When the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold phones first arrived, there was a certain wow factor associated with them because these were some of the first folding smartphones out there. At the time of the first release, it was a bit of a novelty and at almost $2000, you had to really want one in order to pay that price. Fast forward to 2021 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 came out with a retail price of $1800, which is still a hefty price tag, but you’re looking at a much more refined device now. Not only that, it is possible to get that price lowered with trade-in offers and discounts at your local brick-and-mortar stores. However, now that we’re 6-months into its life cycle, is the Galaxy Z Fold 3 still a desirable option, or should you stick to a more traditional device like the Galaxy S22 series that was just announced?
Disclaimer: Samsung’s PR agency loaned us an unlocked Galaxy Z Fold 3 for us to evaluate. This particular model is the SM-F926U1 variant that is still on Android 11 with One UI version 3.1.1, but was updated to Android 12 during testing.
I’ve only seen the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as a demo model in the stores but having it here in person and in our hands is a much different thing than just glancing at it on the display. This thing literally is the size of two Hershey’s candy bars stacked on top of each other. It’s thick, but it’s honestly only a little bit thicker than my current Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with a case slapped on it. So it’s not really that thick. Also, the device when closed is also a lot narrower and actually much easier to hold than many of the current non-folding smartphones.
In terms of looks, it’s still very similar to a regular Samsung Galaxy S-series device. All the buttons are on the right side, it’s got dual stereo speakers, a USB-C port at the bottom, and a camera hump on the back. You wouldn’t even really know it was a folding phone just by glancing at it really quickly, other than the fact that it’s thicker than most. It isn’t until you open it up that things start to get interesting.
Unfolded, the Galaxy Z Fold 3basically looks like a small tablet, without the thick bezels. You even pretty much hold it like a tablet at this point. It’s also quite a bit thinner too. This is also the part where if there are people around you, it’ll most likely be a talking point as it is still pretty rare to see a folding phone out in the wild, despite the fact that we’re now in the third generation of the Galaxy Z Fold series. It is a good-looking device, despite the semi-obvious crease down the middle of the screen.
The screen is soft and not glass. There is a screen protector on the display that should not be removed, but luckily it is not noticeable at all. Back to the crease, you will notice it is there, despite what others say. You do grow accustomed to it however and when using your apps, you kind of forget that it’s there. Once you’re done, however, you will notice the crease again.
Speaking of the fold, the mechanism for folding is very good. It’s very solid and you can literally fold the phone at any angle and it’ll stay there. This is great if you want to watch videos and want to stand the phone up for viewing.
I should point out that there is no under-screen fingerprint reader. Instead, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 utilizes a side-mounted fingerprint reader that is combined with the power button. I guess this is actually a good compromise considering that it would not be optimal placing a fingerprint reader on the cover display or the inside display. The side mount one works for both.
Lastly, like other current Samsung smartphones, there is no expandable storage.
SPECS AND FEATURES
The specs and features on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 are still quite good, despite it basically having last year’s flagship specs. That’s because there are already phones announced and being released with newer processors and technologies. For instance Samsung’s new Galaxy S22 Ultra. However, the fact that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still the only real folding phone you can get here in the United States (besides the Flip 3) means that it still has the advantage and exclusiveness.
In terms of specs, they’re very similar to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, save for some differences here and there. Obviously, the displays are different, cameras are a little different, 256GB of storage is the base instead of just 128GB on the S21 Ultra, and the Fold 3 has a much smaller battery at just 4400mAh.
However, you will find that despite these small differences, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is very capable and still very fast. Apps load quickly and you rarely if ever see any lag when gaming or running any social media apps. It’s a very snappy device that can still be considered flagship level.
WHAT WE LIKE
There’s actually quite a bit to like about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. For starters, the Galaxy Z fold 3 is two devices in one, or even three devices in one if you include the Dex functionality. So you have a device that is the size of a phone when folded, the size of a small tablet when unfolded, and if you plug it into a TV via HDMI, it turns into a portable desktop through DeX.
If you take into account how much all of those devices would cost separately, the price of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn’t seem that bad anymore. Of course, that’s all based on perspective. Here are some other points we like about the Galaxy Z Fold 3:
- It’s still a very unique device that will get the attention of those around you.
- It’s fast. Performance on it is very good. Apps feel very responsive with almost little to no lag.
- Ths phone is actually a lot easier to hold one handed than you would think.
- Base storage is 256GB.
- Both cover and inside displays are gorgeous and the upto 120Hz refresh rate makes for a buttery smooth experience.
- Gaming on the much larger inside display is a joy. Your thumbs no longer block half the screen on most games. Actually, using any app on the larger screen is a joy, including social media apps which will display their images in a much larger format.
- Reading internet pages or books is a much better experience and close to what you’d get reading on a tablet or Kindle.
- Folding mechanism seems really solid and sturdy. The hinge is strong and firm and can be folded at almost any angle.
- The fingerprint reader on the side is very fast and unlocks the phone almost instintaneously. If you use face recognition, it’s also pretty quick.
- Samsung recently has had an almost Google Pixel like experienece when it comes to software updates. You’re seeing about one update a month now.
WHAT WE DISLIKE
As impressed as I am with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 with its performance and the novelty of it, there are some areas where there could be improvements.
- The battery is too small for a device like this. It should have at least a 5000mAh battery like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, if not larger.
- When folded, the gap inbetween the screen fold is an eyesore. It’s not a very big gap and I understand why it’s there, but it’s just not very attractive and kind of throws off what would otherwise be a handsomely designed phone.
- The display ratio of the front display is a little weird. It’s very tall and very narrow. It’s usable, but trying to type on it is awkward because the keyboard ends up being a little too small. It could stand to be a little bit wider.
- The inside underscreen camera is kind of neat, but you can still see it. the crosshatch pattern does its job to hid it a bit, but you still notice it.
- Unfolding the device can be a bit clumsy at times. There isn’t a notch or groove to get a good thumb grip to seperate both sides. It’s also becaue the folding mechanism is really firm.
- Finger print reader on the right side means you can only really unlock it with your right hand only.
- The price is still a bit high at $1800 MSRP unless you have some aggressive discounts and trade in offers.
We did run into an odd issue with updates on this phone. This phone is an unlocked device, so you should be able to get updates regardless of whether you have a sim in it or not. Without a sim, we were stuck on Android 11 (November update) and no matter what we tried, it would not update. However, after sticking a carrier sim in it, the update prompt popped up and we were able to update to Android 12. That’s really odd and has never happened to us before on an unlocked device. That usually only happens on carrier-locked phones. Regardless, we’re happy to see that there is an Android 12 update.
So 6-months after release, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still quite an interesting proposition. You’re looking at a device that can take the place of two devices with little compromise. Both outside and inside displays are very usable and both look very good in terms of color, clarity, and responsiveness. The phone also seems very solid and well made.
There is still nothing like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 out on the market here in the U.S., so there’s pretty much no real competition here for it. The price for it is still pretty steep however at $1800, but most carriers are still offering trade-in deals which can cut that down to a slightly more reasonable price. Is it still worth buying? If you got the money for it, I’d say you can’t really go wrong with it if you want an impressive and very different device to show off. Not to mention that it really does make some experiences much better.
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I usually get a much cheaper phone
nothing wrong with cheaper phones, especially if they do everything you need them to do.
I stick with iPhone, but even if Apple made a folding device, a noticeable crease in any display is a non-starter for me. Not to mention the high price.
Nice review overall.
Yeah. I’m not too crazy about the crease and gap associated with it when closed. I’m sure at some point in future iterations, the crease may eventually disappear, but for now, it’s pretty noticeable. Plus yes, I would not spend that much on a smartphone myself unless I had some huge discount and trade-in offer.
So, besides the crease being visible like a notch or hole-punch, can you also feel a slight dip as your finger swipes across it? Is it tangible?
You can feel it. It’s a smooth dip, but you can feel it.
Related, I’d like to see more progress with the Microsoft Surface Duo.
Good device. Underpowered though at the time of release when compared to other devices coming out at the same time.