After months of leaks and teases from Samsung, the company’s next-generation foldables are finally here. Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Z Flip 3, follow-ups to its category-defining series’ of foldable phones. These two devices are better than their predecessors in more ways than one. Not only do they have the latest in terms of specs and capabilities, but they also feature refined designs that are more robust and user-friendly.
Read on for our hands-on impressions of Samsung’s new foldable phones.
Galaxy Z Fold 3: Third time’s a charm?
The first generation Galaxy Fold was clearly a prototype design. It represented a technology experiment — one involving folding displays — and used consumers as guinea pigs to see if the form factor would work. After a bunch of delays, it eventually did, or at least enough so that Samsung soldiered on with it. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 was leaps and bounds better than the original and felt like a better encapsulation of what folding phones should be. It was still exorbitantly priced, however, earmarking the Fold for well-to-do buyers looking to make a statement more than anything else.
See also: The best foldable phones you can get
Now that we’ve reached the third generation of folding phones from Samsung, it is obvious that the company has its stuff figured out. In the short time we spent with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, it’s plain to us that Samsung has reached its stride in blending high technology with high design. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a solid piece of hardware that impresses upon first blush.
The first thing you’ll notice is the sturdier feel of the phone. The metal frame and Corning Victus Glass mean business and establish a strong first impression when you pick up the phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 may be slightly more trim than its predecessors but it is still a substantial chunk of a device. When closed, it’s tall and narrow, but thick. When open, it’s tall and wide, but thinner. It’s not a phone for the faint of heart.
Samsung has reached its stride in blending high technology with high design.
The hinge, in particular, has a more fluid feel to it. Where earlier Fold phones might have left you lacking in confidence about the hinge mechanism, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers clean, smooth action that comes across as sturdy and robust. This is further backed up to some small degree by Samsung’s ability to reach an IPX8 certification against water damage, which means the phone is sealed tight. Everything about the Z Fold 3 inspires more confidence in its quality.
The new outer display is great. Measuring 6.2 inches and offering better-than-HD resolution, it is far more usable than the narrow screen of the original Galaxy Fold. I found the panel to be bright and colorful, and it was easy to use for everyday smartphone tasks, though reaching the top with your thumb is a stretch.
Of course, you’re buying the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for that huge 7.6-inch internal screen. The smooth action of the hinge makes it a pleasure to open to access that big display. And it looks great. The resolution and brightness of the Super AMOLED are top-notch. You’ll still encounter the slight bump of the seam where the screen actually folds, but it is mostly invisible when you’re using the phone. My favorite feature? The improved durability of the protective film. The Z Fold 3 display doesn’t feel as fragile as its predecessors and that’s a huge bonus.
The controls, ports, and other aspects of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 measure up for a modern flagship. You’ve got USB-C, stereo speakers but no headphone jack, a power button, and a volume rocker. They all worked as intended in the time I spent with the phone. You’ll note the SIM tray and 5G antenna module on the left side of the phone (when opened).
Samsung’s software felt and looked quick on the phone, no doubt thanks to the generous helping of RAM (12GB) and zippy Snapdragon 888 processor. We haven’t run any tests, but we expect the phone to perform with the best out there.
It’s a shame the phone still carries a high price point ($1,800), but we’ll reserve the final judgment for our full review, which will be published in the days ahead.
The first foldable with an IP rating for water resistance.
Galaxy Z Flip 3: An affordable foldable
The smaller Galaxy Z Flip 3 is every bit as sturdy and compelling as its larger sibling. Where the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is meant to give you the experience of a tablet in your pocket, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is meant to make the phone more pocketable altogether. It takes the standard slab-style phone and bends it in half at the waist to reduce the overall footprint for the ultimate in portability. Does it achieve this goal? It sure does.
I thought the original Galaxy Z Flip was a bit flimsy. It definitely came across as somewhat fragile, much like the first Galaxy Fold did. The external shell, in particular, felt thin and non-protective. The good news is that Samsung has outfitted the Z Flip 3 with the same metal and glass build as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — and the improvement over previous generations is dramatic. Combined with the more refined hinge, there’s no question that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a stronger phone that can better handle the challenges of everyday use. It also rates IPX8 for protection from water, a big boost for the phone’s longevity.
Perhaps one of the other biggest improvements is the new external display. Where the first two generations of Galaxy Z Flip had a one-line screen that could be used for some basics such as checking the time and notifications, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a larger 1.9-inch AMOLED exterior screen that supports music controls and other widgets for quick and easy interactions. The idea is to let you do more without forcing you to open the phone up. It gives the Galaxy Z Flip 3 a huge boost in raw functionality, though it’s not quite on the same level as the external display of the Motorola Razr. The outer screen looked good in the time we spent with the phone.
Aside from increased durability, one of the biggest improvements is the new external display.
Inside you’ll find an impressive 6.7-inch AMOLED interior screen that runs at 120Hz. The samples on hand exhibited bright screens that were pixel-rich and smooth. I was particularly pleased by the brightness, which appeared improved to my eyes when compared to the original Z Flip. You will notice the seam in the middle of the screen, although it is much less obvious than the seam of older Flip series phones. Like the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 features a new protective cover that withstands more abuse and feels more robust. Samsung’s foldable screen technology has come a long way these last couple of years.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has just about the same selection of ports and controls as the Galaxy Z Fold 3. That means power and volume buttons along the right edge, SIM tray on the left edge, and USB-C tucked into the bottom edge.
I like the custom software available on the phone. Samsung makes good use of the Flip’s split-screen potential with things like camera controls on the lower half of the screen when the phone is folded halfway. It’s the little things that matter.
Perhaps the phone’s most impressive feature? The price. Where the original Z Flip sold for $1,400, this new foldable is being offered for just $999. That’s a huge price reduction and raises the value equation significantly. Of course, we’ll offer our full accounting of the phone’s worth in a full review to follow soon.
Samsung’s clamshell foldable gets new perks at a lower price.
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