Flexible displays have been featured at trade shows for over a decade and Samsung has led the charge in using them wisely, starting with the original Samsung Galaxy Fold in 2019.
Fast forward to today and Samsung is still leading the pack when it comes to foldable smartphones. Of course, Motorola and Huawei have also launched their versions of foldable phones, but neither seem to be breaking new ground and launching new and improved devices with the same urgency as Samsung. The company recently released the third generation of its Galaxy Z Fold and the second generation of the Z Flip foldable phones, and I’ve been using both for a few days now, which is enough time to give you my first impressions.
Let’s start with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. This new model is lighter than its predecessor and is said to be more resistant thanks to a new “Armor Aluminum” frame. Personally, I didn’t use the previous model much, but what I can say is that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is incredibly well built and sturdy. It makes a reassuring snap when you fold the screen, and there’s absolutely no unwanted bending in any of the panels. The Phantom Black color looks great and the matte finish doesn’t attract a lot of fingerprints.
One of the most notable changes to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is that the outer screen or the cover screen, as Samsung calls it, now supports a 120Hz refresh rate, just like the main folding screen. The resolution is only HD + but the content looks pretty crisp. Typing on this screen is a bit difficult due to its narrowness, but maybe it’s something I could get used to over time. The cameras, buttons, speakers, and ports are all laid out the same as a standard phone, but the real magic is inside.
The folding mechanism opens to reveal a massive 7.6-inch (2208×1768) QXGA + resolution AMOLED panel. There is an ultra-thin glass (UTG) layer on the panel, which Samsung says is up to 80% more durable than on the previous model. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 even supports Samsung’s S Pen stylus, a first for any foldable, but you’ll have to buy the Special Edition Fold S Pen or buy the S Pen Pro, like the ones that ship with the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Tab. will not work. The crease along the fold axis is still visible, but it is barely noticeable when the screen is on and when viewing the contents from the front.
The other big addition is the selfie camera under the screen. When viewing lighter content, the circular camera is visible due to the much lower pixel density in this area compared to the rest of the screen, but for darker backgrounds like when you watch a video, it is completely hidden. As far as camera quality goes, it’s certainly not as good as the hole-punched camera on the outer screen, but I’ll always reserve judgment for the full review.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is quite bulky and is clearly aimed at users who love multitasking and don’t mind carrying around a bulky device. The Galaxy Z Flip 3, on the other hand, is aimed at a completely different group of people who want an even more compact smartphone. I used the first Galaxy Z Flip for a few days, and compared to this one, the improvements in the new model are clearly noticeable.
First of all, this is the second generation of the Flip, contrary to what the name suggests. The most useful change in my opinion is to have a larger 1.9 inch cover screen, compared to the 1.1 inch screen of the previous model. The pixel count is the same, but the new panel is bigger and a lot more responsive, so you can do a lot more like preview emails, add widgets, etc.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 weighs the same as the old model and is actually a bit thicker when unfolded. They say the cameras are better, which I will test in the full review. It is also available in many more colors, but at the time of this article’s publication only a few have launched in India. The matte finish of the aluminum frame looks very nice and is much more sophisticated than the gloss finish of the previous model.
The foldable display is also equipped with the latest UTG glass and supports a refresh rate of 120Hz. The hinge is less elastic than before, but you will still need two hands to open it. The foldable screen looks great, the colors are punchy and, yes, the crease is still visible, but only if you see it off-axis.
Samsung used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 SoC in both models, so fast performance and 5G support is a given. Another upgrade common to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the fact that both are now rated IPX8 for water resistance; another first for any foldable phone.
Samsung’s first-gen Galaxy Fold was more of a proof of concept and a showpiece, but now the latest generation feels like it’s ready for mass adoption. The same goes for the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which doesn’t look like a one-off luxury item that someone might buy just for the sake of novelty. There’s still a lot of testing to be done to see what these phones look like in the real world, but so far it looks positive. Be sure to check out the full reviews coming soon, where I’ll be going deeper into the software, cameras, and battery performance of these new foldables.