Smartphones, with their similar boxy designs, all look like illegitimate children of one another. Samsung broke that monotony when it introduced the world to its series of foldable phones. While far from perfect, they were different, and hinted at a myriad of possibilities.
Now into their third iteration, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 can no longer just bank on being different to sell. They need to be usable, take on the competition seriously, and overall just be more ‘normal’. So have the new foldable devices managed that? We review the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 to find out.
Same design, yet evolved
At first glance, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 looks exactly the same as what we saw a couple of years ago. It resembles a normal (tall-ish) smartphone when open, and a compact mirror when closed. But why change something that continues to attract attention? Instead, Samsung seems to have focused on improvements.
This time around, the body and hinges are made of a material called ‘Armour Aluminium’, which sounds like something King Arthur’s knights would wear. This new material however has done the trick, and the phone feels sturdier than before, and gives you more confidence to frequently open and close the phone.
The hinge mechanism however continues to be tight so you can’t flick the phone open like Channing Tatum in that gym scene from She’s the Man. But at least you can look cool while closing it with one hand.
The Flip’s main 6.7in screen is a thing of beauty. It is crisp and vivid, especially indoors, which one expects from a Samsung display. Even outdoors on a sunny day, the screen is easy to see.
The 120Hz adaptive refresh rate makes everything buttery smooth, and the narrow 22:9 aspect ratio is just perfect for video watching. That said, the screen still collects more fingerprints than ACP Pradyuman’s CID team. We found ourselves wiping the screen at least a couple of times a day.
Display à deux
Among the highlights is the secondary screen, which is now much bigger than the pill-shaped one on the original Flip. This means you can see more, and don’t always have to open the phone.
A single tap shows the time, battery percentage, date, and a notification dot. Double tapping animates the screen, and swiping will show your notifications, music controls, fitness stats, weather, and more. The screen is now genuinely more useful than before, especially when you’re feeling too lazy to open the phone.
The Flip 3 proves its flagship credentials with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 under the hood. It is more than capable of handling heavy apps and graphics-intensive games, and also keeping benchmark fiends drooling.
But the one thing we noticed is how the rear of the device tends to get a bit warm after a while. It is unclear whether this is one of the compromises of making a thin foldable phone, or just a bug that can be fixed with an update. Nonetheless, while it gets warm, it doesn’t get uncomfortably hot that you instinctively drop it on the floor.
One of the disappointing bits about the phone is its battery life. Samsung hasn’t upped the capacity from the first Flip, and the built-in battery just about gets through the day on a single charge. It isn’t great when compared to some other phones in the premium segment, and neither is its charging capabilities.
On paper it supports 15W fast charging, and you’ll need a separate adaptor as there isn’t one bundled in the box. Hope the Arctic seals are happy. Also the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus have spoiled us to the point where 15W feels like snail pace.
Software-wise, Samsung’s OneUI continues to be among the best out there. Coupled with the Flip’s power, the UI felt clean, fast, and smooth throughout our testing period.
Taking advantage of the folding concept is the Flex Mode, which is when an app makes use of two screens when the phone is half-open like a laptop. While more apps are using Flex Mode than before, there are still many that don’t. We really wish to play a game in Flex mode where the visuals are on top and the controls on the bottom. Nintendo, are you listening?!
The two 12MP wide and ultra-wide cameras on the back of the Flip are good enough for point-and-shoot photographers. They work best in ideal lighting conditions, giving you photos with plenty of details, and those slightly over-saturated Samsung colours that most people know and love.
Even portrait photos look good as long as you’re shooting in good lighting conditions. But you sorely miss a third telephoto lens on the phone, and the 2x optical zoom just doesn’t cut it.
As the sun goes down, so does the quality of photos. The snaps look rough and grainy. You can compensate for low light by using Night Mode. But the phone uses a long shutter speed, meaning the subject needs to stay absolutely still or look like they are moving as fast as The Flash.
There’s a 10MP selfie camera housed inside a hole-punch in the main display. But you’ll find yourself seldom using it, because of what the phone can do with its foldable design and the cover screen.
The Flip can transform into a tripod, as you can fold the phone in L-shape and keep it on any surface. You can then see yourself in the cover screen, adjust the frame, and shoot a photo. Gone are the days when we had to hunt for suitable household items to help prop up our phone while shooting a selfie using the rear cameras
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 proves that foldables are ready for the mainstream market. It has come a long way since the first iteration, and even after the novelty of a folding phone wears off, the phone has enough polish to be a great daily driver for most users.
It is by no means a perfect phone with a not-so-great battery life, cameras that fall short of competition, and no certified dust protection. But a relatively accessible price tag means a lot of people will look past these, and go for the Flip.