Author: “Samsung’s new folding phones only partially convince”

Samsung has introduced a new generation of its folding smartphones. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 now complement the manufacturer’s lineup. However, only one model could convince editor Rita Deutschbein in a direct comparison.

Over the years, smartphones have continued to evolve. In the past few years, however, a design has established itself that almost all manufacturers use – elongated, with a large display and narrow edges. There are only rare outliers, one example being the LG Wing with its rotating display. However, Samsung has also been offering foldable smartphones that deviate from this since 2019. The now presented third generation of the devices has developed well, as I could see for myself in the pre-release hands-on of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G – the prime

The showpiece among Samsung’s foldable smartphones is certainly the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G. The manufacturer has put a lot of new developments into it, but has left the design quite unadjusted. The Fold is the model that can be folded lengthwise in the middle like a book. Thus, it has the shape of a slim but thick smartphone when folded, but it looks like a tablet when opened.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 in tablet mode
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 almost becomes a tablet when folded out. Photo: atechbook

The Fold has a moving story behind it. The first model still cost a good 2500 euros, but quickly broke. However, Samsung has worked on the implementation of the folding mechanism and the flexible display over the years, and thus the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is supposed to be the most robust model so far. Like all of the manufacturer’s folding smartphones, it has to survive 200,000 folding processes, and it is also the first device in the series that is water-resistant according to IPx8.

The material of the case is also new. Samsung speaks of “Armor Aluminum” here. In the end, this term is mainly an advertising promise – it is supposed to be about 10% more robust and less susceptible to scratches. It remains to be seen whether this will work in everyday use. Samsung at least is self-confident. With the Galaxy Z Fold 3, it has developed a model that users do not have to worry about damage. A new PET display foil is supposed to make the screen about 80 percent more robust. If it breaks, users should not change it themselves. Samsung explicitly refers to designated repair services that professionally replace the film. It is a good thing that owners of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 get a service promise in the first year and can handle all repairs under warranty via Samsung Care+.

Technical features

Aussehen und Display sind beim Galaxy Z Fold 3 im Vergleich zum Vorgänger nahezu gleich geblieben. Das Außendisplay im geschlossenen Zustand hat eine Größe von 6,2 Zoll bei einer HD+-Resolution. Auseinandergeklappt wird das Smartphone fast zum Tablet. 7,6 Zoll misst das Gerät dann, wobei das Display mit Dynamic AMOLD 2x hier in Full-HD+ auflöst.

The larger display may certainly be practical for many users. However, it is a bit too big for me personally. It also displays websites in mobile mode, which takes some getting used to for me in this size. You should also keep in mind that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is enormously thick when closed. 1.44 centimeters to be exact, and it also weighs 271 grams. You can’t just put it in your pocket, even though Samsung advertises with statements like a “slim, thin and impressively light design”. I do not find that even when I squeeze both eyes together.

atechbook on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3
Working in the mobile view is somehow more familiar on the small smartphone. Photo: atechbook

Zumindest technisch hat Samsung aber aufgerüstet. Im Inneren werkelt ein aktueller Snapdragon 888, der dem Falt-Smartphone ordentlich Performance beschert. Auch der Memory ist nicht zu verachten. Wie beim Vorgänger gibt es 12 GB RAM und wahlweise 256 GB oder 512 GB internen Memory. Erweitern lässt sich dieser leider nicht. Durch die Kombination aus Chip und Memory gleitet man beim Surfen gerade zu durch die Webseiten. Auch beim Öffnen von Anwendungen war ich über das Tempo erstaunt. Hier gibt es nichts zu bemängeln, denn selbst für Gamer reicht die Performance aus. Sie profitieren zudem über die Bildwiederholungsrate von 120 Hz, wodurch Bewegungen enorm flüssig erscheinen. Halb aufgeklappt lässt sich dann auch prima auf dem Galaxy Z Fold 3 spielen – einfach unten die Steuerknöpfe und im oberen Displaypart die eigentliche Darstellung legen, schon kann es losgehen.

Outer display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3
Das Outer display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 lässt sich wie bei einem normalen Smartphone nutzen Photo: atechbook

With S-Pen support for the first time

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first in its series that can be operated via S Pen. Samsung has introduced a new S Pen especially for this, the S Pen Fold Edition. However, there is also a new S Pen Pro. Both have a highly sensitive tip that recognizes inputs with pinpoint accuracy. The special feature: The tip yields when too much pressure is applied so as not to damage the sensitive display. This shows between the lines that the Z Fold 3 cannot keep up with other smartphones in terms of stability. Users are always called upon to handle the thin display with care.

By the way, the Fold Edition of the S Pen is exclusive to the smartphone. It uses a different frequency compared to earlier pens. The Pro version allows changing the frequency via a slider so that it can also be paired with other devices. Both allow transferring marked texts and pictures to another Galaxy device with S Pen support, as long as it is logged into the same Samsung account.

Under-display camera is an absolute disaster

One highlight of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the 4 megapixel under-display camera. However, it turned out to be an absolute flop when we took a closer look. The quality of the pictures is so poor that it reminded me of the early 2000s, when I still took pixelated pictures with my cell phone camera. What Samsung was thinking here is simply a mystery to me. It almost seems as if the manufacturer wanted to integrate the new feature by hook or by crook and do without the notch in the display, even though it offers absolutely no added value. My tip: Forget the under-display camera and rather use the second option for selfies and the like, because the Galaxy Z Fold 3 also has a standard 10-megapixel camera that takes much better pictures.

Cameras of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Comes with three 12 MP cameras – Galaxy Z Fold 3 Photo: atechbook

The triple camera, which we already know from the predecessor, can be found on the back. Thus, there is little new to report here.

The most important data of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 summarized

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Display 6.2 inch and 7.6 inch respectively
Dynamic AMOLED 2x,
Up to 120 Hz, Gorilla Glass Victus
Resolution 2268 x 832 pixels and 2208 x 1768 pixels, respectively.
Processor Snapdragon 888,
5 nm, Octa-Core (1x 2.84 GHz + 3x 2.42 GHz + 4x 1.80 GHz)
Memory 12 GB + 256 GB
12 GB + 512 GB
not expandable
Main camera Triple camera:
12 MP wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS
12 MP ultra-wide angle, f/2.2
12 MP telephoto lens, f/2.4, OIS
Front camera 10 MP, f/2.2 (outside)
Sub-display cam 4 MP, f/1.8
Battery 4400 mAh, 25 watts, (reverse) wireless charging
Software Android 11,
Samsung One UI 3.1
Security Face recognition, fingerprint sensor
Connections Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Internet WLAN a/b/g/n/ac/ax, LTE + 5G
Other Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, dual-SIM (Nano + eSIM), IPx8, S-Pen compatible.
Dimensions and weight 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4 mm and 158.2 x 67.1 x 14.4 mm (closed), respectively.
approx. 271 g
Colors Phantom Green,
Phantom Black,
Phantom Silver
MSRP from 1799 euro

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is no bargain with prices starting at 1799 Euros, but it is at least a bit cheaper than the earlier models. Still, I have to ask myself what this money is actually paid for. Compared with the predecessor, Samsung has worked on the robustness, but still warns against handling the device too roughly. Largely advertised features like the S Pen are rather impractical for me in everyday use, especially since I cannot store it directly in the device. The fold is too thick when folded and too big when opened. And the most annoying thing for me is the under-display camera, which leaves a really pale taste in such an expensive device. In the end, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 unfortunately lacks the decisive unique selling points compared to the predecessor.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 – a folding smartphone to my taste

If Samsung had only shown the Galaxy Z Fold 3, I would have been disappointed. But there is still the new Galaxy Z Flip 3. The difference is in the shape. It can be folded like earlier flip phones and is thus very compact. However, it’s not only the shape that appeals to me, but also the color selection and the general concept. Samsung offers the Galaxy Z Flip 3 in the colors Cream, Green, Lavender and Phantom Black. You can also get versions in Gray, Pink and White exclusively in the Samsung store. Matching cases and holders even expand the color selection. I have always been a fan of colors in smartphones and am particularly attracted by them. For me, this is a ray of hope in a cosmos dominated by black, silver and gray.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 compared with Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 (front) in comparison with Galaxy Z Fold 3 Photo: atechbook

Aber auch abseits dieser – zugegeben etwas oberflächlichen Meinung – überzeugt mich das Galaxy Z Flip 3 mehr als das Fold. Und das, obwohl es in Sachen Ausstattung weniger zu bieten hat. Es ist einfach handlicher, für mich praktikabler und vertrauter – vermutlich aufgrund der Nähe zu klassischen Klapphandys, die ich von früher kenne. Im Smartphone werkelt der gleiche Processor wie im Z Fold 3, es bietet den S-Pen-Support und ist ebenfalls wasserfest nach IPx8. Da enden die Gemeinsamkeiten aber schon fast. Auf WLAN ax müssen Nutzer verzichten, 5G ist aber an Bord.

No frills, but solid technology

Das Galaxy Z Flip 3 kommt insgesamt weniger “aufgeblasen” daher als das Fold. Große Experimente macht Samsung nicht. So fehlt dem Gerät die Unter-Display-Kamera, was meiner Meinung nach aber ein Pluspunkt ist. Stattdessen setzt der Hersteller auf Altbekanntes und Bewährtes wie die Dual-Kamera mit je 12 Megapixel. Schade ist, dass Nutzer hier auf ein Teleobjektiv verzichten müssen – da ist das Z Fold 3 besser gerüstet. Auch in Sachen Memory zeigt sich das Flip etwas abgespeckter. Hier gibt es nur 8 GB Arbeitsspeicher und wahlweise 128 GB oder 256 GB internen Memory, was dem durchschnittliche Nutzer aber ausreichen sollte. Schnell und flüssig lässt sich damit allemal durchs System und Internet scrollen.

Unfolded - the Z Flip 3 from Samsung.
Looks like a normal smartphone, but can be folded – the Z Flip 3 from Samsung. Photo: atechbook

Das Besondere ist aber die Form. Auseinandergeklappt sieht das Galaxy Z Flip 3 eigentlich aus wie ein herkömmliches Smartphone. Mit seiner Displaydiagonale von 6,7 Zoll ist es sogar auf der größeren Seite. Die Ränder sind äußerst schmal und die Resolution dank Dynamic AMOLED 2x mit 2640 x 1080 Pixel gestochen scharf.

However, if you fold the device in the middle, it shrinks to a mini that is even smaller than a package of sliced cheese in terms of side length. It only gets thicker – a full 1.71 centimeters to be exact. However, that is less of a problem than with the Fold due to its compact form. Especially since Samsung has come up with some clever solutions for transporting the smartphone. For example, there are various cases that are specially designed for the folding smartphone and that can be attached like a pendant via a key ring. This also shows that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is primarily a lifestyle product.

Outer display now four times larger than before

I particularly like one change in the new model compared to its predecessors – the enlarged outer display. Samsung has enlarged it to 1.9 inches – four times more than before. Thus, important information can be read even better than before without opening the smartphone. For example, you can access the calendar, pedometer, and – quite classically – the weather and time via widgets.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 folded
The Z Flip 3 folds up so small Photo: atechbook

In terms of robustness, it is also fair to say that Samsung relies on a similar concept for the Flip 3 as for the Fold. The flexible screen and the foil as a cover instead of glass make the device more susceptible to external influences. Buyers also get Samsung’s Care+ service for one year for free.

Features of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 at a glance

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
Display 6.7 inch + 1.9 inch outer display
Dynamic AMOLED 2x,
Up to 120 Hz, Gorilla Glass Victus
Resolution 2640 x 1080 and 260 x 512 pixels (outer display), respectively.
Processor Snapdragon 888,
5 nm, Octa-Core (1x 2.84 GHz + 3x 2.42 GHz + 4x 1.80 GHz)
Memory 8 GB + 128 GB
8 GB + 256 GB
not expandable
Main camera Dual camera:
12 MP wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS
12 MP ultra-wide angle, f/2.2
Front camera 10 MP, f/2.4
Battery 3300 mAh,
Fast Charging, Wireless Charging
Software Android 11,
Samsung One UI 3.1
Security Face recognition, lateral fingerprint sensor
Connections Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Internet WLAN a/b/g/n/ac, LTE + 5G
Other Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, Dual-SIM, IPx8, S-Pen support
Dimensions and weight 166 x 72.2 x 6.9 mm or 86.4 x 72.2 x, 17.1 mm (closed)
approx. 183 g
Colors Phantom Black,
Cream,
Lavender,
Green
MSRP from 1049 euro

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Mit einem Preis from 1049 euro ist das Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 ebenfalls kein günstiges Smartphones. Sieht man mal vom Formfaktor ab, gibt es für das Geld besser ausgestattete Modelle vom gleichen Hersteller. Doch es ist eben die Form, die mich beim Flip reizt. Das Mini-Smartphone macht etwas her und irgendwie sogar niedlich. Dennoch bietet es unter der Haube eine solide Leistung, die meinen Ansprüchen genügen würden. Und am Ende ist es immer noch 750 Euro günstiger als das Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, bei dem ich irgendwie das Gefühl habe, viel für etwas zahlen zu müssen, das nicht ausgereift ist oder das ich nicht brauche.

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