Nubia Flip 5G review: The phone I wish Samsung would make

The Nubia Flip 5G proves that affordable flip phones are possible, but only thanks to a few compromises.

The Nubia Flip 5G closed and in hand outdoors
(Image: © Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Flip phones haven't been around for very long, but they're already available at prices comparable to regular slab phones. The Nubia Flip 5G is a great option for anyone looking to buy their first flip phone, so long as they're able to get past the compromises, such as shoddy software, no IP rating, and the lack of a usable secondary rear camera.

Pros

  • +

    Beautiful design

  • +

    Great performance

  • +

    Decent images from 50MP camera

  • +

    Minimal display crease with good overall visibility

  • +

    Half the price of flagship flip phones

Cons

  • -

    Outdated software for a 2024 launch

  • -

    No IP rating

  • -

    No wireless charging

  • -

    Software feels unpolished

  • -

    Bloatware

  • -

    Cover screen is limited

  • -

    Hand taste isn't great

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Nubia Flip 5G: $499 at Nubia

Nubia Flip 5G: $499 at Nubia

Flip phones are all the rage again, and Nubia is the latest to launch a clamshell smartphone that doesn't break the bank. With the Snapdragon chip and 8GB of RAM, you don't have to worry about slowdowns, and the 50MP camera gets the job done when capturing memories or taking selfies, which you can preview on the external cover screen.

Samsung has long reigned in the foldable space, particularly due to its cheaper Z Flip series. However, Motorola has given the company some welcome competition in North America with the launch of the Razr Plus and the much cheaper Razr 2023, the latter of which continues to have shockingly low prices. Now, Nubia has seemingly come out of nowhere with a mid-range flip phone that aims to threaten Motorola's hold on the affordable foldable phone segment.

You may not have heard of Nubia, but the company makes some rather impressive flagship smartphones and gaming phones. The Flip 5G is the company's first foray into foldables, which is interesting since companies normally tend to launch larger foldables first before downsizing with flip phones. But just like Motorola, Nubia wants to target a lower price point to undercut its biggest competitor, Samsung.

I've hoped for a more affordable Galaxy Z Flip FE, something that could launch alongside the company's flagship flip phone as a more up-to-date alternative to those not willing to fork out $999. Of course, Samsung would have to make significant changes to bring the price down, but Nubia and Motorola show that this is very doable.

At this price point, there are bound to be some compromises, especially for a flip phone. In my time with the Flip 5G, I've tried to determine whether or not said compromises ruin the overall experience of owning a modern flip phone, which is currently my favorite phone form factor. To put it plainly, I'm mixed.

Nubia Flip 5G: Price and availability

The Nubia Flip 5G standing upright on a table

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The Nubia Flip 5G was announced in February 2024 during MWC and went on sale in April. The phone is available in two configurations and starts at $499 for the 8+256GB model, while the 12+512GB model is available for $699.

There are three colors to choose from: Cosmic Black, Sunshine Gold, and Flowing Lilac.

The phone doesn't appear to be available through retailers like Amazon, but you can purchase the device unlocked directly from Nubia.

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Nubia Flip 5G specs
CategoryNubia Flip 5G
OSAndroid 13 (MyOS13)
Display (internal)6.9-inch, OLED, FHD+ (2790 x 1188), 120Hz, 2160Hz PWM Dimming
Display (external)1.43-inch, circular OLED
ChipsetSnapdragon 7 Gen 1
RAM8GB, 12GB
Storage256GB, 512GB
Rear cameras50MP wide + 2MP depth
Front-facing camera16MP
AudioDual Speakers, Snapdragon Sound, DTS:X Ultra
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
SecurityFingerprint sensor, face unlock
Water/dust resistance
Battery4310mAh, 33W wired charging
Dimensions (open)170 x 75.5 x 7.0mm
Dimensions (closed)87.6 x 75.5 x 15.0mm
Weight209g
Colors Cosmic Black, Sunshine Gold, Flowing Lilac

Nubia Flip 5G: What I like

The Nubia Flip 5G folded upright and playing a video with the Android Bot on top of it

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Flip phones are known for being more compact, but there also seems to be more of a focus on design, at least compared to their larger-screened counterparts. That's clear when I look at the Nubia Flip 5G; it's probably one of the best-looking flip phones I've had the pleasure of reviewing. The flat aluminum alloy frame and angular chassis remind me a lot of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 but with a softer look and touch. However, where the phone really stands out is the circular housing where the cover screen and cameras are.

The housing is mostly black with a golden ring around it, which adds a premium touch to the design. If you have a lighter color option, such as Flowing Lilac or Sunshine Gold, the camera/cover display housing really contrasts against the rest of the device. In fact, the phone looks more like the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and TECNO Phantom V Flip had a baby.

At just 7mm thick when open and 15mm when closed, the Nubia Flip 5G is fairly thin for a flip phone, roughly matching the Motorola Razr Plus. Although, at 209g, it's a bit heavier than either of the 2023 Razr models and even the OPPO Find N3 Flip. Even so, it doesn't feel particularly heavy, especially with the unique glass covering the back panels (which I'll get to later).

Opening and closing the phone feels very satisfying and Nubia's hinge is quite sturdy, keeping the phone open at various angles. When open, the 6.9-inch FHD+ display is pretty nice when viewed indoors, and the 120Hz refresh rate keeps things smooth, although you'll have to go into the settings to enable this since the phone is set to 60Hz at default. But even when set to the standard color mode, the display is pretty vibrant, and the crease, while not as smooth as some other foldables, is fortunately not as deep as on the Z Flip 5 display.

The Nubia Flip 5G open with with the display on

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, a two-year-old midrange chipset that still provides good performance at this price point. The phone doesn't falter when opening and juggling multiple apps, thanks to the 8GB of RAM (there's also a 12GB model). Even when gaming, the chipset seems to handle itself quite well. Playing Honkai: Star Rail, the Nubia Flip 5G defaults to medium settings, but the phone is able to handle the game even at high settings at 60fps, which is pretty impressive.

That said, the top half of the phone, particularly the frame, gets quite warm when you push it, so you'll want to be careful.

Honkai: Star Rail on the Nubia Flip 5G

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The primary camera is a 50MP sensor with autofocus. I admittedly didn't expect much out of the camera, given the price point, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it takes pretty decent images in good lighting conditions. Images are crisp and plenty vibrant during the day, and the output is better than what I would get from the Motorola Razr 2023 (and even the Razr Plus, to an extent). That said, it can sometimes go a little overboard with saturation, and details degrade quickly when you start zooming in.

Low-light photos aren't particularly strong, but video capture is good, even if the phone tops out at 4K30. Nubia also has some fun filters that you can view and edit in real time while you prepare to take a photo, which can help make images a little more artsy.

Nubia Flip 5G: Cover screen

The Nubia Flip 5G cover screen with music playing

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The cover screen is one of the main reasons to consider buying a flip phone, thanks to the added utility of being able to check notifications and other functions without needing to open the phone. Unfortunately, the Nubia Flip 5G is pretty limited in this regard.

The cover screen is a circular OLED panel measuring 1.43, so roughly the size of a large smartwatch display. Unfortunately, it's not nearly as useful. The cover screen lets you cycle through eight different panels with different functions, such as a calendar, voice recorder, camera, and music player. You can also view notifications, but you can't do anything with them on the cover screen itself, as it will just prompt you to open your phone to check it. Additionally, while I can expand multiple notifications from the same app, the phone doesn't let me swipe away individual notifications, leaving "Clear all" as the only viable option, and even that doesn't seem to fully work.

This isn't my only issue with notifications, but I'll get to that in the next section.

Fortunately, the cover screen still acts as a viewfinder for the camera, allowing you to take selfies with the primary 50MP sensor. You can tap to start a 2-second photo timer or swipe up and down to switch between photo, video, and portrait modes.

Notifications showing on the Nubia Flip 5G cover screen

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The Nubia Flip 5G cover screen prompting to open the phone

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

AOD functionality is a plus on the cover screen, but it seems as though the brightness is connected to the main display's brightness, which seems like a weird oversight, especially since there's no way to adjust it from the external screen.

Overall, the limitations of the screen are a little disappointing, if understandable. Again, I can't help but compare it to a smartwatch screen, which lets me type, open apps, and more, but I clearly can't expect the same from a small cover screen, especially on the app front. Even the Razr 2023 has similar limitations, and it's slightly larger at 1.5-inches.

Nubia Flip 5G: What I don't like

The Nubia Flip 5G cameras and cover screen close up

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The Nubia Flip 5G has a lot going for it for a $500 foldable phone, but the phone makes quite a few compromises to get down to that price. Aside from the fairly small and barely functional cover screen, the phone is limited to just one usable camera. The second 2MP depth sensor seems just like a reason to pad the spec sheet, as it's largely useless.

Taking Portrait photos requires quite a bit of tinkering before the phone is able to get even a decent image, and even then, the Nubia Flip 5G doesn't do a great job separating the background form the main subject.

A pillar outside

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

On the software side, the Flip 5G curiously still runs Android 13 despite launching well into the Android 14 cycle. The software itself is mostly inoffensive, and Nubia adds some software flourishes to take advantage of the foldable form factor, which you'll notice with the camera app or YouTube when the phone is at an angle. Sadly, you'll be met with quite a bit of bloatware when you first get set up, which is never fun. On the plus side, you can delete or disable any extra apps and features you don't need. I do like the daily wallpaper function, which keeps things fresh even if some of the images are quite random (why does it show me images of Celine Dion and Taylor Swift?).

What I'm not a fan of is the "Z-Board," which is Nubia's bootleg Google Discover, which sits to the left of the home screen. Like Google's feed, Z-Board attempts to give you relevant news and other recommended information, but none of it seems particularly useful, and it just seems to be filled with ads as opposed to actual news. Fortunately, you can disable this, but you can't enable Google Discover in its place.

I've also had issues with notifications. For some reason, notifications come in extremely late, or they don't come in at all. After some time, I'll open an app like Instagram, only to then be bombarded by notifications from the app that were never delivered. My smartwatch is seemingly the only way I can get notifications on time. On the one hand, it's a nice way to stay focused when I'm trying to work, but on the other hand, it'll cause me to miss out on conversations or respond late.

The Nubia Flip 5G in hand with the quick setting shade pulled down

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Nubia wasn't exactly upfront about the update promise or even when the phone would receive Android 14, but the fact that we're already beta testing Android 15 before it launches later this year is a bad sign for the Flip 5G.

My other problems are mostly hardware-related, such as the overaggressive auto brightness that constantly keeps the display too low for my liking or the fact that the gesture to turn on the flashlight only works when the lock screen is active. And while I really like the design of the Nubia Flip 5G, the AG etched glass feels extremely cheap, almost like plastic, although the plus side of the matte finish is that you can avoid fingerprints and smudges.

Lastly, battery life isn't terrible, but I expected more out of the 4,310mAh battery, as it can barely get me through an entire day of mixed-use (social media, games, photos). The Galaxy Z Flip 5 has a much smaller battery and still seems to last longer between charges. Fortunately, the 33W charging tops up the phone relatively quickly, but the Nubia Flip 5G misses out on wireless charging, unlike some of its closest competitors.

Nubia Flip 5G: Competition

The Nubia Flip 5G next to a green Motorola Razr 2023

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Speaking of competition, if you're looking for a cheap flip phone, you may want to consider the Motorola Razr 2023. The phone has a large battery and is powered by the same Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chipset with 8GB of RAM. You also get a relatively stock Android experience, a vegan leather finish, and wireless charging to boot. The downside is that it, too, also runs Android 13, and Motorola's track record for major software updates isn't great.

Elsewhere, you can also look at the TECNO Phantom V Flip. It has a similar design to the Nubia, is powered by a MediaTek chipset, and features a dual-camera system that includes an ultrawide sensor. Unfortunately, it suffers from many of the same disadvantages as the Nubia, and you likely won't be able to get your hands on it if you live in the United States.

If you're willing to spend a few more dollars, Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 5 is one of the better options, even if it does cost more. It has better cameras than what you'll find on most flip phones, the cover screen is nice and large, and Samsung's software is quite polished. You may spend more to buy it, but with a new model likely to launch in July, you may be able to snag some deals to get the price down.

Nubia Flip 5G: Should you buy it?

The Nubia Flip 5G outdoors with a wallpaper of autumn leaves

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

You should buy this if...

  • You want a modern flip phone.
  • You want a phone with a decent camera.
  • You don't want to spend too much on your next phone.

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You want polished, reliable software.
  • You want a versatile camera experience.
  • You want an all-day battery.
  • You need wireless charging.

The benefit of flip phones is that they are much more flexible when it comes to price. Where the larger, tablet-like foldable phones can easily cost as much as $1700, flagship flip phones are often priced around $999 but can go even lower. The Nubia Flip 5G is a good example of a mid-range foldable phone, hitting the same price point that you would see from other non-folding and similarly specced devices.

At a starting price of $499, it's cheaper than the Motorola Razr 2023 was at launch, although that phone is positioned a bit higher with some flagship specs thrown in. The Nubia, on the other hand, is content to offer several compromises to get down to a price that many people might be willing to shell out for a foldable phone, even as a first foray into the form factor.

Battery life may not be the best, and the cover screen is unfortunately limited in its usability, but the phone makes up for it with its one usable camera, pretty good performance, and a standout design.

As much as I'd love to see Samsung launch a cheaper (but better) foldable phone, the company's sticking to the higher end allows others to tackle the lower end, a strategy that has worked for Motorola. At this price, the Nubia Flip 5G would make a good first flip phone—that is, if you can get past the bloat.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.