The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is unique. It’s the only big-screen folding phone in the US, and it can do things no other phone can, such as play games, read PDFs, and generate content in new ways. It can be your lone device for the majority of the day, more than any other phone. We’re not offering the Galaxy Z Fold3 our Editors’ Choice award because, like the Galaxy Z Fold2, it costs $1,799. Samsung offers a lot of trade-ins and incentives for this phone, but a phone that costs as much as a laptop isn’t going to be popular.
SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FOLD3 5G SPECS
|Operating System||Android 11|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|Dimensions||5.04 by 6.22 by 0.25 inches|
|Screen Size||7.6 inches|
|Screen Resolution||2208 by 1768 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||12MP, 12MP, 12MP; 10MP; 4MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||11 hours, 25 minutes|
From the Note to the Fold
In 2019, the concept of large-screen folding phones was all the rage, but Samsung is the only manufacturer in the United States that is still doing it. Huawei is no longer a contender, ZTE tried and failed, LG abandoned phone development entirely, and Google and Apple’s folding phones remain rumors. The RAZR from Motorola fits a separate niche (which Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip3 fills better): a regular-sized phone that folds up even smaller.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is the spiritual successor to the now-defunct Galaxy Note series. For creatives and people with poor vision, the Galaxy Note started off as an almost ridiculously enormous, stylus-enabled phone. People who used the stylus for productivity and those who merely desired a huge phone with big icons and text made up the majority of its market. With a screen so large that it’s like a whole new world, the Fold3 ups the ante for the productivity crowd once again.
The Galaxy Z Fold2 hasn’t seen any significant modifications. The most evident is support for the S Pen. I used to tease the Galaxy Note for being excessively enormous; the Galaxy Z Fold3 is even bigger, especially with the accompanying S Pen holder cover. The big canvas, on the other hand, is attractive if you’re looking for a portable notebook or sketchpad. You could also go for the larger S Pen Pro, which doesn’t store with the phone but allows you a little more control over the slightly slick screen.
Otherwise, the modifications are minor. The phone is now more sturdy and, most importantly, waterproof, which is wonderful news for your $1,800 investment. The phone has an IPX8 rating, which means it is water-resistant but not sand- and dust-resistant. That’s the cost of having a hinge, according to Samsung, but it also means you shouldn’t get your phone sandy at the beach. If you’re concerned about the gadget’s longevity, Samsung offers a Samsung Care+ ($12.99/month) extended warranty that covers accidental damage and allows for up to three device replacements in a 12-month period.
Samsung wants to make the under-display camera a huge deal. Sure, it’s a technological feat, but once you get used to it, a hole-punch doesn’t bother you.
A Great Deal of Phone
Do not be fooled: The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is a large and heavy phone. It is slightly lighter than the Z Fold2, but heavier than any other flagship phone. It measures 2.64 by 6.22 by 0.63 inches when closed (HWD). It measures 5.04 by 6.22 by 0.25 inches when open (HWD). It’s made of bricks.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 succeeds where the Microsoft Surface Duo failed because Samsung knows a fundamental principle of phone ergonomics: thick is preferable to wide. The Duo has been flattened, making it impossible to operate in one hand and absurd to hold up to your head. However, the Galaxy Z Fold3 is thick and narrow when closed, making it easier to operate in one hand than most other smartphones. The 6.2-inch, 2,268-by-832 external screen runs at 60Hz, as opposed to the 7.6-inch, 2,208-by-1,768 inside screen, which runs at 120Hz. It also doesn’t support the S Pen. However, it is a fully working screen on which all of your programs will run.
It’s a whole new universe when you open up the Galaxy Z Fold3. Of course, it’s square, which can be uncomfortable to handle but is useful when reading, browsing the web, or using email programs. The crease is still apparent and palpable, and the screen protector doesn’t quite reach the edge. Neither of these things bother me, especially because the crease is sometimes (but not always) a signpost to two-paned UIs, and it vanishes if you hold the phone at the appropriate angle while playing games.
I felt that typing on the outside screen was actually easier than on the inside screen, however some individuals may find the touch keyboard to be too small. A little keyboard on the front screen, a default split keyboard on the big screen so you don’t have to stretch your thumbs too far (although you do have to keep each thumb on the correct side of the screen), and a centered keyboard on the big screen, which takes a bit more thumb stretch. At least one should be the proper size for you, depending on your thumb nimbleness and reach.
A New Perspective
I need to use this phone for weeks, not days, to fully have a hold on it, and I need to put my own data on it. I don’t usually put my personal information on review phones, but this one makes a significant difference in how you work.
For example, Chrome now supports tabs. Because it’s difficult to recall what previous pages you have open in an Android browser because they’re hidden, you tend to open a lot of duplicate pages. Not any longer, thanks to tabs!
A new multitasking paradigm has emerged: you open a task bar from the side of the screen, then swipe an app icon across half of the screen to form a split window. Once you get used to it, it makes sense, but you must get used to it.
You can place the Galaxy Z Fold3 half-open on a table and force any app to only display on the top half of the phone; this is useful for watching videos and, in some situations, video calls.
Of course, there’s DeX and complete Bluetooth mouse and keyboard support if you need an extreme desktop situation. DeX allows you to connect the Fold3 to a TV (through Wi-Fi) or monitor (via USB-C–to–HDMI connection) for a desktop-like experience with genuine windowing. (On the Galaxy Z Fold3 and other contemporary Samsung devices, it works the same way.)
Because of the large screen, you may be able to get more work done on the go with the Galaxy Z Fold3 than you could with other phones. It’s difficult for me to explore or feel this distinct kind of use because I spend virtually every day in my kitchen, aka my work-from-home office. However, I’ll be on a business trip at the end of the month, and I’m looking forward to seeing how I use the Galaxy Z Fold3.
Plenty of Strength
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 engine, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of storage. It runs Android 11 with Samsung’s folding UI tweaks; Samsung claimed it will get an Android 12 update, but didn’t say when. The corporation has made a three-generation commitment.
On the Fold series, Android upgrades go as far as Android 14, in this example.
GGT scores are slightly higher than those of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro. When the phone is closed, onscreen graphics benchmarks run really quickly, but they also perform admirably on the large primary screen.
The 4,400mAh battery is sufficient for all-day use, especially when combined with Samsung’s power management software. With the phone open, we received 11 hours and 25 minutes of video playback time.
The Galaxy Z Fold3, like all Samsung phones, takes a long time to charge. It only comes with a cable and no charger. The Galaxy Z Fold3 took 40 minutes to reach half charge on a 22W Samsung charger and 95 minutes to reach full charge. (The phone is capable of 25W charging, but Samsung’s fast chargers only provide 22W.) The phone also supports slow wireless charging (10W) and reverse wireless charging (4.5W). With that, you can at least charge your watch or headphones.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is excellent for reading, as you might imagine. This is the only phone that allows you to view a complete Marvel Unlimited comic page, a full VIZ manga page, or a full PDF restaurant menu without scaling. On a different phone, you would see more of each online page or news story.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is not good for watching videos, contrary to popular belief. Unless you’re viewing the Snyder Cut or ancient TV shows, which both look great, the 4:3 screen doesn’t fit conventional video aspect ratios. Because it’s lighter and has a wider screen, the Galaxy Z Flip3 is really superior for holding and watching most videos.
What astonished me was how well the Galaxy Z Fold3 is at gaming. Open-world games, in particular, adapt well to the form factor and provide greater room to walk about and accomplish things. The 120Hz main screen is smooth, and the processor can handle even the most demanding games like Genshin Impact. Walking around the Genshin universe on a huge screen is more immersive than on a phone. I had more access to the land around me while playing Stardew Valley, a farming simulator, than I do on standard phones. Mini Metro was even simpler to play.
Excellent connectivity; not so much sound
The radios in the Galaxy Z Fold3 are essentially the same as those in the Galaxy S21 range, so there’s nothing new or unusual about them. It is based on a Qualcomm X60 modem and supports all existing and future US carrier technologies, as well as Verizon and AT&T’s C-band networks.
On T-midband Mobile’s 5G network, I discovered that the Galaxy Z Fold3 delivered nearly identical (excellent) performance as the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Flip3, with the Galaxy Z Fold3 hitting maximum speeds of 675Mbps down and 116Mbps up. On the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, I experienced similar Wi-Fi performance to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
When carriers make it available, the Galaxy Z Fold3 is set up with the best quality EVS codec for calls. The speakerphone is noticeably quieter than the Galaxy Z Flip3 or Galaxy S21 Ultra, peaking at roughly 92.7dB at six inches, but it’s still functional. It’s easy to hold up to your head because of its thin shape, but it’s too heavy to do so for lengthy periods of time. The best alternative is to use Bluetooth headphones; my Jabra Elite 75t earbuds worked perfectly with the phone.
Overall, the sound is a mixed bag. Of course, there’s no headphone jack, and Samsung wants you to use wireless earbuds like the Galaxy Buds2. Speaker volume peaked out fairly loud in our lab tests: 92.7dB on calls and a very loud 103.3dB when playing a music video folded open. However, it’s difficult not to cover at least one of the speakers with your palm when holding the Fold, so sound is frequently muffled. It irritates me. Simply use earbuds.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 has up to three SIM slots (two physical and one eSIM) in some overseas models, however the US edition, like most Samsung phones sold by carriers here, only has one physical SIM slot. Although the eSIM feature exists, Samsung has stated that it has no intentions to implement it at this time. I don’t recommend purchasing international models for usage in the United States because they are frequently incompatible with American networks.
Make a Note
The use of the S Pen with the Galaxy Z Fold3 is an excellent concept. The large canvas is ideal for drawing or taking notes. However, Samsung falls short here, as the phone lacks a handy way to store the stylus, and you can’t quickly locate it if you misplace it.
Two S Pens are required for use with the Galaxy Z Fold3, which may be purchased separately. The $49.99 S Pen Fold Edition is a matte black Wacom stylus that is circular with one flat side and slightly longer and chubbier than the Galaxy S21’s pen. It has a single button on the side, and if you press on it too hard, the tip retracts.
The S Pen Pro, which costs $99.99, is significantly longer and looks more like a paintbrush. Because the Fold3 uses a different pen transmission frequency than previous S Pen devices, earlier S Pens and the Fold Edition pen will not work on the Fold3. It works with everything because the Pro has a switch to switch between frequencies.
The Fold Edition pen does not require charging and comes packaged in a little plastic case. The problem is that it is not connected to the phone in any way and cannot be beeped or located electronically, thus the chances of it disappearing beneath the couch cushions are very high. (Your SmartThings app can beep for the larger Pro pen.) It just took me a day to misplace mine.
Samsung didn’t provide me a $79.99 flip cover with a S Pen slot, which I believe you’d need if you want to carry the pen around with you. Only the Fold Edition pen fits in that slot; the S Pen Pro is too huge.
The S Pen Fold Edition offers the same basic experience as other pen-compatible phones. It’s pressure and tilt sensitive, and most apps let you switch on palm rejection so you can write or draw freely on the screen. However, the tip is a little slick on the Fold’s screen. I’m not sure if it’s confirmation bias, but using the S21 pen on the same screen (which doesn’t work) feels a little better. Three replacement tips are included with the S Pen Fold Edition, although they are all similar. This problem, I believe, will be rectified by third-party accessories; all we need is a set of tips with a little more drag.
It’s worth mentioning that, unlike the Galaxy Note 20, the S Pen Fold Edition does not support use as a Bluetooth remote control. Again, you’ll need the S Pen Pro for this.
There are five cameras on the Z Fold3. A 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide, a 12MP f/1.8 main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), and a 12MP f/2.4 2x zoom with OIS are all found on the rear. There’s a 10MP f/2.2 camera on the front. And now, under the display, there’s a 4MP front-facing camera for video chatting while the Fold3 is open.
These cameras are a tad disappointing for a $1,799 phone. They’re great in the best-case situation; with a steady hand, a close subject, and decent lighting, photographs look like they were taken with a Galaxy S21 Ultra. However, the majority of circumstances are not ideal.
I lost the detail on brickwork that I received with an S21 Ultra in more distant images of a structure, and a street shot at night appeared to have a tiny haze over it compared to the S21 Ultra. The S21 Ultra also had a little better focus in low-light situations. There’s also no comparison between the S21 Ultra’s 10x zoom and the S21’s maximum 2x zoom.
The front-facing camera on the S21 features a shallower depth of field, resulting in crisper backgrounds. It’s a question of judgment if that looks good in a selfie; many people prefer a slight bokeh effect because it draws attention to the main subject.
The selfie camera built into the display isn’t very good. It doesn’t have a night mode, so my low-light selfies were mostly blacked out. Daylight photos were washed out and flat. It’s 4MP, but it’s cropped to 1,392 by 1,856, or 2.58 megapixels by default. That’s quite near to 1,080 by 1,920, so think of this camera as being similar to your laptop’s subpar webcam, which is good for 1080p video calling but not much else.
The cameras aren’t deal breakers for me, but there’s a case to be made that everything on a $1,799 phone should be top in class.
Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Comparison
|Galaxy Z Fold3 5G||Galaxy Z Flip3 5G||Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G|
|ScreenMain: 7.6″ Infinity Flex display | Cover: 6.2″ Dynamic AMOLED||ScreenMain: 6.7″ Infinity Flex display | Cover: 1.9″ Dynamic AMOLED||Screen: 6.8″ Infinity-O display|
|Main Camera: 12MP Wide, 12MP UW, 12MP Tele + 2x optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, 10MP Front||Main Camera: 12MP Wide, 12MP UW, 10x digital zoom, 10MP Front||Main Camera: 108MP Wide, 12MP UW, 10MP Tele 3x Optical and 10x Optical, 100x Space Zoom|
|Battery: 4,400mAh / 25W Super Fast Charge||Battery: 3,300mAh / 15W Fast Charge||Battery: 5,000mAh / 25W Charging|
|Storage: 256GB | 512GB / 12GB RAM||Storage: 128GB | 256GB / 8GB RAM||Storage: 128GB | 256GB / 12GB RAM|
|S Pen Support: Yes||S Pen Support: No||S Pen Support: Yes|
Nothing compares to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3. It’s nearly unmanageable in its weight, but when you open it up, you’ll find a mobile office and gaming system unlike anything else on the market. It’s a substantial amount of phone. It is not suitable for everyone. It will be adored by those who it is intended for.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold3, and Galaxy S21 Ultra are now a formidable trio of flagships. The Fold3 is all about getting more out of your phone, while the Flip3 is all about getting less out of it. With the Fold3, you’re always in front of a screen, which can be rather large at times, practically urging you to get things done. You’ll also need to justify the effort involved in transporting it. While it has the same processor and many of the same capabilities as the others, the Flip3 is lighter and smaller, and when closed, it seems more like a smart pocket watch than a phone; it has a lot more casual attitude. The S21 Ultra features a familiar design and an excellent camera.
What else can I use to compare the Galaxy Z Fold3 to? Nothing, in fact. If your major interests are collecting and sharing photographs and video, or if you’re a more casual smartphone user, it’s not for you. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or the Apple iPhone 12 Pro are preferable choices for the first category, while the Google Pixel 5a would suffice for the second.
If you’re a true smartphone enthusiast, you might consider waiting for one of the speculated future folding phones from other companies. Remember that rumored phones are always great because they have all of the theoretical features you desire and none of the real-world constraints that disappoint you down. Google’s foldable phone, in my opinion, will not be available until next year. It will almost certainly have better cameras than the Galaxy Z Fold3, but I doubt the software will be as foldable. And no one knows what Apple is planning.
As a result, the Galaxy Z Fold3 is virtually alone. At this price, you’ll want to keep it for at least three years, so think twice before buying (though I believe it will resell for a good price). However, it’s a lot of fun to use, and if you like to live large, you’ll enjoy it.
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