I think we all can agree that posting anything about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 this late is pretty pointless, given that there are tons of reviews out there. We got the device pretty late so, which is why we weren’t able to review it as early as you think. But instead of doing the usual Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Review which is pointless at this point – we decided to take it in a different route and talk about how – after having 3 weeks with the foldable only proved that Foldables aren’t going to replace traditional smartphones but co-exist alongside, like a modern-day communicator. We are going to talk all about that.
Disclaimer: Samsung Malaysia loaned us the pre-retail unit of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. That said, we will not dive into performance numbers as there’s a possibility of inaccuracy.
The Most Refined Fold 3 yet
Yes, to put it simply – the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the most refined Fold, the Korean Tech brand has made to date. Not only we saw changes that falls more under incremental but call it like a coating of polish applied on their existing lineup of Z Fold to make it more of a consumer product than an early adopter product. The display on the front is bigger than ever when closed, the display on the inside – too, got bigger and compact with no odd-looking notches anywhere with a hidden camera, a hinge that holds up better – well, at least according to what Samsung claims and now, comes with IP Certification which in my opinion is the real dealbreaker. Making a device that morphs and having any kind of ingress protection requires proper engineering and it shows, that they have made their design work better and as I mentioned earlier, it’s a coating of polish to make the phone a consumer product.
Despite that, it still isn’t perfect.
The Love-hate Relation with the Cover Display
You can call it the first display, front display – any kind of term that tickles your fancy. I am going to call it the Cover display. Now, it makes sense to have a display on the front that’s small to be able to use it for daily task and let me mention the two good things about it: It’s much bigger than the original Fold with the small display and it’s a much nicely put together display. But this display drove me nuts during my time of usage as it’s in an extremely unconventional ratio where its narrow and tall (you thought Sony Xperia phones were narrow and tall, wait till you use this).
This particular ratio makes the front display, which is supposed to be usable, unusable. Many complains about how frustrating it is to type, to let an app work properly and the “smallness” feeling that it comes along with, makes you want to just open up and use the bigger display instead – which most users end up doing, including myself.
Personally, it really would have been nice to see a slightly wider display for the sake of better usability. If Samsung’s idea was to just make a foldable and making users rely on the display which is inside (or in-between), might as well give a smaller cover display like the Z Flip instead. Given that when a person with adult hands, your thumb as you try to type would end up hitting the wrong key and autocorrect, which is already the mess that it is, will only make things worse. Initially I thought it was just us nitpicking, but as it turns out – a lot of users had the same frustration. So, now I know it’s not a me thing.
Moving on to the Actual Usable Display
As you unfold (no pun intended), you are welcomed with the actual usable display that’s big, nice and satisfyingly square in shape. Yes, it doesn’t have an odd rectangular shape but instead comes in this square shape which when we did some product shot and posted on our Instagram, it was the most satisfying picture we have taken.
That out of the way, the display on the inside is still the same Ultra-Thin Glass which they announced previously, but this time in partner with the well-known legends, Corning as they joined forces to develop the glass further. If you notice, the Z Fold 3 still doesn’t fold completely like how a paper would, but it curves to its maximum point where you know it is at the stress and the strain point.
But that said, you will still see the crease in the middle which is absolutely inevitable. I am fine with this because this is how foldables will be for a while till we reach the absolute pinnacle in advancement of the foldable displays.
The experience with the display on the inside is pretty much as the same as the previous generation where nothing much has changed. Except that, Samsung has gone far to make the bigger display much more usable. If you remember, switching from the front to the bigger display, there’s a whole lot of issues where the phone has a tough time adapting the ratio and so much more. Now, Samsung has added a whole lot of features to emulate the app in a 16:9 or 4:3 ratio in the bigger display so that the app doesn’t break. But any app that has to do from Meta – which includes Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp – breaks a lot. Instagram in specific, has issues handling the display ratio, the moment you switch to the bigger display, it will just stop working or accepting touch responses. So, you will have to force close the app and reopen again.
There are other modes: Flex Mode panel which only works with select apps such as camera where when you flex it, it will move the viewfinder above and the controls below. YouTube, where the video gets moved up and other miscellaneous stuff at the bottom. The mode I enjoyed was the multi window mode where you can open 3 apps at the same time side by side, so working on that was fun for me.
If it wasn’t for OneUI taking their foldable experience seriously, I don’t think we’d have any kind of good experience to begin with and every other manufacturer that’s making a foldable is missing out on the fact that Software makes up for the rest of the experience and I am glad Samsung isnt one.
My main concern is that: given most users are relying on the bigger display more because the smaller display doesn’t cut it or because of how frustratingly harder to use, it raises some serious questions if the rated number of times the fold can withstand folding/unfolding would be even accurate. So, over the time, if the display in the middle stops working for good – get ready to claim that warranty.
Now it supports S Pen
As someone who is a huge fan of the Note series, seeing the S Pen support on this makes me happy. But remember, you cannot use the same S Pen as the S21 Ultra or the Note pen. Because since the display is sensitive, you will have to purchase a separate pen that’s catered for the Z Fold 3. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one to try, so we skipped that.
That Hidden Camera is Mediocre at best
Samsung decided to give a much more immersive display experience on the bigger display by hiding the camera, but if you think that hidden camera is any usable. Think again. Low light performance isn’t great, and you will end up relying on the smaller display’s front facing camera or just get used to the camera on the inside. You can see the comparison below.
As for the rest of the phone
Not much has changed with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 in many areas more than one. Like the camera for instance, it shoots the same way as it shoots, and you are getting a triple camera setup that has been brought down from its predecessors. Which is okay because most users getting this aren’t getting for the camera but for the dual display experience.
Battery life is an absolute miss because you’d expect the phone to last for more than a day but expect to connect to the charger by the end of the day. Fingerprint sensor on the power button is what I love about this device instead of the under-display sensors.
Now the Truth: Z Fold 3 (or any foldable) isn’t going to Replace traditional Smartphones
Here’s the thing: for years, we have all been wanting to carry one device for everything and it sounds like dream but in reality, it will always be a dream. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 brings that dream together but again, the liability to spend the amount of money to get a phone this niche is not a good reason to convince users to do it.
Sure, it’s more affordable than its predecessor, but still has a premium price tag to pay. That doesn’t mean that users wouldn’t buy this phone – there will be that market of users who will love it and would purchase it, but it will remain as the niche phone that it is. Think of it as the early days Nokia Communicator when the Finnish brand set out to make a device that does two things at once but ended up being the niche device that co-existed along side with other phones which was still popular. (Fun fact: My dad owned the Nokia Communicator and I still have fond memories of it, even playing Bounce on the bigger display.)
So, yes – it’s a device not for everyone but it’s for someone out there. If you are that someone, then by all means, get it, and enjoy it because among the foldables we have gotten to see, Samsung was the only brand that has given most of us the chance to experience and having said that I have tried all the three generation, makes me happy that we can come to this conclusion.
Will I still pursue reviewing foldables in the future? Definitely. But will I own one for myself to “elevate” my user experience? I think I will stick with my traditional phone. Better yet, I would love to see the Note come back because even as a user that has been using the S21 Ultra as my daily driver, the Note series will always have a special place in my heart and will always be my personal choice of productivity tool. Period.
Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review.
Special thanks to Samsung Malaysia for gracing us with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for making this content happen.