Last year's Galaxy Z Flip managed to find more buyers than the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and the original Galaxy Fold, partly because it was a much more stylish phone and because of a more palatable price tag. Of course, at $1,349 ($1,449 for the 5G variant), it was still an expensive phone, and Samsung decided to do something about that with this year's Galaxy Z Flip 3, which starts at just $999 despite bringing a number of new features.
Water resistance is obviously the biggest new feature, followed by a considerably larger cover display that's more usable. The Z Flip 3 also gets a couple of flagship features that were conspicuously missing from the original, such as a 120Hz display, stereo speakers, and even a current-year processor. That said, some things have remained the same, like the tiny 3,300 mAh battery, slow 15W charging, and the camera setup, so this isn't a full-blown flagship.
Then again, the Z Flip lineup is not about the specs. It's about the cool factor, and its ability to fold into a compact little device while still offering enough high-end features. We loved the Galaxy Z Flip despite its shortcomings, and at $999, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 should be a no-brainer, right?
Find out in this review.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3, like the Galaxy Z Flip, folds vertically to go from a standard-sized phone to something you can easily fit in even the tightest of pockets, but it brings a number of design improvements. First off, the phone is water resistant with an IPX8 rating, which is an amazing achievement considering Samsung's not been selling foldable phones for very long. Samsung has also strengthened the frame and hinge with what it calls Armor Aluminum for increased durability, and Gorilla Glass Victus protects the rest.
IPX8 water resistance on the Z Flip 3 is an amazing achievement
Of course, that satisfying folding action is what makes the Galaxy Z Flip lineup so special, and you won't be able to stop yourself from just opening and closing the phone for no reason the first couple of days. Because the phone can unfold and stay open at multiple angles, unfolding it with a single hand is still tough to do, but thankfully that doesn't extend to folding it shut, which is fairly easy after a bit of practice.
The Z Flip 3 also looks stunning, thanks to a two-tone design – the metal frame and hinge are a slightly different color than the glass on all of the seven colors you can pick up (three of those are exclusive to ordering from Samsung.com). Or rather, you could call it a three-tone design, because the cover display is all black and adds another bit of contrast to the phone's look. Samsung has done an exemplary job at making sure this thing will turn heads everywhere you go.
The only thing Samsung really needs to fix on its foldables at this point is the gap between the two halves of the device when they're folded. Because of that gap, loose items in your pockets like coins are still a hazard for the foldable display. Oh, and the Z Flip 3 is slippery as all heck and kept sliding off the wireless charger, which is something to keep in mind if you decide to get one.
Both the cover and foldable displays on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 come with useful upgrades. The cover screen is appreciably larger than before (1.9-inch vs 1.1-inch), and that means it's a little more useful. You can now see bigger previews for capturing selfies using the rear cameras, there's space for up to four lines of notifications, and widgets are now more usable. There are seven to choose from: Music player, Alarm, Voice Recorder, Timer, Samsung Health, Weather, and Calendar.
The cover screen is appreciably larger than before
You can't add widgets that aren't already preloaded, though, and hopefully Samsung will open it up with a software update. There is, however, a choice of some beautiful clock styles that you can customize from the phone settings, and if you buy the Galaxy Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic, you can even sync the cover display with the watch's watch face. The cover display simply looks stunning with the right clock or background selected – in fact, it looks stunning even when the display is off.
The main 7.6-inch foldable display now has a 120Hz refresh rate, which means you get a creamy smooth scrolling experience and animations. It's also 29% brighter than the Galaxy Z Flip's screen, and you won't have any legibility issues even under bright sunlight. And since this is an AMOLED panel, it looks beautiful, with vivid colors, deep blacks, and ultra-wide viewing angles. Finally, the pre-installed plastic film is now 80% stronger, and while it still doesn't feel like you're touching actual glass, it does feel more reassuring.
You get a creamy smooth scrolling experience and animations
Flex Mode, which allows the phone to unfold and stay open at an angle, is making a return, and it's as cool as ever. In Flex Mode, supported apps will split in the middle and show you the main content on the top half and important controls on the bottom half.
Flex Mode is also great for hands-free video calls and taking pictures (those who love shooting time-lapse videos will love it). Furthermore, Samsung has added a new Flex mode panel feature that shows you brightness, volume, quick panel, and screenshot controls on the bottom half of the screen in apps that don't officially support Flex mode.
Unfortunately, Samsung has done nothing to fix the crease in the middle of the screen. You start ignoring the crease after a few days, as we've said repeatedly in the past, but for those who care for a completely blemish-free foldable display, the Z Flip 3 doesn't have it. The same goes for the $1800 Z Fold 3, so it's clear it's not a problem Samsung is looking to fix at the moment.
If you need a zoom lens on your smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not for you. The camera hardware is the same as the Z Flip's. At the back, there's a 12MP main rear camera with F1.8 aperture, Dual Pixel autofocus, and optical image stabilization, along with a 12MP ultra-wide F2.2 camera with a 123-degree field of view. The foldable display has a 10MP selfie camera – a standard one, not one that hides under the screen.
However, Samsung has made optimizations to the camera's image processing, and the main camera captures photos with more vivid colors (but not unnaturally so) and detail outdoors during the day and in well lit indoor settings. When it gets dark, you lose out on some of the sharpness you get in daylight pics and noise can creep in, but the camera is smart enough to automatically take long-exposure shots in challenging light conditions.
The ultra-wide camera is good during the day, but overexposes the scene often. At night, it struggles to capture detail and keep noise away. Videos from both rear cameras have good detail and wide dynamic range, but 4K@60 fps mode is not available for the ultra-wide. Selfie quality seems to be unchanged from last year except for slightly better nighttime quality. But thanks to the larger cover screen, you can simply use the rear cameras for massively better selfies and keep the front-facing camera consigned to video calls.
All in all, the cameras on this phone will keep all but the most discerning customers happy with their performance. I missed having a zoom camera when using the Z Flip 3, but I had no complaints about the rest of the experience. And I enjoyed having access to Flex Mode for Night mode shots and hyperlapse videos. In fact, with both the Z Flip and Z Flip 3, I took more hyperlapse videos than usual because you can just set them down anywhere and start shooting, no tripod needed.
Cameras on this phone will keep all but the most discerning customers happy
The Z Flip 3 is also packed with all the fun camera modes you see on other Galaxy flagships. There's the Galaxy S21's Director's View mode, which shows you a live preview from all cameras, and the excellent Single Take mode, which takes multiple photos and short clips with a single tap of the shutter button. A full-fledged Pro mode with shutter speed control is on-board, as well, and can be quite potent when combined with Flex mode.
The Galaxy Z Flip had an almost year-old Snapdragon chip under the hood and we had to wait for its 5G variant to get the latest silicon, but that's not the case with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. The Z Flip 3 is powered by the Snapdragon 888, the same chip that powers the Galaxy S21 series, and performance is as good as you would expect.
There's “only” 8GB of RAM whether you buy the 128GB or 256GB variant, but that's more than enough to keep things running along nicely at all times. It's flagship-grade performance, in short, and no one will find any reason to complain.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3, like the Galaxy Z Fold 3, comes running Android 11 with One UI 3.1.1 on top, but as far as foldable-focused features are concerned, it's not as packed. There's the Flex Mode functionality, as discussed earlier, and the new Drag & Split feature is present as well. With Drag & Split, you can open shopping links in Samsung Internet in a new window by holding and dragging a link to the side of the screen. The same can be done in apps like Samsung Notes and MS Office for notes and documents.
There's still no DeX support on Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip line
The rest is pretty standard fare, however. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has all the features you find on other Galaxy flagships with the exception of DeX. There's still no DeX support on Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip line, and it doesn't seem like the company is interested in doing anything about that, or it would have added it to the Galaxy Z Flip 3. One UI 3.1.1 is also quite bare-bones when it comes to new stuff that isn't targeted at the foldable form factor.
That said, One UI is the best software experience out there in the world of Android smartphones, and that doesn't change with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. As expected, this phone will get three years of OS upgrades and up to five years of security updates.
Battery life on the Z Flip 3 is as average as you would expect from a high-end phone with a 3,300 mAh battery and features like a 120Hz screen. You're looking at around 11-12 hours on a single charge with 3-4 hours of screen on time on average. Carrying around a power bank when you're stepping out of the house is a must. I'd say it's best to charge the phone every chance you get, as battery life is not very dependable, especially if you're stuck outside without a Wi-Fi connection and have to use mobile data all day long.
Battery life on the Z Flip 3 is as average as you would expect
Worse yet, you're still getting just 15W charging on this phone, and even though it's only a 3,300 mAh battery, topping it up is an excruciatingly slow affair. 10 minutes of charging takes the battery up by around 12%, and 30 minutes of charging gets it up to around 33%. A full charge is supposed to take an hour and 29 minutes according to the phone, but the actual time taken is longer by around 10-15 minutes.
The Z Flip 3 supports 10W fast wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging. The latter is good for your smartwatch or earbuds, but the small battery capacity makes this phone unsuitable for charging other phones.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has stereo speakers like other Galaxy flagships, with the earpiece acting as the second speaker. The quality improvement is easy to notice, although the stereo setup here isn't as loud as it is on Samsung's non-folding flagships (which also use the earpiece as the second speaker). Still, it's miles better than the single speaker setup on the Galaxy Z Flip and a feature I'm very glad to see on the new phone.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has stereo speakers, and the quality improvement is easy to notice
There's no headphone jack on the Z Flip 3, and Samsung is not bundling any earphones in the box, so you'll need to bring your own headsets or earbuds for wired audio (the Galaxy Buds 2 are excellent, in case you're wondering). Call quality and network reception are excellent. 5G support comes standard on the Z Flip 3, but I wasn't able to test it out due to the lack of 5G networks here in India. Also, the Z Flip 3 doesn't get two physical SIM slots like the Z Fold 3, which I found a little disappointing.
At $999, there's really no reason why you wouldn't want to pick up the Galaxy Z Flip 3 right away if you're looking for something that's a high-end phone and a fashion statement at the same time. The Galaxy Z Flip was great despite being far from perfect, and the fact that Samsung has added so many upgrades to the Galaxy Z Flip 3 while substantially reducing the price tag is downright impressive. With the Z Flip 3, Samsung can boast of having the first foldable phone that can be considered truly mainstream, and I can't wait to see where it takes things next.