The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not the first flipping smartphone. But, it is by far and away the best. And, after spending a little over a day with it, it is my favourite flipping smartphone of 2021
And that’s down to three big reasons. The first, is the form.
I have an obsession with small smartphones, and that’s because I’m just so tired of massive phones that don’t even fit into my pocket. That’s why I daily drive an iPhone 12 Mini. But, I’m also greedy and I don’t want to give up having a big screen.
That’s why of all the folding smartphone concepts, I like this one the most. I like having a big smartphone that you can fold in half way more than a big smartphone that unfolds into an even bigger tablet because you get all the benefits of a big smartphone screen while also keeping it portable.
But, this particular design is a bit of a double edged sword. You see, to make sure that it folded properly into a reasonable size, and had space to house all the necessary components, Samsung obviously had to make the screen very tall. It’s so tall that you end up with a 22:9 aspect ratio display. So, while a 6.7” screen sounds huge, when you watch regular 16:9 internet videos, you don’t actually get much more screen real estate than a 5.4” iPhone 12 Mini.
However, where you do see big gains is when you’re scrolling websites or social media like Twitter and Instagram. This tall screen also helps when you bring up the keyboard because it only takes up a tiny portion of the display. Also, while you don’t see much gains in typical 16:9 content, watching widescreen 21:9 stuff is incredibly satisfying, and will let you make full use of this gorgeous display.
And you’ll want to because this screen is really nice. It’s a bright, crisp Samsung OLED that pushes a Full HD+ resolution with a buttery smooth 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. All of that, on top of the fact that it also friggin’ folds.
But, while having an awesome folding screen is really good, what’s equally important on a phone that folds like this is that cover screen. And that brings me to the next reason why I like this phone so much, and that has to do with the function.
This cover screen on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is just way better than it was on its predecessor. While that tiny display felt like an afterthought, this one is certainly more functional. If I had to describe how it works, I’d liken it a lot to the kind of experience you’d get on a smartwatch.
You can do a lot of basic tasks with it, but you can’t do full on smartphone things like you can with the Z Fold’s cover screen, for example. Navigation is simple, you swipe right to access your notifications, swipe left to access a carousel of pre-programmed widgets, swipe down to change sound profiles and adjust screen brightness, or swipe up to access Samsung Pay.
You can also answer calls, or double tap the power button to use it as a camera viewfinder. In the camera app you can switch between video and photo, as well as between the wide and ultra-wide lenses. Then, you can take a photo by pressing the volume rocker, or by tapping the screen. Speaking of the camera, image quality is OK for a flagship smartphone, but it’s certainly not class-leading in any way. It’s also not as versatile as most flagship systems because it lacks a telephoto lens.
What you can’t, unfortunately, do with the cover screen is reply messages. I would have loved to see some quick reply functions like you would see on a watch, but we don’t get that here. Still, it’s a small issue that Samsung should be able to easily remedy with a software update, so who knows what the future holds.
Samsung also included a pretty solid set of stereo speakers on the Z Flip 3. For a phone that has this much technology crammed into its tiny body, I’m impressed with the sound I got from it.
That aside, what is probably the most impressive thing about this, is the fact that it is water resistant. Yes, Samsung has it rated for IPX8 which means not only will it survive splashes, but it should also survive, let’s say, a dunk in an aquarium.
Now, let’s talk about the last and most important reason why I absolutely love this device, and that’s the feel.
This time, the build on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 just feels on point. Yes, it’s still a folding phone with a hinge, but this time the tolerances just feel much tighter. Every gap feels that much smaller, and every little movement, that much more precise. I guess it’s no surprise then that the hinge can now open and hold in way more angles now, on top of feeling more robust.
The frame is also made up of what Samsung calls “Armor Aluminium” which is apparently their strongest aluminium frame yet. And, the outside is completely protected with Gorilla Glass Victus. But, there is still a small thigh gap when the phone is shut, which means dust and little bits of debris will probably still be able to get in there.
I also love the new design. I think it’s way more cohesive now, and it looks more like an expensive gadget than a cheap compact. Ergonomically, the frame is flatter around the edges so it’s easier to grip and makes the bezels look a little slimmer. But, while I’m fine with the position and accuracy of the fingerprint scanner/power button, I have to say that the volume rocker is a little bit too high. I feel like it would have made more sense to put it on the bottom half of the device instead because it’s a much easier reach.
However, the biggest feel difference has to be the flexible screen. I’m not sure what they’ve put on the top of the display this time, but it feels like a proper smartphone screen should. It’s much firmer than its predecessor, and running my fingernail across the surface no longer leaves marks or grooves. Plus, it is much more resistant to oil and grime, which is really great to see.
Yes, there is still a crease there, but I didn’t mind it there before, so I don’t really mind it there now.
Using the Galaxy Z Flip 3, I can really feel all the little things and refinements Samsung has put into making this smartphone better. And all of that adds up into what I think is the most important thing when using a device like this: how it makes you feel. The Z Flip 3, makes you feel special. Sure, it obviously isn’t the most practical smartphone you can buy.
The camera isn’t bleeding edge, the screen isn’t of a super high resolution, the battery is tiny, and with a hinge it is probably a million times more likely for something to go wrong on this device than your regular candy bar smartphone.
But, I don’t buy a phone like the Galaxy Z Flip because I want a practical device. If that’s my goal, I’d get an iPhone, or a Galaxy S, or if I’m on a budget, a Redmi Note 10 Pro. No, I buy a phone like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 because I want to be wowed. And this phone fucking wows. The fact that it’s also the most usable and practical Flip phone out there is just a really nice bonus.
And that, I think, leads us really nicely into what I feel is the secret best part about the Z Flip 3, and that’s the price
While previous folding phones were priced way out of the range that we mere mortals could afford, this Galaxy Z Flip 3 starts at just RM3,999. Sure, that seems expensive at a glance, but it’s really not. You have to remember that not even that long ago, folding phones were upwards of six thousand ringgit devices.
But today, this folding device is even more affordable than an iPhone 12 Pro. Yes, the base model Z Flip 3 only has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is a little small by 2021 standards. But I think that’s an OK sacrifice to make just so Samsung could bring the price down to this level.
Because again, this isn’t a device that’s designed to be the most practical smartphone. It’s a device designed to make you feel special…and at below RM4,000 I think that might just be a bargain.