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The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is finally here – if you were wondering ‘what’s happening with the Z Flip 2’, well it seems the 5G version of the original Galaxy Flip technically counted as that, despite the lack of the number.
Launched alongside the Z Fold 3, and just like that bigger foldable phone, you’ll find the Z Flip 3 is more of an iterative update on its predecessor than a hugely different device, though there are some welcome tweaks. The ‘big’ change here is that the price is lower than the original Flip, though the reduction certainly isn’t enough to make the Z Flip 3 a more appealing device.
This is the best clamshell foldable phone there is right now – that’s not saying much, given the only competition is the Motorola Razr 2020 or the original Z Flip. The fact of the matter is, however, that even with this reduction in asking price, the Z Flip 3 just isn’t worth the cost right now.
Beyond the novelty of a folding smartphone, the Z Flip 3 doesn’t justify its price tag – as well as some issues with the form factor, like the fact there’s a gap in the phone when you close it, how stiff it is to close, or the way-too-high fingerprint scanner, it has problems that’d plague any smartphone experience like a tiny battery and iffy cameras
So while the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a neat party trick or fashion statement, it’s not so great as a normal, day-to-day smartphone. You may prefer to spend your money on a rigid device, because foldables just aren’t there yet.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 release date and price
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes in two storage sizes: 128GB, which costs $999 / £949 / AU$1,499, or 256GB which will set you back $1,049 / £999 / AU$1,599
For comparison, the original Galaxy Flip cost $1,380 / £1,300 / AU$1,800, and the 5G model was even more at $1,449 / £1,399 / AU$2,599. So the Flip 3 is definitely more affordable, although it’s still a good deal more than what you’d pay for many top-spec non-folding devices.
One thing we should point out, though, is that the original Flip lost its value quite quickly, and is now available brand-new for less than the Flip 3’s launch price. Oh, and if you were to buy a rigid phone with the Z Flip 3’s specs, you could probably save about $1,000 / £1,000 / AU$2,000.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 goes on sale on August 27, with preorders open now. In Australia, the pre-order date is the same, but the handset won’t start shipping until September 10.
Design and display
To look at it, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 doesn’t seem to offer much that’s different from its predecessor. But looks can be deceiving, and once you get the phone in your hand you’ll notice some improvements.
The phone has a ‘Glasstic’ plastic back with glass surrounding the camera module, unlike the all-glass original, and while its dimensions and weight are basically the same as before, the new phone feels sturdier to hold. Plastic is more drop-resistant than glass, and is generally easier to grip too, meaning the Flip won’t slide out of a wet hand.
Some of this reassuring firmness of the phone is probably thanks to the hinge mechanism, which feels less wobbly and more secure than the one on the first Flip.
Like the original Galaxy Z Flip, the Z Flip 3 has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner; and as on the original, this is a little hard to reach when the phone is unfolded. There’s also somewhat of a gap between the two halves when the phone is folded, which makes the phone less hardy in this position than it might be.
One of the original Z Flip’s weirder design choices returns here: when folded, the Z Flip 3 is almost square in shape, and just as wide as your average smartphone. That means it can be a bit of a squeeze for smaller pockets, even if the phone isn’t as long as your average handset.
The phone comes in a few different colors, including beige, black, green and purple, though some are exclusive to Samsung’s website depending on your region.
The main display is the same 6.7-inch FHD+ panel as the 2020 model, though its refresh rate has been bumped up to 120Hz. The folding mechanism isn’t too obvious behind the display, unlike on the original Flip and all the Fold models, which is a nice change, though it’s still not totally hidden by any means.
Bigger improvements have been made to the outer display, which was 1.1 inches on the original Flip but gets a sizable increase to 1.9 inches here. This makes it easier to see the redesigned layout for this display, which is useful due to new settings which let you change the apps on the cover display to mimic your Galaxy Watch 4.
Cameras and battery life
This is going to be a fairly short section, as both the headline camera specs and the battery are the same on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 as on its predecessors.
On the back are 12MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide snappers, although the sensors have bigger pixels than those in the original Flip, so pictures are a little brighter and more colorful. The 10MP front snapper is also essentially unchanged, though we don’t know about the sensor size here.
The collection of camera modes seems identical too. There’s Flex Mode, so you can part-fold the phone at a right-angle and use one side as a stand to keep the other, camera-toting side steady, along with the standard modes you’ll find on the Galaxy S21. Zooming is all-digital, and goes up to 10x.
The camera setup here doesn’t compare to what you’ll find on other recent Samsung flagships like the S21, so don’t buy this phone expecting to take fantastic photos.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has the same 3,300mAh battery as its predecessor, which is on the light side for a phone with a 6.7-inch display, but we’re guessing the form factor restricts how large the power pack can be. As this is a hands-on review we haven’t had enough time yet to properly test the phone’s stamina, but we found that the original Flip sometimes struggled to last a whole day.
There’s no change to the 15W charging either, which we’d consider slow if the battery wasn’t relatively small. There’s also wireless charging here, which works better when the phone is folded shut due to the charging coil’s placement in the phone.
Performance and specs
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 brings some small performance upgrades over its predecessor – chief among these are that it uses the Snapdragon 888 chipset, the top-end Android processor available to it (save for a Plus version of the 888 that few phones have).
Thanks to this processor, and 8GB of RAM, the phone felt pretty powerful to use when we were scrolling through menus or apps. We didn’t test any games on the phone – we were too busy folding it and unfolding it ad nauseum – but we have used plenty of other Snapdragon 888 phones, so it’ll likely be a pretty powerful device.
The software is Samsung’s OneUI, a fork of Android with some of the company’s apps thrown in – like most Android reskins, what you make of it, and the accompanying bloatware, is largely down to personal taste.
Don’t order the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 expecting a hugely different phone to the original Z Flip – it has the same dimensions, cameras, battery and software. And after testing it fully, we’re not convinced we’d part ways with lots of money for it – the issues with the form factor lurk around the Z Flip 3 like a dark cloud.
There are, however, a few improvements that might appeal to those who skipped the original Flip but were still tempted by it. The chipset is better, you’re getting a larger outer display, and the inner screen has a faster refresh rate.
But it might be the price that ultimately wins you over – while this phone is still super-expensive, it’s not as super-expensive as its predecessor, and we’re hoping this price drop is a sign of things to come in the foldable phone space.