Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 REVIEW
At last, here’s a foldable phone that’s not just for the five-percenters. PAT PILCHER gives Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 a close inspection.
Could the Galaxy Z Flip 3 be the phone that changes the game when it comes to foldables? After a week with it, I’m starting to believe that it just might be what foldable fans have long been after. It isn’t perfect, but it is one of the best foldable phones I’ve used to date.
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Unlike every other foldable I’d previously reviewed, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 doesn’t require that buyers sell their firstborn or even their kidneys. Sure, it isn’t super cheap; but the Flip 3’s $1599 sticker price is roughly the same as what you’d pay for a flagship non-folding slab style smartphone. That said, the Galaxy S21 Plus will give you 30x ‘Space Zoom’ and the similarly priced iPhone 12 Pro’s CPU will help you compute pi to the gazillionth decimal place (or play a mean game of Sodoku).
But here’s the thing, they’re big – and they’re slabs. Put a Galaxy or an iPhone in your trouser pocket, and people will snicker and point, wondering if you’re really that pleased to see them. Not so with the flip, though. Its flip phone form factor makes it eminently pocketable, minimising unsightly trouser pocket bulges. Its ability to transform from your nana’s flip phone into a fully-fledged flagship slab-phone is cool, but the big question is this: Is it a gimmick? Are the cynics right in saying that the novelty will eventually wear off? In the all too brief amount of time I spent with it, I’d say that the sheer usefulness of the Flip 3’s highly pocketable design gives it real practical use.
While the Flip 3 has trade-offs, its spec is surprisingly good. For your money, you get Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 silicon, 8GB RAM, and a roomy 128GB storage. Then there’s the 6.7-inch folding AMOLED screen (which sports a 120hz refresh rate) and a 1.9-inch notification display. Rounding things out is 5G support.
The outwards facing notification display also deserves special mention. It’s a definite step up from the tiny display of the previous model and comes with widgets that you can use to drive the camera, control music and flick through notifications. Until I realised that I had to double-tap to use it, I wasn’t that excited about it. Once I worked out the whole double-tap trick (which sensibly prevents accidental pocket activations), using it for selfies became second nature.
Another clever feature is the Flip 3’s flex mode apps. By unfolding the Flip 3 90 degrees, some apps split into a top-and-bottom configuration. For selfies, you get a camera preview on the top and camera controls on the bottom. In use, Flex mode worked well. I wish more apps supported it (looking at you Zoom and Skype). Speaking of consuming media, I also found that mostly unfolding the phone (so that it is slightly ‘V’ shaped) allowed it to stay upright on its side. The partially folded setup made watching 16:9 formatted videos on an airline tray table effortless.
If I was going to spend money on a foldable phone, the Flip 3 is what I’d want. A tablet isn’t practical when I’m out and about, but unfolding the Flip 3 into a full-sized phone proved insanely useful. I especially like being able to fold it back up and pocket it without hearing fabric tearing. Being a flip phone also means that its inner foldable display is protected.
Speaking of durability, Samsung says that the Flip 3 is IPX8 certified, and that translates in non-geek-speak to it being able to be submerged in 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes. Samsung also says its hinge is 10 percent more durable than its predecessor, but it isn’t dust-resistant (which is why it has an ‘IPX8’ instead of an ‘IP68’ rating). Either way, it felt solid, and its improved robustness is a definite bonus.
I used the review unit to watch and listen to media, shoot photos, and try out Flex Mode. It performed like a champ. While its camera isn’t quite as powerful as the shooter on my Huawei P40 Pro, the images it captured looked pretty good. I was impressed with its night mode. Night photos were crisp, had low pixel noise and accurate colours. While its battery was quick to charge using a Samsung fast charger (juicing up took just one and a half hours to hit 80 percent), the Flip 3’s 3,300mAh battery is on the small side and only just made it through a day’s typical use. I liked that I could shoot selfies by double-pressing the power button. The front-facing notification screen doubled as a viewfinder. With the notification screen, I could also swipe left to switch between shooting modes. Swiping up and down also allowed me to zoom in and out.
Cool foldy stuff aside, The Flip 3’s biggest selling point is its reasonable sticker price. Foldable phones have previously been stupidly expensive, being the device of choice for the 5 percent. Not anymore. The Flip 3 sticker price starts at $1599. Add to this the various discounts and deals on offer by Vodafone, 2Degrees and Spark, and the Flip 3 is comparable price-wise to what you’d pay for a Galaxy or iPhone. Considering what is on offer, its competitive price point makes the Flip 3 a worthy contender.