Foldable phones have been around for a few years now. Despite a rocky beginning, hardware issues and teething issues with OS support, it’s fair to say that foldables are maturing at a rapid rate.
Samsung has been a part of the foldable journey since day one, working on hardware and software to support the ecosystem.
Foldables currently fall into two categories, Phone sized devices that fold out into small tablets, and phone-sized devices that fold in half to become a smaller, albeit thicker device.
We’ve had Samsung’s latest Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 in review for a while now. The question we had was, is there a use case for a foldable phone, and is it a good phone in its own right? Read on to find out.
From the moment you open the box, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 jumps out as something different. Upon opening the box you’re greeted with the large main screen immediately showing off just how much real estate you get when opened.
The main (large) AMOLED display measures in at 7.9 inches, larger than the original Nexus 7 tablet. Upon picking up the device you can’t help but immediately fold it in half. For an instant, it feels wrong and then feels like the most natural and obvious thing ever.
The outer (small) AMOLED display measures in at 6.2” with a very tall and thin 25:9 aspect ratio. Both screens are bright and vibrant, with colours that pop, which is common to Samsung AMOLED displays.
To say the Fold 3 is all about the display isn’t an understatement, the device’s very existence is predicated on the assertion that we need a new paradigm in mobile displays. I think Samsung has delivered that “something different”.
Looking at the rest of the hardware, the Fold 3 includes a Snapdragon 888 5G SOC, paired with 12GB of RAM and 256/ 512 GB of internal storage. The external rear main camera has a triple array with a 12MP f/1.8 Wide, 12MP f/2.4 2x optical telephoto and a 12MP f/2.2 Ultrawide angle lens.
The internal selfie camera brings Samsung’s first under-display image sensor with a 4MP f/1.8 camera, while the external selfie camera, yes that’s one selfie camera per screen, is a much better 10MP f/2.2 setup.
Rounding out the hardware is a 4,400 mAh battery, 25W fast charging via USB C and 11W charging via Qi. All of the typical wireless radios are along for the ride with NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6. Check out the full specs below.
|Galaxy Fold 3|
|Display||Main display: 7.6 inch 2208 x 1768 QXGA + AMOLED display
Secondary display: 6.2″ 2268 x 832 HD+ AMOLED display
|SOC||Snapdragon 888 5nm Octocore
1 x 2.84 GHz, 3 x 2.42 GHz, 4 x 1.8 GHz
|Storage||256 GB / 512 GB|
|Cameras||Main: 12 MP f/1.8 26mm
Ultrawide: 12MP f/2.4 52mm
Zoom: 12MP f/2.2 12mm
|Charging||USB C 25W fast charging
Qi charging up to 11W
Reverse Wireless charging
|Colours||Phantom Green, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver|
Overall the Galaxy Fold 3 is well constructed, has a solid heft and hand feel. The hinge never feels flimsy or weak, and after the first time you’ve opened and closed the device, it just feels completely natural.
It’s a little heavier than a standard phone, and a lot thicker. I was able to carry the phone in my pants pocket, but I do admit to having roomy and stretchy pockets. I never had an issue with its size, but I did notice it.
WHAT’S IT GOOD AT?
Overall the Fold 3 is a solid performer, with top-level internals meaning it’s no slouch in the performance arenas, this isn’t a mid-tier device with an expensive screen. Daily use feels buttery smooth and the physical fingerprint sensor is just such a welcome relief from the cavalcade of lacklustre under-display sensors.
I have used this phone as my second daily phone consistently now, I carry two phones one personal one for work and use them both heavily, for some time. I can assure you from weeks of daily use, this is not a concept phone, it is 100% usable as a daily driver.
Typically we discuss cameras upfront, but honestly, the camera takes a back seat to the display on Fold 3. While the story of the Fold 3 is the larger folding display, we can’t forget the 6.2” front display.
The front display does feel narrow, with a 25:9 aspect ratio there’s no getting away from that. That said it is still better to have a narrow full-screen display instead of a small notification style display, but the closed experience is impacted by the lack of width.
The keyboard is narrow, the fonts a bit small, you can just feel that lack of width. All of that changes when the device is opened of course.
The inner 7.6” display is a thing of beauty. The simple luxury to carry that much screen real estate around in your pocket is amazing. For the first time in many years, I have been truly excited by a device, this is something new.
I know that technically this is the 3rd generation, however, with the Fold 3 everything seems to have coalesced into a cohesive and reliable device. History may mark this as the first “fully ready” foldable device.
Outside of just having a large screen, the foldable display delivers what you’d expect. Samsung has bundled a split keyboard to make typing on such a large display usable, something I hope Google and others adopt soon as a keyboard option as the foldable category grows.
The extra real estate helps with using apps, and when they are designed for larger displays that can make a real difference. Native Samsung apps, some Google apps and some Microsoft apps have been updated to handle larger displays, be it a large phone or a small tablet.
These ‘fold ready apps” take full advantage of the screen often in meaningful ways that enhance the usability of the apps. One small quibble is some apps are not configured to have their display size changed at loading, moving to the larger display causes them to be forced closed and reopened.
That’s not Samsung’s fault, it’s just where the ecosystem is at with preparedness for screens that dynamically change their size. When you close the phone it turns the display off by default, but you can configure app by app to keep it running if that is your usual use case.
I used to carry 2 phones and a tablet all over my workplace, I can honestly say that for 99% of tasks the Fold 3 has replaced my Galaxy Tablet, and does it well. From meeting agendas, to productivity on the go the Fold 3 feels like a great business phone.
Of course, that doesn’t stop you chucking that extra screen real estate at a game or two, don’t think this is purely a business phone, if you want a portable large screen, that’s what this device is.
I’m often asked, “can you see the fold?” The answer is yes, in many lighting situations and angles it is visible. However it’s never actually been distracting, there wasn’t even really a “getting used to it period”.
From the first time, I used it the small crease in the screen was unobtrusive, and that hasn’t changed. The physical feel of the hinge under the display is also ‘noticeable’, but again it doesn’t detract from using the device, at least not for me or anyone else who’s played with it.
That doesn’t mean others may not be distracted by the crease, or not be able to get used to the different texture under the hinge. There is always a spectrum, but for me it’s great.
Samsung doesn’t make “bad cameras”, but they do make better ones. The camera performance on the Fold 3 is good. I have taken many phones using the main triple camera array, and they are all exactly what I needed.
That said, Samsung has tried to save a dollar or two with the cameras used, they are hardly from their premium range. I applaud the inclusion of the telephoto and Ultrawide sensors, not doing that would have been a step too far for a premium-priced device.
I’d always want a better optical zoom than the 2x the Fold 3 includes, that doesn’t make it a bad telephoto, it’s just as good as 2x telephoto can be. Photos taken in good light with just a half-second of care turn out perfect.
Samsung’s computational photography continues to give images that ‘Samsung’ look and I’d expect nothing less. In lower light or with fast-moving objects the sensors struggle a little, but honestly, for most people the cameras will be ok, they just aren’t as good as other premium devices that likely cost less.
The internal under-screen selfie camera suffers a lot, whether it’s the 4MP resolution, or seeing through the display you can see below that it’s just not a great image, despite the ugly subject the camera just is sub-par. If you need to selfie, however, the front display camera is more than up to the task, delivering a much crisper and higher overall quality image.
While you’re nothing to buy the Galaxy Fold 3 for the cameras, if you need good cameras and want the Fold 3, it will deliver.
I have to admit, I thought battery life would be nothing short of atrocious, I just assumed that a screen that big couldn’t last a day, well it does, routinely.
I use the fold day in day out for work calls (which I get too many of), emails, meetings, a slice of gaming and general phone stuff. My real-world experience is that it lasts from 0500 when it comes off the charger to 2200 when it goes back on.
The only thing that stops it from lasting all day is a heavy gaming session, and that’s understandable. At 2200 on heavier days I am getting close to that 5% mark, so if you’re an extremely heavy user or want more than 17 hours of use you may need to top it up.
Good news on the charging front, between the 25W USB-C charging and Qi 11W charging, it’s easy to keep it topped up, or give it a quick top up before heading out for an evening.
Foldables are still new in the overall scheme of consumer tech, and the Galaxy Fold 3 is the best iteration of the large foldable device I have used. The device has a quality heart to it and delivers a smooth Android experience in line with any modern flagship.
The addition of SPEN support is great, but I have always found that a non-integrated SPEN is just not useful, I either don’t have it with me, it’s not charged or it’s at risk of getting lost. I’d love to see a Fold with a SPEN built into the housing.
We asked upfront, was the Galaxy Fold 3 a good phone in its own right? I’d say yes it is. Samsung hasn’t lost focus on the phone while iterating on their foldable tech.
While the cameras are not of the same quality as other premium devices, which are often cheaper, none of those devices can fold in half…… so the playing field is not equal on either side.
The foldable screen to me is more than just a gimmick, it brings a real improvement to usability of the device, especially with my aging eyes, and software designed for that larger screen is just better to use.
I find myself not using the front display as much as I may have if it had been wider. It’s usable, but the small imposition of opening the larger screen is worth it 90% of the time.
For the future, I would be very interested in a foldable device that was “normal width” when closed. My dream would be an extendable or rollable display over a fold I think, allowing the user to add as much additional screen real estate as was required for the task at hand, while still having a full-size main display at all times.
Pipe dreams of a future rollable phone aside, that doesn’t mean that the Fold 3 doesn’t do exactly what Samsung intended very well. The question is do you want what it does?
If you’re just looking for a phone, I’m not sure the Fold 3 is for you, it is a good phone, but if you don’t WANT a larger foldable display then you can get cheaper phones with better cameras and battery life.
If however, you can see a use case for the larger foldable display then the Galaxy Fold 3 might be for you. With an MSRP of $1,999.00 for the 256GB model, it’s not the most expensive phone in Australia, but it is an expensive phone.
Samsung does offer good trade-in programs that may bring your cost down so if you are interested you should check out the direct sales offers from Samsung.
Overall if you’ve been wanting the larger display but not sure if the overall package was “worth it”, I would say it is. There has been nothing about my time with the Galaxy Fold 3 that would make me not recommend it to anyone who wants that larger screen and can afford the price tag.