Although they have a lot of potential, foldable smartphones have always been out of reach financially. With the Galaxy Z Flip 3 costing $999, Samsung has reduced prices significantly for the first time this generation. With a pricing like that, is there any reason to remain with a regular smartphone?
Hardware | Retro Flip Phone Benefits, Modern Features The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of two types of foldables. The Flip 3 takes a regular phone and allows you to fold it to a smaller footprint, in contrast to its brother, the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which seeks to give you a regular phone that extends to give you more. I’d predict that most people will respond to that in one of two ways. Why would I ever need to do that, is the first question. The second, For me, that would change everything.
I can definitely understand where the first group of folks is coming from with that viewpoint. One of the main issues I still have with this form factor is how long it takes to open the phone in order to perform almost everything, and doing it one-handedly is actually quite difficult. The only reliable methods I’ve discovered are to partially open the phone with one hand, then use your chest to move it the remaining distance, or to partially open it, hold the bottom, then flick it open with your wrist. However, I don’t really suggest the second one. Not only will you inevitably lose control and chuck the object across the room at some point, but it also appears highly unhealthy for the hinge. But on the other hand, I’m not here to rule you, and doing it is a lot of fun.
However, the Flip 3 truly made me see why this form factor would be so important to so many individuals. With this gadget, I could carry a full-sized smartphone without it taking up most of the space in my pocket. Even when it’s folded, I could still comfortably fit my car key fob or the charging case for my headphones in my pocket. I simply can’t do it with other smartphones that have a 6.7-inch display. The phone is thicker than typical when folded, measuring over 15mm, but this is unquestionably a worthwhile trade-off.
Samsung’s Flex Mode was another benefit of the Flip 3’s flexible design that I found myself truly liking. The tightness of the unique hinge essentially enables the display to remain at a particular angle, which is more useful than you might imagine. Since the hinge doubles as a built-in kickstand when the phone is on a table, I found it to be quite useful for watching YouTube videos.
All of this to imply that the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s form factor gives it functionality that you don’t get from a standard smartphone, especially with this polished-off hardware. Some people could be turned on by the nostalgia of using a flip phone once again, but that won’t mean much if there’s no need for it.
However, there is undoubtedly something to be said about the Flip 3’s cool appeal. In the previous week, there were a few times when I picked up the phone just to hear someone close respond in amazement and awe at what they had just witnessed. When using a phone, the emotion disappears into the background for the user, yet situations like that bring everyone involved joy.
SAMSUNG THE BIGGEST FOLDABLE PAIN POINTS WERE FIXED The absence of any significant issues, however, is what makes the form factor appealing. The most crucial component of it is durability, and Samsung has advanced folding technology to the point where you actually don’t have to make many sacrifices to join in the fun.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 includes a redesigned hinge and body that is IPX8 water resistant to increase its durability. Therefore, even while a rainfall or spill won’t destroy your phone, you should still stay away from saltwater and even a pool. However, the X in that rating also indicates that there is no dust seal on the phone. In the correct conditions, debris can enter the hinge, but the chances are on your side in this case. On prior foldables, Samsung’s internal brush mechanism has done an excellent job of keeping the hinge clear of debris.
The internal display is another area where Samsung has enhanced the hardware. This year’s assemblage is slightly more robust overall, but the top layer sees the biggest improvement. A fresh screen protector that has already been applied is up to 80% more resistant to dents and scratches. Additionally, it features a superior coating that repels fingerprints more effectively and gives the display a similar feel to that of a standard phone. My display is still in excellent condition after almost two weeks of use, however there are many fingerprints.
Protection was yet another issue that Samsung had in previous foldable versions. For these phones, cases are a challenge, but I believe Samsung has nailed it this year. The company’s leather cover, which I was able to test out, fits nicely and feels lovely, but the silicone cover with a ring attachment was the true standout. Using a phone in a case with a ring hanging off the rear feels strangely natural. Additionally, it fixes the problem of the shiny hardware being slippery enough to move around on a table that is even just a little bit uneven. I strongly advise obtaining a case for this phone because they are frequently free.
These three issues were the major drawbacks of previous Samsung foldables, so getting rid of them truly helps the Galaxy Z Flip 3 feel less like a compromise. It simply feels like the high-end smartphone it is at this point.
DISPLAYS | A REALLY USEFUL Outside Display Starting with the outside, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 sports a small, ineffective display, although it is a vast advance over the previous model. The new display is large enough to be useful, unlike the previous generation’s tiny display that could only show a few letters of text at once.
However, it still doesn’t accomplish anything. The outside display works best as a hub for notifications, where texts and other alerts are displayed by sliding left. To view the complete contents of any notification, touch on it. However, those notifications are useless to you. The respond button is visible when you tap a message, but pressing it only causes you to pick up the phone, defeating the purpose.
Swiping in the opposite direction exposes widgets that you may customize, such as weather, music controls, timers, alarms, calendar events, Samsung Health statistics, and more. Although the lack of any third-party options severely restricts the utility of this feature, I still found the music controls to be really helpful if I had the phone in front of me on a table. Nevertheless, I only opened the main display for the majority of things.
A secret screen determined to kill your battery With the exception of one significant change, the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s inner display is remarkably similar to that of the prior model. The 6.7-inch, 1080p AMOLED panel can now refresh at 120 Hz. I thought that was great until I realized how that might affect battery life. The short version is that you should use this phone in 60Hz mode to get any kind of endurance out of it. We’ll talk more about that in the part after this one.
However, the 120Hz panel is the greatest in the industry and is equally as excellent as any other Samsung monitor. By default, colors are saturated, but not in an offensive way, in my opinion. Although scrolling at 120Hz is extremely smooth, I wasn’t bothered by the performance at 60Hz either.
In comparison to refresh rate, brightness is probably the more significant improvement because it allows outside use of the phone. I can readily read the Galaxy Z Flip 3s display just about as well as any other phone of its grade, however the Flip 5G’s display was really difficult to read on a sunny day.
The fact that this phone may be folded still leaves a visible and tactile seam in the center of the display. Although some nitpickers could quickly label this a deal-breaker, in daily use, it is unnoticeable and is not even felt under the finger.
THE WORST BATTERY SINCE GOOGLES FAMOUS PIXEL 4 So while we’re talking about battery life, let’s delve a little deeper. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has poor endurance. The phone is almost awful enough to be written off completely, but there is one advantage we’ll discuss.
My first two days with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 were exceedingly difficult on its basic settings. Both days, I was unable to complete 2 hours of active use (screen-on-time), and by 4 p.m., just 8 hours after beginning my day, I was in need of a charger. Not a good beginning.
Credit goes to Samsungs, and more specifically to Androids, for improving things over time. My active use decreased over the course of the next days, but for a $1,000 smartphone in 2021, it is still an abhorrently short battery life. In fact, it’s remarkably similar to what I was getting with the Pixel 4—a gadget that, largely due to its infamously short battery life, failed to catch on.
For the Galaxy Z Flip 3, what does that mean? It’s not good, I guess. This phone’s price is indeed reasonable, but the Galaxy S21 , which has a similar-sized display but a nearly 50% larger battery, is the closest comparable model. Those numbers on paper also have a direct correlation to actual consumption. In the best case situation, the Flip 3 simply doesn’t last as long as it should, and that’s a sacrifice you have to make because it’s foldable. The physics of a battery simply dictates that fewer cells are needed to accommodate the hinge’s footprint and the need for a lean body. The phone physically cannot have a battery large enough to last all day, and the onboard 15W charging is far from quick enough to compensate.
Having said that, the one saving grace in this situation is that there is a simple way to significantly extend battery life. As previously reported, the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s 120Hz display consumes an absurd amount of power and is the main cause of the device’s battery issues. The battery life is significantly improved by simply switching it to 60Hz. It won’t make this phone a battery powerhouse, but it transforms it from a burden to something that can safely go through the day, particularly if you charge it during commutes. I was able to fit about 4 hours of active use into this mode during the course of a real full day, which for me was from 8 a.m. to midnight.
When I questioned Samsung about the results I had been getting, the company was unable to clarify whether any efforts were being made to extend battery life.
Software performance is on par with any flagship. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes pre-installed with Android 11 and the company’s One UI 3.1 skin. This gives the phone a reasonably pleasant Android experience that isn’t too hefty and has some practical functions, as we previously discussed with the Galaxy S21 series earlier this year. And the Flip 3 handles it all like a champ, exactly like on those phones.
Under the hood, the Snapdragon 888 is the same chip used in the Galaxy S21 and other recent Android flagships, and its raw performance is comparable to those of those handsets. While not quite a top-tier spec, the CPU and 8GB of RAM together are more than plenty to power an Android phone these days. Whether it was something as basic as reading through social media or opening a dozen tabs in Chrome while conducting research, performance for me has been excellent across the board. I wasn’t interested in testing any games because of the Flip 3’s aspect ratio and folding design, but I’m sure the chip is more than up to the task (unlike the battery).
One of the few things I wanted to mention is how quickly the Flip 3 warms up to the touch compared to other Snapdragon 888 phones I’ve tested this year. Even outside, it never becomes dangerously hot, but if you put too much weight on it, it may become uncomfortable warm. This is most likely a result of the slim design, and it becomes very apparent when charging.
FINE, BUT SLOW CAMERA A pair of 12MP cameras, one for ordinary photographs and the other for ultrawide shots, are located on the back of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. These cameras are in the category of adequate. They won’t wow you, and they may occasionally let you down, but they usually do the job just fine.
As is Samsung’s custom, photos taken with the Flip 3 will be a little too sharp and saturated, although the company has obviously toned things down over time. In general, I’m pleased with the images I get with the main lens, while I sometimes feel the ultrawide falls short, especially in less-than-ideal lighting. Additionally, the foldable screen’s built-in tripod makes capturing pictures even simpler.
The Flip 3’s poor operation, not the cameras’ quality, was my main complaint. This is a hardware problem rather than a software one. Because of its folding design, this phone requires you to open the display in order to snap pictures other than selfies. On this phone, taking a selfie really takes less time than taking a proper picture. That might be useful to some users, but it wasn’t helpful to me.
Since I had to open the phone every time, I noticed that I took fewer photos using the Flip 3 in actuality. Although there isn’t a simple cure for that, I still have issues with it as a guy who mostly uses selfies for phone reviews (and even then begrudgingly).
THE FIRST FOLDABLE THAT IS FINALLY MOSTLY WORTH IT: FINAL THOUGHTS To get directly to the point, this is the first foldable that I can recommend to anyone without having any significant reservations. When it comes to purchasing a foldable, Samsung has virtually eliminated all points of friction. The only major concerns you should have about the Flip 3 at this time are whether you value the form factor and whether you can live with the poor battery life. For a lot of individuals, I’d say the Flip’s battery exceeds its advantages and renders it an ineffective phone. However, I believe it will work great for you if you don’t mind charging the smartphone several times per day.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is currently offered by Samsung.com and Best Buy , as well as carriers Verizon , ATandamp;T , T-Mobile , and Google Fi .
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