The Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 are Samsung’s best foldables to date, but there’s room for improvement when it comes to design, camera quality and battery life.
Why it matters
Companies like Samsung are betting that foldable phones will be the next big evolution of the modern smartphone. But high prices and other setbacks have limited their appeal until now.
Samsung is hosting its next Unpacked event on August 10, where it could unveil the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4.
Folding phones have come a long way since Samsung’s original Galaxy Z Fold debuted in 2019. Last year’s $1800and $1,000 are the sleekest versions of the company’s foldables yet, with improvements to their software and display cover.
But there is a lot that Samsung could do to make these devices even better, and I hope to see such changes in the upcomingand .
Both phones are expected to debut duringAugust 10th. They will represent Samsung’s latest gambit to maintain its leadership position in the nascent but growing foldable phone market.
TM Roh, head of Samsung’s mobile experience business, said that nearly 10 million foldable phones shipped in 2021. That broadly matches estimates from market researcher IDC, which said 7.1 million foldable phones shipped in 2021, which represents an increase of 264% compared to 2020.
These figures indicate that foldable devices are starting to appeal to more than just early adopters and tech enthusiasts. But there are still some hurdles for Samsung and other companies to overcome before foldables can become as ubiquitous as standard smartphones.
Samsung’s foldable devices are premium compared to their standard smartphones, which can make them a tough sell. That is changing in recent years, withespecially one of the most affordable folding yet. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 starts at $1,000 without trade-ins, making it the same price as the . The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is significantly more expensive, with a usual starting price of $1,800 without trade-ins, though that’s still a welcome improvement over the $2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2.
New software features
Galaxy Z Flip 4 andThe foldable design certainly sets them apart from most phones. But the software needs to catch up with the hardware.
Samsung is off to a good start in this regard. Both the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip have a feature called, which reorients and optimizes certain apps to fit on the device’s screen when folded halfway. For example, Flex Mode shifts some compatible apps to the top half of the screen while displaying navigation and playback controls on the bottom.
My favorite example of using this mode well is in the Galaxy Z Flip’s camera app. When the device is half-open, the shutter button, photo settings and other controls are located on the bottom half of the screen, while the top half serves as the viewfinder. Flex Mode combined with the Z Flip’s ability to stay open on its own make it a great camera and tripod combination.
In addition to Flex mode, the Galaxy Z Fold can also run multiple apps on the screen at once to take advantage of the tablet-sized screen.
These are great additions, but there’s plenty of room for Samsung to do more. The software seems to match the hardware, when it should be the opposite. While the Z Fold’s Flex Mode and multitasking features are a great start, they aren’t enticing enough on their own to justify buying a foldable phone.
I wish Samsung would develop more compelling software features. Although I wouldn’t recommend buying itbecause it doesn’t work as well as a regular phone, I think Microsoft is on to something when it comes to software.
The way Surface Duo 2 shares compatible apps between screens is almost like using an app in a whole new way. The Amazon Kindle app turns the Duo into a digital book, Xbox GamePass turns it into a Nintendo 3DS-style handheld game console, and Outlook’s split-screen view turns it into a mini-laptop. There is a lot of promise with foldable devices and I hope Samsung finds more ways to capitalize on it.
Longer battery life
Battery life is one of the most important features of any phone, and foldable phones are no exception. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 had insufficient battery life. My colleague Patrick Hollandwith a Galaxy Z Fold 3 battery capacity of 4,400 mAh. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 only lasted about 11 hours before needing a charge.
I hope Samsung improves battery life or develops new ways to overcome it on the next iterations of the Z Fold and Z Flip. And by “workaround” I mean Samsung could increase the device’s charging speed or improve their power saving methods. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 charges up to 25 watts, while the Z Flip 3 charges 15 watts, which is nothing special. Galaxy S22 Plus andfor example, both have a charging speed of 45 watts.
Camera quality is top notch with battery life when it comes to what’s most important in a phone. The cameras on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 are good, but there’s room for improvement. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a 12-megapixel wide and 12-megapixel ultra-wide main camera, which, as my colleague wrote in his review, is “the equivalent of cameras you’d find on a $700 phone.” The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a triple camera system that adds a 12-megapixel telephoto lens in addition to 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lenses.
These cameras are fine for most people. Anyone considering buying one of these phones is obviously most interested in the screen, not the cameras. But for the price, I’d like to see camera quality that at least matches, if not exceeds, Samsung’s best non-folding phones. Like my colleague Patrick: “Z Fold 3 has B+ cameras at an A+ price.” That’s especially true for the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s underscreen camera, which is the phone’s selfie camera when used in tablet mode.
Fortunately, rumors suggest that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will come with some serious camera improvements that will speed it up with.
Although it isand Z Flip 3 are Samsung’s most sophisticated foldables yet, phones with bendable screens are still relatively new. As such, it takes time to get the ergonomics right, and Samsung still has work to do.
Let’s start with the Galaxy Z Fold. The Z Fold’s biggest downside is that it’s still a bit awkward to use like a regular phone when it’s closed. Samsung has made some design improvements to the Z Fold 3 that make it lighter and thinner than its predecessors. But it’s still an abnormally bulky phone when closed, which can cause some discomfort when using it in one hand.
Anyone who bought the Z Fold probably did so because of its large internal display, not its cover. But think about how many times you pull out your phone to quickly check a notification or reply to a text message. In some situations, these tasks are much more convenient to perform when the Z Fold is closed, such as when you’re on the go and unfolding the device is impractical.
Another design upgrade I’d like to see on the Z Fold is the ability to magnetically connect the S Pen to the device’s hinge. A pen storage slot like the Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t seem like an acceptable solution as it would increase the thickness of the Z Fold.
The Galaxy Z Flip already feels like a standard phone, but one improvement I’d like to see is a bigger screen. The Z Flip 3 is a big upgrade over the original Z Flip in that regard. While Samsung’s first foldable flip phone only had a small pill-shaped cover, the Z Flip 3 is big enough to fit weather widgets, music, alarms and more.
But I still wish I could see more lines of text and widgets on this screen. A larger screen would also make it easier to snap a quick selfie without taking the phone apart, as the lid’s screen can double as the camera’s viewfinder. Fortunately, rumors suggest that Samsung plans to increase the screen size.
I also hope Samsung finds a way to make the crease less obvious on both the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip. The creases on Samsung’s current foldables aren’t too distracting, but they’re definitely noticeable—both to the eye and to the touch. Chinese tech giant Oppo has found a way around thisby implementing a “water drop” hinge, which makes the fold of the device harder to see and feel when opened. Motorola’s it similarly makes the folding Razr’s crease less noticeable.
Samsung’s Z Flip and Z Fold phones are gradually moving closer to standard, non-folding phones in terms of price, and I hope that trajectory continues. Foldable phones will probably always require some kind of compromise, whether it’s their camera quality or the thickness of the device. I just hope the list of compromises gets smaller over time, starting with the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4.