pairing feels a bit weak to me – dual cameras are fairly standard among flip phones, but the secondary one is usually of a higher quality than this. 2MP lenses are the kinds of things I expect to see on ultra-budget handsets.

The selfie camera, at least, brings more megapixels to the table: flipping the phone open, there’s a 16MP sensor beneath the display near the top bezel. If Nubia was going to cut any corners, this is where I would have done it. Thanks to their design, flip phones make taking selfies with the “rear” cameras a breeze, so it would have made much more sense to put the money there and leave the tacked-on lens for the internal display.

Gripes about pixel distribution aside, the main display looks to be fairly decent. It’s a 6.9in panel, the same as the Razr 40, but the resolution is marginally higher (2,790 x 1,188, compared to 2,640 x 1,080). No word on the refresh rate, but I expect it will be 120Hz, based on how smooth I found navigation to be while poking around the test model.

Speaking of general nippiness, the Nubia Flip 5G has some reasonable hardware under the skin. The 2.4GHz Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chipset is the same platform used by the Razr 40, and it can be paired with either 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or 8GB and 256GB.

The battery is a little bigger than the Razr 40’s (4,310mAh vs 4,200mAh) and charging speeds are said to support up to 33W wired connections. That’s a smidge better than the Razr 40’s 30W wired offerings, but the latter pairs it with 5W wireless charging support.

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Nubia Flip 5G hands-on review: Early verdict

That’s about all the information we have to go on right now. The launch is expected to be in March, and pricing will apparently start from $599 (there’s no UK release confirmed, so no UK prices as of yet). There were two colour variations at the hands-on event – a plain black model and the flashier gold number photographed here – so we can expect both of them to be available when the phone eventually hits shelves.

Working with the assumption that the Nubia Flip 5G will be coming to the UK, there’s a lot here that could be a problem for the Razr brand: I like the cover display better, the hardware is comparable and depending on how those exchange rates work out, it could well be a fair bit cheaper, too.

Brand recognition will definitely work against it, but at a time of financial crunch where we all want to pay as little as possible, a budget alternative to the big flip phone brands could end up being a dark horse in the foldable race.

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