Samsung’s latest foldable smartphones, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, were launched with considerable fanfare at this week’s Unpacked event, promising to bring the category mainstream. The entire specifications for these devices can be found here, but here are my initial thoughts on them.
REFINED HARDWARE AND DESIGN
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a similar appearance to its predecessor, the Z Fold 2, with a few small differences such as the back cameras, which now form a straight line rather than a square block.
When I initially held the Z Fold 3, the first thing I noticed was that it felt more sturdy than the Z Fold 2, especially when folded or unfolded.
The Z Fold 3 seemed compact and well held together when folded shut. It’s a pleasant sensation. According to Samsung, the Z Fold 3 sports a narrower hinge, which may have helped the sides fold closer together.
However, I’m betting that small improvements to the cover glass material and the curve of the display panel contributed to the increased sturdiness.
When the device was unfurled and viewed from the top or bottom, the two sides appeared to be better aligned, forming a nice straight line.
The hinge on the Z Fold 2 used to gently bump one side, but that is no longer the case.
According to Samsung, the Z Fold 3 is 11 grams lighter than its predecessor, but this doesn’t feel like much of a difference, and it still feels heavier than other smartphones.
With the Galaxy Z Flip 3, it’s clear that Samsung intended to enhance the “cool” factor, especially with the addition of the new cream colorway.
The larger cover screen on the outside is the device’s true showpiece. Samsung increased the screen size from the previous year’s model, and wow does it look good.
When comparing the looks of Samsung’s latest foldables, the Z Flip 3’s glass covers are more obvious than the Z Fold 3’s because the former covers the entire phone rather than just the panels.
Both devices are IPX8 water resistant, which means they can withstand being submerged for 30 minutes in 1.5 meters of water.
This isn’t an invitation to submerge them in water, but I sprayed water on both devices for five minutes straight with a shower head, and they both worked great after that.
I believe it is safe to state that both foldables will be OK to tote in the rain or near a swimming pool.
SMOOTHER SCREEN AND USER INTERFACE
In terms of color and brightness, the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 screens are marginally less vibrant than their predecessors. However, the overall hues of these screens appear to be more realistic.
Both of the new gadgets feature Samsung’s greatest OLED panel technology, with 120Hz refresh rates on both displays.
Both devices’ overall user interfaces have been upgraded. Apps have loaded quickly so far, and screen transitions from folded to unfolded to flex mode have been smoother.
This, I believe, is due in part to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 processor’s hardware improvement, as well as Samsung’s improved optimisation capability in these form sizes.
On-screen icons, buttons, and app bars have also been updated, and they now appear more polished than in prior versions.
Third-party apps like BBC or Naver appear to be more integrated for the primary screens, especially on the Z Fold 3. There were no or fewer vacant dark spots in pre-loaded apps than before.
When it comes to the crease, both gadgets have it. The crease on the Z Flip 3 is identical to that of its predecessor, which means it is quite apparent and can be felt the majority of the time.
Meanwhile, the crease on the Z Fold 3 is less visible since the horizontally bigger screen optically absorbs it better.
S PEN FIRST IMPRESSIONS
On the Z Fold 3, Samsung is supporting the S Pen for the first time. The screen’s response speed to the stylus was comparable to, if not better than, that of the Note series. While scribbling on the Samsung Note app, there were no significant latency issues.
Before I tried this function, I was curious to see how well the S Pen would stand up against the seam in the middle.
When I first used it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could easily write over it. It’s apparent, but it never interfered with my writing. The Z Fold 3 was also made to seem luxurious and reliable by including a specific case that can hold the S Pen.
The second significant question I had was how much the S Pen will be used with the Z Fold 3 in day-to-day tasks. This will have to be put to the test during the next few weeks.
The S Pen was not just an essential element of the Note series’ experience, but the motions required to use it were also simple: you take it out and start scribbling things down.
I also used the S Pen a lot when I was holding the Note in the air.
In comparison, the Z Fold 3 requires one more step of unfolding the device, which I normally perform with both hands due to the strength of the magnets that keep the sides together.
Because the Z Fold 3 is heavier than the Note series, I’ve found it a little more challenging to use the S Pen when holding the device up with one hand.
Z FOLD 3’S UNDER-DISPLAY CAMERA
During Samsung’s Unpacked event, the under-display camera on the Z Fold 3 received a lot of attention.
The front camera is hidden while not in use and is situated beneath the primary screen, according to how the new technology works.
My initial impression is that the feature isn’t as subtle as it should be. I expected the screen covering to be more uniform with the information playing around it when the camera is switched off, but this is not the case.
The hole is not visible when the camera is not in use and the screen is held at a distance. However, as I moved the screen closer, I noticed a flickering dots circle where the hole was.
According to Samsung reps, this occurs when the hole area of the screen has different light transmittance than the rest of the screen, and the dotted circle represents the camera pattern.
It’s something you notice now and again, but it’s unclear how it’ll effect everyday use, if at all.
Samsung has also chosen a 4MP front camera over a 10MP camera for the under-display camera. The manufacturer claims that AI and other technologies make the pixel decrease undetectable, and I’ve only shot a few photos with the 4MP camera so far, so I’ll have to put it through its paces to see if the lower pixel count is worth the compromise.