Rating:


8/10

?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price:

$999 – $1049

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 opened on a desk, books in the background
Cameron Summerson

The original Samsung Galaxy Z Flip was an interesting phone, as it was a throwback to the flip phones that many of us grew up with. But it was a first-generation product and suffered from first-generation issues as a result. The Z Flip 3 (they skipped 2) fixes a lot of that, and it’s a great look at the current-future of smartphones.

Here’s What We Like

  • IPX8 rated
  • The cover display is actually useful now
  • It feels like a regular phone when opened
  • The crease is barely visible most of the time and doesn’t get in the way of navigation

And What We Don’t

  • Battery life is just not great
  • It’s slippery and cases make it even bulkier
  • Can’t open it with just one hand
  • Power button fingerprint reader is awkward to use
  • Sub-par camera performance

There are a few noteworthy things about the Flip 3 specifically. To start, well, it folds. Secondly, it carries an IPX8 rating, which is a first in a folding phone (well, kind of—the Fold 3 also has an IPX8 rating). And third, it’s $1,000. Yeah, that’s still a lot of money, but it’s also well within “regular phone” territory. Considering that its specs are also on par with other flagship phones, it’s a surprisingly reasonable price for such a futuristic-feeling device.

I have the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 in for review right now courtesy of AT&T (Fold 3 review coming soon), but I’ll try to keep the comparisons to a minimum. I think the Flip 3 is an excellent look at what folding smartphones are capable of right now. It’s familiar and easy to get used to. In my mind, the Fold 3 is more of a glimpse into the future of smartphones, but I’ll get more into that in the Fold review.

For now, let’s talk about the Flip 3, why it’s probably worth your money, and whether it should be your next smartphone.

Specs

  • Cover Display: 1.9-inch Super AMOLED, 206×512 (302PPI)
  • Main Display: 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED, 2640×1080 (425PPI), 120Hz
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB  or 256GB
  • Cameras: 10MP front camera (on main display); 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide-angle dual rear cameras (accessible from cover display)
  • Ports: USB-C
  • Headphone Jack: lolno
  • Battery: 3,300mAh with 15w fast charging and 10w wireless charging
  • Fingerprint Sensor: In power button
  • Connectivity: 5G mmWave/Sub-6; LTE; 802.1 a/b/g/n/ac/ax; Bluetooth 5.1; NFC
  • Android version: One UI 3.1.1 on Android 11
  • Price:$999 for 128GB; $1049 for 256GB

Hardware and Displays: Satisfyingly Bendy

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll try to keep it tight. Build quality is probably the biggest concern anyone has about this phone because, I mean, folding glass, right? (Yes, the display is, in fact, glass.) But we’ll get more into that in just a second. Let’s talk about form factor first.

The Flip 3's cover screen on
The cover screen is so much bigger than on the original Flip Cameron Summerson

The coolest thing about the Flip line of phones is the nostalgia factor. Anyone who was around and carrying technology before smartphones were a thing inevitably had a flip phone—all the cool kids did. This is a modern take on the flip phones that we all loved back in the day, but before you ask (as everyone has), no, you can’t slam it closed forcefully when angrily hanging up the phone. Sorry.

That throwback is probably what makes this so appealing to so many people. It’s a beautiful marriage of old school tech with modern convenience. You still get the big screen like your current phone, but you get it in a smaller, easier-to-carry package. I’m convinced that modern clothing manufacturers have modified their pants to include deeper pockets (for men’s clothes anyway, ladies are still having issues here) because of modern phones. Still, the Flip 3 fits comfortably either way.

Unlike the flippy bois of yesteryear, however, the Flip 3 doesn’t close all the way. There has to be a small gap because the folding glass can’t fold completely in half (it would break). That presents the first issue with a phone like this because if something wedges itself into that gap in your pocket, it can do some real damage to the main display. As YouTube channel JerryRigEverything showed with the Fold 3 (which uses the same display technology as the Flip 3), the main display is still very soft.

But that doesn’t mean Samsung hasn’t made massive improvements to the previous Flip design, either. This one is more robust and carries an IPX8 rating, meaning it has decent water resistance. Previous foldables had no water or dust resistance because of the hinge, which Samsung once again re-engineered for the Flip 3. I won’t get into the details here, but the IP rating is possible using long-lasting grease, rubber grommets, and CIPG (cured in place gaskets) to keep water out. Very cool and super innovative.

So yeah, go ahead and use it in the rain. It’ll be fine.

Other than the hinge, the outside of the Flip 3 has another unique feature relative to other phones: the cover screen. This is a small, 1.9-inch AMOLED touchscreen that can be used as a quick access area to check notifications, see the time, get the weather, and more, all at a glance. You can even use it as a viewfinder for quick selfies without opening the phone. It’s better than the tiny screen on the first-generation Flip.

Once you do open the phone, though, you’re greeted with a pretty normal-looking 6.7-inch AMOLED display. It’s a bit narrower and longer than other 6.7-inch phones I’ve used, but it’s a quick adjustment for anyone who is used to using a big, modern smartphone. Overall, it’s a beautiful display—if you’ve used any Samsung phone in the last couple of years, you know what to expect. It looks really nice.

The Flip 3 opened, showing the crease
C R E A S E Cameron Summerson

One of the number one questions I’ve gotten from people when I show them the Flip 3 is, “can you see the crease?” The answer is, well, yes. You can. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. You can only see it at certain angles, and it’s more prominent with dark backgrounds. But it’s not distracting (to me, at least), and I stopped noticing it almost instantly. I didn’t even notice it when playing mobile games—I couldn’t even feel it. It almost completely disappears—you can see it and feel it if you’re trying to, but otherwise, it’s fine.

Because of the phone’s unique form factor, it also opens the door for some interesting use cases, like Flex Mode. This is essentially a half-opened way to use the Flip so you can put it on a table. For example, if you open the YouTube app in Flex Mode, you can watch a video on the top half of the display while looking through other videos on the bottom.

The camera app also makes good use of Flex Mode, as the viewfinder will move to the top of the screen. You can use gestures to active selfie mode— hold your palm up to the camera, and it will take a selfie about 3 seconds later. It’s cool, and my family loved this mode.

The Flip 3 open in flex mode, front camera active
Flex on ’em Cameron Summerson

If I had one real nitpick about the phone’s hardware and form factor, it’s the placement/style of the power button + fingerprint reader. I understand that the power button poses a unique predicament because it needs to be easily accessible with the phone both open and closed, but I still feel like Samsung missed the mark here. The placement is fine when the phone is closed, but I find it too high when opened. It’s just awkward to get to, at least for me.

Secondly, the button is almost flush with the phone’s body. Unlike the volume rocker, which sticks out, it’s difficult to find the power button just by feel. Considering this is also where the fingerprint reader is, it’s doubly annoying. On a longer timeline, I’m sure muscle memory will take over, but it’s an annoying thing to deal with in the short term.

Software and Performance: It’s Just So Samsung

Despite the folding form factor, the software is decidedly Samsung and not that different from other Samsung phones. You get One UI 3.1.1 based on Android 11 out of the box, so all of Samsung’s usual bells and whistles are here. Fans of Samsung’s software will continue to love it on the Flip 3, while users who prefer a less customized Android experience will have to learn to deal with it.

One UI is less heavy-handed than older versions of Samsung’s software, but I still don’t understand and/or like the “reinventing the wheel” approach here. There’s a lot of changing things just for the sake of changing it, and while this is clearly Samsung’s vision for its phones, I don’t understand it.

Of course, most of that comes down to taste and preference. For example, I very much dislike the paginated app drawer. Other users may love it. There’s a lot of that happening in One UI, but for the most part, it works well. It’s fine. It’s just an acquired taste, I suppose.

On the performance front, I have no complaints. The phone is packing decent specs relative to other phones, though it’s comparable to the entry-level Galaxy S21 in both processor, RAM, and storage. That phone is $200 less (retail pricing), so you’re paying a premium for the foldability. That’s to be expected, I guess.

That said, I don’t think the “entry-level” specs are an issue here. The Snapdragon 888 is plenty powerful, and 8GB of RAM should be more than enough to last for a couple of years. Same for the storage. So on the performance front, the Flip 3 isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s also unlikely to leave anyone wanting.

It’s fine.

Battery life is another question, at least in my experience. The use time is just okay, but the idle drain is what really kills it for me. The battery drains much faster than I’d like (or even expect) when not in use. That probably has a lot to do with the relatively small 3,300mAh capacity, which is understandable small because of the folding design. This is one of the drawbacks of this form factor.

Fortunately, the 15w fast charging, while not even close to the fastest you can buy today, is fast enough to juice up that little battery pretty quickly. It also has 10w wireless charging, and putting the Flip 3 down on a flat wireless charger is so incredibly satisfying because of the size—it just fits so well. It’s the little things, ya know? That said, vertical chargers designed for regular, non-foldy bois will likely be hit and miss—the charging coils are probably too hight it properly charge the Flip.

Cameras: Not So Samsung

The Flip 3 closed, standing upright. Rear cameras showing.
Cameron Summerson

While the Z Flip 3 sits at the flagship price range and has the hardware to match, the cameras are clearly one corner Samsung had to cut to get the price down. They’re not exactly what I’d call “bad,” (most of the time, anyway) but they’re not on par with Samsung’s other high-end phones.

In outdoor shots with good lighting, they’re fine. Some examples:

But when you get into less than ideal lighting conditions, things can be very hit and miss. Even with night mode on, the Flip 3’s cameras are just disappointing.

The front camera isn’t much better, especially in low lighting. I understand that some corners have to be cut in order to get this phone “down” to this price point, but some of the shots with the front camera are just inexcusably bad.

Finally, there’s a mode where you can activate the rear camera without opening the phone, using the cover display as a viewfinder. The results here aren’t bad, though still slightly different than what you get from just using the rear shooters. Still, I find this better than using the front camera on its own—but once again, lighting is crucial.

Overall, these cameras are okay at best, and pretty bad at worst. In the right lighting they can capture some decent shots, but as the available light declines, so does the picture quality. Especially with the front camera.

Conclusion: The First Foldable Worth Owning

The Flip 3 closed on a stack of books, hinge showing
Cameron Summerson

At the end of the day, you’re not looking at this phone because you want a new phone. Or even a Samsung phone. You’re considering it because you want a foldable. And if that’s the case, I think this is the best one you can buy today. At $1,000, it’s expensive, sure, but it’s ultimately no more than other flagship phones. In some cases, it’s even more affordable.

That said, the battery life isn’t great, and the cameras aren’t best in class. If you’re willing to deal with that, you’ll almost certainly love the Flip 3. It’s easily the coolest clamshell-style foldable you can buy today (not that there’s a lot of competition) and generally just a really cool phone. At the very least, your non-techy friends will be super impressed with how hip and trendy you are.

Rating:

8/10

Price:

$999 – $1049

Here’s What We Like

  • IPX8 rated
  • The cover display is actually useful now
  • It feels like a regular phone when opened
  • The crease is barely visible most of the time and doesn’t get in the way of navigation

And What We Don’t

  • Battery life is just not great
  • It’s slippery and cases make it even bulkier
  • Can’t open it with just one hand
  • Power button fingerprint reader is awkward to use
  • Sub-par camera performance