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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Review: When Foldables Go Mainstream

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The Galaxy Z Flip 3 got improvements in every area. From price to durability and everything in between.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
$999
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • Bigger & more usable Cover Display
  • Main Display is now 120Hz
  • Incredibly low $999 price
  • IPX8 rated for water resistant
  • More durable overall
Cons
  • Battery life is not great
  • Cameras are just OK
  • Still very tall, slightly awkward to use

Samsung provided AndroidHeadlines with a review unit of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. This is the Cream color in the 8GB/128GB configuration, and was used on T-Mobile’s 5G network.

Samsung wants to make foldables mainstream. And they may have just done that with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Not only is the price actually attainable, but it steps in line with all of the other flagship smartphones on the market today. But is that enough for the Galaxy Z Flip 3 to sell “millions”? Let’s find out in our full review.

Both displays get plenty of upgrades

Both the main display and the Cover Display on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 got plenty of upgrades this time around. Let’s start with the Cover Display.

The Cover Display is now four-times larger, measuring in at 1.9-inches. Now regular math won’t point to it being four-times bigger since the original was 1.1-inches. But it actually is. This larger display means that you can do even more here. This includes being able to actually read and take care of notifications on the Cover Display. Showing widgets for the weather, calendar, timer and more. Believe it or not, it actually makes the Cover Display super useful now.

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Then there’s the main display. That’s where you’re going to spend the majority of your time, of course. It’s still a 6.7-inch FHD+ display, at a 22:9 aspect ratio. Which makes it pretty tall, and admittedly a bit tougher to actually use. But it’s not bad. However, when it comes to upgrades, this display got a few too. It’s now a 120Hz display, and will be in the “Adaptive” mode all the time. So it will move between 2Hz and 120Hz depending on what you’re doing. There’s also a new screen protector on the display here that is going to make it more durable. Making it less likely for you to damage it.

The main display overall, looks great. Now is it the best display in a smartphone? No. Not this time. Which is rare for Samsung. But the best display in a foldable? Probably. Or coming in second to the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The colors are plenty vibrant, and the display even gets super bright. I’ve used it outside in direct sunlight and was able to actually see the display quite clearly.

The hinge gets stronger

The hinger is stronger and more durable on the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Samsung is using what it calls “Armor Aluminum” which the company says is stronger than Series 7000 Aluminum. So there’s that. They rate the hinge as working for up to 500,000 folds on the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Which Samsung believes will last you around five to six years. But we’ll have to see about that a bit later on.

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It definitely feels stronger, and is even tougher to actually open and close. On the original Galaxy Z Flip, I was able to open and close it with one hand. That’s not the case with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. That may change after another week or so, as it gets worn in a bit. But you won’t be slamming the phone shut like an older flip phone, unfortunately.

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The only bad part about this hinge, is the fact that it still does not allow the phone to fold flat. There is still a bit of a gap at the hinge. But the screen is covered with the dust caps, allowing the phone to be IPX8 rated for water resistance, which is nice. But it is not dust proof, so little particles can still get in.

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The design grows on you

I’ll admit, when I started seeing the leaks for the Galaxy Z Flip 3, I wasn’t sold on the design. The two-toned back with the screen taking up part of it and then whatever color you get, taking up the rest. Even in our briefing with Samsung, I wasn’t sold on the design. But after using it for a few days, I actually kinda dig it.

Samsung didn’t send us the best color, as we have the Cream color here, but it’s not bad. The Green color looks better, but that’s my opinion.

The design is pretty good and functional. There’s an outline on either side of the backside, around the hinge. Which looks rather unique and definitely shows that you are using a Galaxy Z Flip 3. While the majority of the back is also glass. Surprisingly, it does not pick up many fingerprints. Which I did not expect. And it makes the fact that it is not a matte finish like Samsung’s other phones, a bit less of a downside.

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The only gripe I have with the design is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. It’s pretty high on the side of the phone. And I often need to re-adjust my grip of the phone to get it to work properly. Now this is likely down to some physics reasons, why it is so far up. Like it can’t be to close to the hinge, as that might compromise the sensor working a year or two down the road.

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On the other side of the phone, you’ll see the mmWave window. This is just a piece of glass that allows the mmWave modem to work with 5G UWB on Verizon or 5G+ on AT&T.

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Battery life suffers

Really the only thing I can find to complain about with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the battery life. It’s the same 3300mAh capacity battery from the previous two Galaxy Z Flip smartphones. And in 2021, that’s a pretty small battery for a 6.7-inch FHD+ 120Hz display. It definitely shows.

Most days, I’m lucky to get around 4 hours of screen on time. Don’t expect to get more than five, unless you really baby the phone, and don’t use it on 5G.

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Luckily it does have fast charging and can charge at up to 25W with the right charger – which is not included in the box this year. So you can easily top it off, if you need a bit more battery. But it would have been nice to get a larger battery here, and one that could last the full day.

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Android for foldables is getting there

Google actually added support for foldables to Android a couple of years ago. But that was only the start. Companies, including Google and Samsung, needed to still work on this software to get it working well on foldables. This included making apps work better in multi-window, using them across the two screens and more.

It’s getting there, but still not perfect. Luckily, on the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the software isn’t as big of an issue. As the Cover Display is still too small for most apps to be used there. So it’s just a matter of stretching the app across the 20:9 display.

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One of the cooler features available on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 (and the Fold 3) is Pop-Up View. This essentially allows you to open an app as a separate window on the phone. Which allows for some sweet multi-window features too. And gives you almost a desktop-like experience, on your phone. Admittedly, this does work better on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but it works great on the Flip 3 too.

This is good, because DeX mode does not work on the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Meaning that you can’t get DeX on the Flip 3, but you can still plug it into a monitor and use DeX, like you can on the Galaxy S21 series.

Out of the box, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 runs on Android 11 and One UI 3.1.1. Currently that is the latest version of both. But Android 12 is getting ready to release in the next month or two. It will get updated to Android 12, and Samsung has been getting faster with updating its phones. So it shouldn’t take a long time for this one. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

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Cameras are rather disappointing

When you think about how Samsung was able to hit this price point, one thing that comes to mind is the cameras on the Galaxy Z Flip 3. They are the same as the original Galaxy Z Flip that launched last year. Which means it is basically the Galaxy S10 cameras here. Now those cameras are not bad, really, but they are pretty old at this point.

We’re looking at two 12-megapixel sensors on the back – one ultrawide and one wide – along with a 10-megapixel hole-punch selfie camera. Samsung did bring over some of the Galaxy S21 features here, like the AI-based Bokeh for Portrait mode. But the quality of pictures here is really starting to show how old these sensors are.

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However, those buying the Galaxy Z Flip 3, likely are not buying it for the best camera out there, and Samsung knows this. So providing an adequate sensor is likely good enough for most people.

Below, you can see some of the camera samples from our time with the Galaxy Z Flip 3, and see for yourself how it stacks up.

Galaxy Z Flip 3 Camera Samples - Google Drive

Should I buy the Galaxy Z Flip 3?

There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy Z Flip 3. It does everything a “regular” smartphone can do, has all the same features as a “regular” smartphone and even comes in at the same price. I can see the Galaxy Z Flip 3 selling millions and perhaps becoming one of the most popular smartphones of the year.

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The only real issue with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the battery life. And if you can work around that, then the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a really great smartphone to pick up at $999. And if you’re lucky, you can get it for free thanks to the many different deals that are currently available for it.

If you’re thinking about the Galaxy Z Flip 3 or the Galaxy S21 Ultra, get the Flip 3. Not only is it cheaper, but you’re going to love living the “flippy boi” life.