When Samsung launched the original Galaxy Fold back in 2019, I fell in love immediately. It redefined the entire way I thought about smartphones and technology as a whole. Instead of just slab phones, the original Fold showed that phones can be so much more, and a year later the Galaxy Z Fold 2 followed this trend with a host of upgrades.
In the meantime, Samsung launched arguably its most important foldable. The original Galaxy Z Flip heralded the launch of the Galaxy Z foldables branding, the revamped hinge that’s the ancestor to the hideaway hinge found on both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, and the idea that foldables were for more than just power users; that they could be used by regular users as well.
With the Galaxy Z Flip 3, there are a few welcome improvements. The biggest improvement, however, is not hardware or software — it’s the price. I’ve been using the Galaxy Z Flip 3 for 48 hours now and here’s the first installment of my ongoing review. Check out my Galaxy Z Flip 3 unboxing if you want to see what’s included in the box.
Redefining a slab phone
I have both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 here and I’ve also been using both of the previous Folds for the past few years as my second daily device. I really like the expansive inner display on the Fold series, so I thought I’d naturally be more inclined towards the Fold first this time around. However, my brief time with the Z Flip 3 before it was announced left a mark, and much like my time with the original Z Flip, I was left wondering whether this was finally the time the Z Flip was going to work for most people.
48 hours in, I’ve dropped my iPhone 12 Pro Max almost entirely, and I will likely drop it completely once WhatsApp lets you transfer from iOS to Android. If I do go back to the iPhone for some residual personal data, I am quick to want to return back to the Flip. The lightweight nature, slim profile, and narrow design make for a gorgeous ergonomic feel in the hand.
Mostly however, there’s something very satisfying about flipping the Z Flip 3 open and closed. Making calls and shutting it closed afterward with that satisfying thunk gives me more joy than I imagined. We’ve all got experience with flip phones at some point in our lives – at least those in their mid-30s like I am – and the Z Flip 3 taps into the most important emotion of all — nostalgia. In the end, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 just makes the iPhone feel boring.
The Cover Display is now actually useful
Let’s talk about the Cover Display. The first Galaxy Z Flip cover display was quite frankly useless and Samsung found itself entirely shown up by the Motorola RAZR. This year, the Cover Display is four times larger, and has become far more useful than just that spec improvement.
I’ll cover the functional improvements and features of the Cover Display in detail in a later installment of these ongoing reviews, but they include a selection of widgets to control music, access health, weather, and much more. One of the most useful features is the notification panel that’s left of the main screen and unlike previous years, lets you view all your notifications in full. You can’t reply in any way, but it’s quite useful to be able to see the full email you just received to decide if it needs a response right away. It’s the same with any other notification or message you receive. The idea is to provide just enough information at a glance to decide if the notification needs further action right away.
The other reason for the Cover Display and likely the reason many people will enjoy the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the camera. When the phone is closed, double-press the power button and it launches into selfie mode, allowing you to use the two main cameras to take selfies, video, use all the cameras effects such as portrait mode, and more. The viewfinder is small but useful, and while it takes a few attempts to get the hang of it, you can generally take really good selfies. Occasionally some will come out blurry, but that’s the case with any phone and to capture, all you have to do is press either of the volume keys!
Xiaomi applied a similar thought process when including the rear display on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, but the ergonomics are completely different on this smaller form factor, letting the feature be more than just a gimmick.
Of course, when you’re not taking selfies, you open the phone up and you can use the two cameras to take excellent photos. The reality is that whether in selfie mode or other, you can take really good photos on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and it’s one of the reasons to buy this foldable form factor. Sure, Samsung itself provides a more versatile and more powerful camera setup on its glass slab “Ultra” flagships — but those overkills are targeted at a different audience. For the average user and use cases the Z Flip 3 is targeting, the camera is pretty good.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is all about being cool, different, and memorable and the new animal animations bring me so much joy every single time. They are cute, adorable, and absolutely delightful. The clock alongside it can be customized in one of eight colors and overall, it feels like it’s designed to be the party piece. That’s a great way to summarize the Galaxy Z Flip 3 as a whole — more than just a phone, it’s designed to be a statement piece, like a fine piece of art.
The real magic of the Galaxy Z Flip 3: Not 888, but Nine Nine Nine
I was going to leave this for the full review, or a future installment of this ongoing review, but honestly, I’ll probably mention a variation of this in every segment. The real magic of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 isn’t the hardware or the software — it’s the price. Samsung has managed to give you all the hardware you’d want from a flagship, including a Snapdragon 888 processor, 120Hz refresh rate in the phone, and two very capable cameras. But they’ve also added a folding display and kept the price at under $1,000. Not to mention, this is now IPX8 waterproof which means it can survive a brief downpour.
It’s about to chuck it down with rain in PA and I’m armed with just the #GalaxyZFlip3. In the past I’d run inside and protect this baby but thanks to water resistance I don’t need to worry!!
— Nirave 尼拉夫 (@nirave) August 11, 2021
The starting price of $999 makes the Galaxy Z Flip 3 a phone that can suddenly bring the cool factor to regular smartphone buyers at a price point that’s not prohibitively scary. A three-figure price tag means it’s affordable on a postpaid plan, or even if you’re buying it outright. However, that’s not all — there’s a lot of pre-order offers and Samsung will even let you trade in up to four phones, effectively meaning your old tech can be used to get you a folding experience for next to nothing.
It’s far too early to pass judgment on things like battery life, or performance but so far, it’s been about as expected. In my first full day of usage, I got just shy of five hours of screen on time with about 17 hours of total battery life. That’s more than acceptable for most people’s daily use.
All in, my first two days with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 have been incredibly positive and it’s made me realize foldables are finally ready for the mainstream. Whether that lasts remains to be seen, so join us for the next installment to find out! If you’re interested in the Galaxy Z Flip 3, don’t miss out on the best Galaxy Z Flip 3 deals! Do you need a case for the Z Flip 3? The jury is out on that to be honest, but we recommend checking out the roundup above anyway, as protection is always welcome!
- The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the first foldable that feels like it was made for the mainstream. At a starting price of $999 it’s redefining what is expected from all smartphones, and with several trade-in offers, you can save a lot! Pre-order now and you’ll also get credit towards Samsung accessories and more as well!