In 2021, Samsung managed to lower the production costs of its foldable devices and surprised everyone: the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is faster, more beautiful and less expensive. But does this mean that the device is more accessible? Should you exchange your phone for a this smartphone that can also metamorphose into a tablet? Let's find out in this brief hands-on article!
- ✓IPX8 certified
- ✓80% more resistant screen
- ✓Unique design
- ✓S Pen support
- ✕Experience limited by software
- ✕Visible, protruding screen crease
- ✕Fast charging speeds lags behind competition
Samsung Galaxy Fold 3: Straight to the point
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 was announced on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, with a suggested price of $1,799. This is a considerable reduction in price compared to its predecessor - the Galaxy Z Fold 2 - which sold for a mind-numbing $1,999 at launch. Samsung was largely able to bring down the production costs for its foldables this year – according to Marcus Becker, Samsung's product manager in Germany, and the company is merely passing on the benefits to the consumer.
However, it is important to emphasize that the third generation Galaxy Fold is not only less expensive, but offers considerable improvements with regard to hardware components and design. The Fold 3 is now more resistant, and has finally received S-Pen support.. It also has a processor that is unique among Samsung flagships in many markets. In simple words, we really think the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a major improvement from its predecessor in more than one aspect.
But is that enough for fans of the Galaxy Note series to embrace foldables? Especially given that the company has essentially given the Galaxy Note series the miss this time around. Perhaps that question will be answered in the months to come, but one thing is for sure, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a device that innovates the way we use our smartphones.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will be available on pre-order starting today, August 11, on the Samsung Store in select markets, and will hit stores on August 27. To motivate fans around the world, the manufacturer is offering a €200 trade-in bonus during the pre-order period, and a buyback value of your old Samsung up to €800, even if the device's display is broken.
Alongside the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, we also had the announcement of the new Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Watch 4, Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and Galaxy Buds at what was quite likely the company's last 'Unpacked' event for 2021.
Refined design and increased strength
There is no denying that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a much better-looking phone that its predecessor. It looks and feels premium and all aspects of the design are more refined than ever before. The device is made of armored aluminum, which according to Samsung ensures greater strength.
In addition, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G brings IPX8 certification for the first time to the Galaxy Fold lineup. This means you can finally use the phone in rains. Do note, however, that it still does not have protection against dust. However, the phone does have protection on the inside of the hinge against dust ingress.
During my time with the phone, I was able to compare the current version of the Z Fold to the previous one, and it was immediately evident to me that Samsung has put significant efforts into the quality of materials and the construction of the device. I particularly liked the triple camera array that now has a smaller bulge and is better integrated into the visual lines of the phone. Truly remarkable.
Also, using the device with just one hand is enjoyable because of the 24.5:9 aspect ratio of the external display. However, as this is a phone that doubles in size when used in the tablet version, it still is quite heavy - at 271g.
As far as the color options are concerned, we do not have a diversity of options as seen with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G can be currently availed in Phantom Black, Phantom Green and Phantom Silver color options. In case you were wondering, the color variant you see in the image above is the Phantom Silver option.
2 in 1 screen: mobile and tablet
In a rather curious way, the Galaxy Z Fold 3's screen is 80% more resistant than the Galaxy Z Fold 2 's. According to Samsung, this was possible with the addition of Gorilla Glass Victus, which protects the device against scratches, and a protective film made of PET.
The main screen is referred to as the Infinity-Flex screen and it happens to measure 7.6 inches across. The panel is based on Dynamic AMOLED technology and offers FHD+ resolution. The secondary front-mounted display on the Z Fold 3, on the other hand, measures 6.2 inches across and happens to be in the 24.5:9 aspect ratio and uses the same Dynamic AMOLED technology.
The display is 29% brighter and yet uses power even more efficiently. Like many flagships of 2021, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 uses an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz on both the main and front displays. This means that the experience with content on the display is smoother and interaction with the system overall feels faster.
Unlike the last generation model, the camera is now underneath the main screen. However, the method used by Samsung doesn't offer a really smooth experience, as you see the pixels almost like a grid under the camera notch. The manufacturer has added 172 pixels over the selfie camera and calls it a camera under the screen, but it's not!
This is noticeable when we browse some web page or app on the phone. However, truth be told, when watching a video, we hardly notice the hole on the screen reserved for the camera sensor.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold 3's screens offer a good experience, but when we use the device on the main screen, it's inevitable to notice the crease on the screen. But that's one of the current (dis)advantages of having a phone with a foldable display.
The S Pen comes to the Fold series
The S Pen aims to transform productivity in the Fold series.
Samsung is focusing its forces on the Galaxy Z series in the second half of 2021, in other words, it's pretty clear that we won't be getting a Note series model this year. Because of this, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G is now compatible with the S Pen, a feature that for a long time was reserved exclusively for the Galaxy Note series.
Samsung has chosen to offer two versions of the S Pen for use in conjunction with the Z Fold 3, so we have the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro. During the launch event, it was explained that both pens have a specially designed retractable tip to regulate pressure on the screen. The latency here has been reduced, without losing the natural writing experience.
I've had very little time to test the S Pen's functionality on the Z Fold 3, but I have to admit that I've changed my opinion about using the stylus pen on the Fold line. The fact that the Fold 3 is a phone that already has a number of folding mechanisms, always made me believe that it would be confusing to add an S Pen to the set.
However, thankfully, Samsung's solution was not to equip the Z Fold 3 with the S Pen, as we have in the Note series, if you want to use the S Pen, it is an extra product and can be carried in a dedicated case.
More about using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 with the S Pen will, of course, be explored in our full review of the device. However, the fact that Samsung is working with partners like Google and Microsoft to offer apps optimized for split-screen use, already makes me realize the potential of using productivity software in conjunction with the S Pen for content production.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G gets the QualcommSnapdragon 888 processor and ends up being an almost exclusive option among Samsung's flagships in 2021. The manufacturer also chose to use this SoC in the new Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G. With this, both phones stand in the category of flagships like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the Sony Xperia 1III, whose performance we quite liked.
In addition to the flagship grade SoC, the phone also comes bundled with 12 GB of RAM and internal storage variants of 256 GB (UFS) and 512 GB (UFS). However, it does not offer the ability to expand storage via a microSD card.
The fact that Samsung has opted for the Qualcomm SoC instead of the Exynos 2100, which equips the Galaxy S21 series in many countries, may make many people interested in the manufacturer's current flagships come to opt for the foldable model. Would that be a gamble? Maybe.
Android 11 and software experience
Like the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the new Z Fold runs Android 11 out of the box, paired with the One UI 3.1.1. The device is also guaranteed at least three years of Android updates and four years of security patches. So far, so good, however, there is still a big limitation of the possibilities of this foldable by software.
Android is a system for smartphone use, and to be honest, has never managed to achieve excellence when it comes to tablet sized screens. And, unfortunately, this should not change with the release of Android 12 at the end of the year. In other words, the performance of the operating system is one of the weakest points of this device. And that's not unique to the Z Fold 3, but to all tablets running Android.
We will explore this issue in our full Galaxy Z Fold 3 review.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Cameras: Improvements across the board!
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 features five cameras in all. The main camera module has three sensors, inherited from the Galaxy S21, and each screen has a front camera. You can see the specs for each of them below:
- A 12-megapixel wide-angle main camera (with f/1.8 + 1/1.76" aperture);
- A 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera (with f/2.2 + 1/3.24" aperture);
- A 12-megapixel telephoto camera (with f/2.4 + 1/3.6" aperture);
- 10-megapixel front-facing camera 1 (external) (with f/2.2 aperture + 1/3.24");
- Front camera 2 (internal) wide-angle 4-megapixel camera (with f/1.8 aperture + 1/3.1").
I don't need a full review of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to know that the device has a versatile camera set, just look at the spec-sheet. Here we have the standard wide-angle camera option, then an ultra-wide-angle sensor capable of capturing a larger frame, and finally a telephoto camera, which ensures less quality loss in zoomed images.
However, the "Wow" effect of this camera seems to be in the software features. Camera functions like Flex mode and Quick Shot seem to be the most surprising features for those using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for the first time. While the former lets you take selfies without using your hands, the latter uses the front screen as a preview to capture quick photos and videos without having to open the phone. The Quick Shot is excellent when it comes to image quality, which is obviously superior.
I'm really curious to see how this set of cameras will fare in extensive testing, especially as it wasn't possible to take image captures in different environments and lighting during the hands-on session. But at first glance, it seems to me that Samsung made the right choices when choosing sensors and software options. As we already had the possibility to test on the Galaxy S21 camera.
We have a smaller battery now
Samsung has cut the battery capacity of the new model compared to its predecessor. While the Galaxy Z Fold 2 had 4,500 mAh battery, the successor has a slightly smaller one at 4,400 mAh. Of course, the manufacturer claims that the display is more energy efficient as well, but let's face it, there are two displays, a robust hardware and we have support for 5G thrown in as well.
The fast charging technology isn't exciting either, it's 25 Watts on wired charging and 10W on wireless charging. Making a quick comparison between the flagships available in the market, Samsung is not far behind in battery capacity, but in power and charging times? - definitely! .
However, considering all that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers for daily productive activities, it's possible that this 4,400 mAh is insufficient. But of course, to be able to speak more fully about the battery performance of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G, we'll have to wait for the full review of the device.
Detailed technical specifications
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G
|Model||Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G|
|Memory (RAM / internal)||12 GB / 256 GB
12 GB / 512 GB
|Dual SIM||Yes (SIM1 + SIM2 or SIM1 + eSIM)|
Main display: 7.6-inch, 22.5:18, Dynamic Display AMOLED, QXGA+ (2,208 x 1,768 pixels), 120 hertz refresh rate
Front display: 6.2-inch, 24.5:9, Dynamic AMOLED (2,268 x 832 pixels) 120 hertz refresh rate
|protection||Gorilla Glass Victus | IPX8|
Closed: 158.2 x 67.1 x 16mm
Open: 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4 millimeters
|Connectivity||5G, LTE, WLAN 802.11 a/b/g, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, USB Type-C, GPS|
|Main camera||12 megapixel at 1/1.76", f/1.8 aperture|
|Ultra Wide Angle||12-megapixel at 1/ 3.24", f/2.2 aperture|
|Telephoto camera||12 megapixels at 1/3.6", f/2.4 aperture|
|Front-facing camera 1||10 megapixel at 1/3.1", f/2.2 aperture|
|Front camera 2 (internal)||4 megapixels at 1/3.1", with f/1.8 aperture (wide angle)|
|Battery Capacity||4,400 mAh|
|Charging technologies||Quick charge at 20 Watts, wireless charge at 10 Watts|
|S-Pen support||Yes, Fold Edition and Pro Edition|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, Dolby Atmos, Music Share|
|Operating System||Android 11|
|Launch||from 27 August|
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an upgrade at first sight
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has undergone an almost complete overhaul and is much better device compared to its predecessor. I've only spent a short time with the device and can say with conviction that this phone is a true upgrade and everything looks and feels better compared to the Note 2. Some features, however, haven't changed, like the fact that Android and OneUI can't cross the line between mobile and tablet software.
This announcement also makes it clear that we won't have a new Galaxy Note in 2021, as the S Pen has arrived in the Fold series, as expected. Another important decision was to put the Snapdragon 888 in this super device, giving more choice between the Galaxy S and Fold series models.
Whether this will increase the popularity of Samsung's two lines, only time will tell. Now, it is certain that the manufacturer has seen sales of its flagships decline in recent months, and the fact that we have two models of the foldable phone series being released with considerable improvements at a lower cost than the previous year is a sign of change at Samsung.
Would you trade in your smartphone for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in 2021? Why would you? Share your opinion about the new foldable with our community in the comments below.