The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 marks a big shift in strategy for Samsung’s foldable phone ambitions. The company promised it would make its foldable devices available to more people and it’s made good on its word.
One way to do that is by dropping prices. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 shaves a significant ~$400 off the cost of the outgoing Z Flip 5G and is a whopping $800 cheaper than Samsung’s other new foldable, the Galaxy Z Fold 3. With its new price tag, the Z Flip 3 is a foldable phone that sits in the same price range as many of today’s standard flagships. That makes it attainable to a larger number of consumers.
Now in its (sort of) third generation, the Z Flip 3 takes everything that we liked about the original and applies tasteful, thoughtful upgrades that wholly improve the experience of using the phone day in and day out — without sacrificing the character of the original.
Has Samsung dialed in the right combination of form and functionality to convince you that foldables are worth a try? Find out for yourself in Android Authority‘s Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review.
What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 (8GB/128GB): $999 / €999 / £949
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 (8GB/256GB): $1,049 / €1,049 / £999
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is Samsung’s smaller, more approachable, and more affordable folding phone. Where the Z Fold 3 is a normal-sized device that opens up to reveal a tablet-sized screen, the Z Flip 3 is a normal-sized phone that bends in half and reduces the footprint to something more pocketable. I wouldn’t call it a poor man’s foldable, because it is still expensive, but it absolutely could act as a gateway into the world of folding devices, thanks in no small part to its reduced price and the simpler clamshell form factor.
The original Z Flip and the Z Flip 5G were priced at around $1,400 at launch, though the cost later dropped to $1,299. The base model Z Flip 3 is available for just $999, a hefty plunge from the previous generations. The 256GB model is just $50 more, making it a no-brainer for those who need the extra storage. These prices line the Z Flip 3 up with the likes of the Galaxy S21 series, the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, and other flagship phones in the $1,000 space.
Related: The best Samsung phones
As with the Z Fold 3, Samsung is offering aggressive trade-in deals and discounts on the Z Flip 3 to those who preorder the phone. It would be easy to drop the price of the Z Flip 3 to something under $500 with the right trade-in. Samsung’s US carrier partners are also selling the phone with attractive deals and discounts on accessories. The phone is up for pre-order now and it goes on sale August 27, 2021. Preordering is the way to score the best deal, as Samsung often changes its promotions once retail sales commence.
The phone is available in two storage configurations and multiple colors. If you order the base model you can select between Cream, Phantom Black, Lavender, Gray, White, and Pink. These last three are exclusive to Samsung’s website. The 256GB model is available in Phantom Black, Gray, White, and Pink. Black is the only finish that’s matte — all the rest are glossy. The box includes just a cable and a SIM tool; there’s no charger.
How is the fresh hardware?
Samsung gave the Z Flip 3 the same treatment it gave the Z Fold 3 — it overhauled the chassis inside and out with new materials and updated the look so the two phones are more closely aligned in appearance. From a hardware perspective, the Z Flip 3 is leagues better than its predecessors. It is worth pointing out that the original Galaxy Z Flip and the Z Flip 5G were nearly identical devices. The chassis and most specs were the same, save for an upgraded processor and, of course, the addition of 5G on the latter. Otherwise, the phones were carbon copies, which means the differences between them and the new Z Flip 3 are significant.
The Z Flip 3's hardware is leagues better than its predecessors.
First up, the materials. The Z Flip 3 adopts the same Armor Aluminum and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus as the Z Fold 3. These updates instantly make the Z Flip 3 tougher than the outgoing phones. Samsung says its Armor Aluminum is stronger than 7,000 series aluminum, and Gorilla Glass Victus is the best Corning has to offer at the moment, with improved break and scratch protection. Samsung also changed the shape of the glass panels, which were curved on the original Z Flip. The Z Flip 3 glass is flattened out, with simpler rectangular panels that slot into the metal frame. The overall shape has been streamlined a bit. Samsung rounded off the corners to a small degree and the metal frame itself has a gentler contour to it. The Z Flip 3 comes off as blockier looking than its predecessors, but the slightly reduced dimensions help keep it a fairly trim device even when closed.
The hinge is as strong as ever. Samsung ported over the basic hinge design from the older phones, which means the spine disappears completely when the phone is opened all the way. The hinge will hold any angle you set. This lets the Z Flip 3 sit like a tiny makeshift laptop and gives you the freedom to use the phone as its own tripod when shooting pictures. It takes work to open the phone one-handed because there’s no spring in the hinge. You can do it but it feels awkward. It is, on the other hand, rather easy to flip the phone shut one-handed. This is more satisfying than it should be.
Samsung was sure to improve the durability of the display as well. The screen is covered with a stretchable PET (polyethylene terephthalate) film that boosts its strength by as much as 80%. It feels more robust under your thumb. This really helps make the Z Flip 3 a less fragile piece of hardware.
The phone has earned an IPX8 rating for protection against water.
The phone has earned an IPX8 rating for protection against water. That’s a huge upgrade and really increases the Z Flip 3’s appeal. As with the Z Fold 3, the phone is not protected against dust, only water. The IPX8 rating means the phone can sit in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. It can certainly handle some sweat or rain — just be careful to keep it free of dust and dirt.
Samsung kept the controls and other functional elements easy to access. The phone features a combo screen lock button/fingerprint reader on one side. It is flush with the frame, which makes it hard to locate in a hurry sometimes, but the reader is fantastically quick and accurate once trained. The volume toggle has excellent travel and feedback. The phone relies on USB-C for charging and data transfer. The SIM slot accommodates a single SIM card but does not support expandable memory cards. An eSIM is also built into the phone.
You get stereo sound with Dolby Atmos thanks to a pair of speakers, which is a nice upgrade over the mono sound of previous models. One speaker is embedded in the phone’s earpiece and the second is a downward-firing affair on the phone’s bottom edge. The Z Flip 3 doesn’t enjoy quite the same crisp and balanced sound as the Z Fold 3, which dedicates more real estate to the speakers, but it still does well. If anything, mids and highs tend to run into each other a bit. Even so, the Z Flip 3’s speakers are absolutely fine for a phone in this price category and it’s adequately loud.
Samsung made all these changes without altering the basic use case of the phone. The Z Flip 3 is a regular-sized slab that bends in half to create something more portable. At 4.2 inches across the diagonal when folded, the Z Flip 3 is much more pocket-friendly than its 6.7-inch screen would otherwise entail. I genuinely appreciate the reduced footprint, which makes toting the phone around less of a chore. If your pocket space is limited, the Z Flip 3 could be the phone you need.
How’s that bendy display?
The main screen is largely carried over from the Z Flip 5G save for a couple of updates. First, Samsung strengthened the materials protecting the screen, and second, the refresh rate has been boosted to 120Hz.
As noted above, the 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex Display features a new protective layer that boosts durability. If you ever had an occasion to try the original Z Flip, you’ll immediately notice the improved feel of the Z Flip 3’s screen. Similar to the Z Fold 3, the Z Flip 3’s outer layer is incredibly reflective, which leads to a higher-than-normal amount of glare from time to time.
The adaptive 120Hz refresh rate really makes an impression.
It has the same 2,600 x 1,080 resolution as the Z Flip 5G with a pixel density of 425ppi and looks as sharp and colorful as ever. I had no real trouble using the phone outdoors. The adaptive 120Hz refresh rate really makes an impression. The screen’s shape is tall and narrow thanks to the 22:9 aspect ratio and it’s a natural place to scroll through your social feeds, boosted by that extra smoothness. The adaptive refresh rate, which changes depending on what’s on the screen, can be set to the standard 60Hz if you want to conserve battery life.
On the downside, the fold in the middle of the screen is still plainly visible to the naked eye whether the display is on or off. It’s also easy to locate by feel.
While the crease may still put some people off, for a piece of glass that bends in half, the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s display does a really fine job. The only unknown is just how well it will last over the years.
What can you do with the new cover screen?
A whole lot more than you could with the old one. The older Galaxy Z Flip phones featured a small 1.1-inch strip that did little more than show the clock and flash notifications. The Z Flip 3 features a fully upgraded 1.9-inch Super AMOLED panel that boasts way more functionality thanks to a host of swipe gestures.
By default, the Cover Screen acts as your always-on display. Tapping the glass will reveal the clock, date, and battery level, though you can set this to always be on if you prefer. When the phone is locked all you can do is view the clock. Unlock the phone via the fingerprint reader and you have access to a handful of widgets.
You can swipe to see your notifications, access Samsung Pay, and adjust the brightness and mute level. Keep swiping and you’ll discover weather, calendar, music, timer, alarm, and Samsung Health widgets. These widgets all provide a modicum of functionality, allowing you to do more when the phone is closed. The notifications are particularly helpful, as you can open emails and text messages and scroll through the content therein. You can’t respond from the Cover Screen; for that, you have to open the phone up.
The Cover Screen also supports a camera preview functionality so you can use the phone’s main cameras to take selfies or allow those you’re photographing to see the shot before you snap it. The view within the narrow confines of the Cover Screen isn’t ideal, but it’s something. I like that the tool allows you to swipe between the standard and wide-angle cameras, as well as capture video despite the phone being shut. All it takes is a quick double press of the power button to get started.
Motorola’s Razr 5G supports similar functionality on its outer display, and it was critical that Samsung updated its Cover Screen with these tools. They aren’t perfect, but are just powerful enough to prevent you from opening the phone from time to time.
Are the cameras up to snuff?
Samsung carried the camera hardware over from the Z Flip 5G, which is a touch disappointing. The company largely did the same with the cameras on the Z Fold 3.
The Z Flip 3 has three cameras. There are two 12MP shooters on the outside, which include a standard lens with Dual Pixels and OIS at f/1.8 and an ultra-wide-angle lens at f/2.2. Samsung says it improved the glass covering these lenses with tougher, clearer stuff than that used on the Z Flip 5G. The user-facing camera, which is visible in the punch hole at the top of the display, is a 10MP job at f/2.4.
Check out: The best camera phones you can get
Samsung didn’t make any changes to its camera app, which is identical to that of the Galaxy S21 series and Z Fold 3. It includes core shooting modes such as photo, video, portrait, and Single Take, as well as a slew of secondary modes including night mode and slow motion. The controls are simple and straightforward and it’s easy to interact with advanced features, such as the outer screen preview, thanks to obvious controls.
The camera does a good enough job, though it stops well short of excellent.
The camera itself does a good enough job, though it stops well short of excellent. Images I captured with the Z Flip 3 were about on par with those I snagged from the Z Fold 3.
You can see in the daytime shots below that basics such as focus, white balance, and exposure are on point. Color is, in typical Samsung fashion, pushed a bit. The auto HDR tool, which is turned on by default, truly helps balance out images that might otherwise lose detail to shaded areas. In that respect, I’m happy. I did, however, spot more noise in the pictures than I prefer to see from cameras at this price point.
The colors are a touch less vibrant when shooting after the sun sets. During twilight, I noticed the HDR wasn’t quite able to keep up with the shadows. Further, the shots I took from under the bridge are very noisy.
Pictures shot in the dark or near dark were mixed in quality. In the samples below, the two buildings were captured with the camera in regular mode while the river scene needed night mode to pull out all those details. It’s crazy how much the camera was able to “see” in the dark. The samples from the Z Flip 3 show more noise than similar samples taken with the Z Fold 3; neither compares to the low-light capabilities of the Galaxy S21.
Zooming is mostly accomplished via digital crop. The ultra-wide camera handles shots at 0.5x. I was pleased enough with the color and exposure of daytime wide-angle shots, but noticed a bit of distortion in the corners. The main lens handles everything else, which means up to 10x zoom. As expected, zooming up to about 4x is fairly usable, but anything beyond that is hardly worth capturing. Zooming out to the max leaves you with rough results.
Portraits and selfies are decent. When shooting portraits, the camera does a fair job of edge detection and delivers fairly even blurred backgrounds. The inner selfie camera captures regular shots and portraits alike. There’s also a toggle to switch between wide-angle selfies so you can include more people or more background in the shot. Edge detection wasn’t as clean and the backgrounds were sometimes over blurred, making them look unnatural. I also saw a bit of noise from the selfie camera.
One thing worth pointing out: selfies you take with the exterior Cover Screen are limited in aspect ratio to 1:1. Samsung said it made a conscious decision to keep the aspect ratio this way so people get results that look like the preview. There’s no way to change the aspect ratio of these shots.
Video capture is possible up to 4K resolution at 60fps. That’s a pretty standard offering, though it falls short of the 8K capabilities offered by most competing $1,000 flagships. The Z Flip 3 shoots solid video that captures fine detail, motion, and color. The footage I captured looked very good when blown up on my high-resolution monitor.
You can view full-resolution photo samples in this Google Drive folder.
What about battery life?
Battery capacity is another spec that Samsung carried over from generation to generation. The Z Flip 3 has a split 3,300mAh battery with half living on each side of the phone. If the phone has an Achilles heel, this is it.
Used sparingly, the phone can push through a full day. But that means taking full advantage of the Cover Screen to view notifications as the hours pass rather than flipping the phone open. Screen-on time with the display set to the default 120Hz adaptive mode was just over four hours. That’s far behind the six-hour minimum we expect from modern flagships in the same price range.
Charging speeds are on the slow side for a $1,000 phone.
Samsung gives you plenty of ways to optimize the phone’s power consumption. First and foremost, you can dial the display back to a consistent 60Hz, as well as control brightness, time-out length, and the like. You might also choose to kill off background apps or take advantage of similar power-saving features. These things help, but not drastically.
Charging speeds are on the slow side for a $1,000 phone. Wired charging is limited to just 15W, and there’s no charger in the box, so you’ll have to supply your own. On the flip side, the battery is rather small for a flagship and it doesn’t take as long to charge as a 4,000mAh or 5,000mAh battery would. The phone powered to full from zero in one hour 40 minutes. That’s really not bad.
Related: The best phone charging accessories
Wireless charging is slower at 10W and it definitely feels slower. Charging the battery from zero to full took more than two hours wirelessly. Like the Z Fold 3, reverse wireless charging is limited to 4.5W, which is rather slow and best limited to emergencies given the lower overall capacity of the battery itself.
Bottom line here: The Z Flip 3 doesn’t last as long as regular flagships do in this price tier, but it doesn’t do badly, all things considered.
How powerful is it?
The Z Flip 3 packs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 with a respectable 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The Snapdragon 888 is one of the top-performing chips in the market right now and it delivers plenty of punch.
As an everyday device, the Z Flip 3 ran perfectly. Every experience with the phone was quick and speedy. Apps open in a blink, screens transition smoothly, and nothing slowed the phone down. It was able to multitask with two apps open with nary a stutter. Games I downloaded to the phone were great fun and ran at their best.
The Z Flip 3 put up nearly identical benchmark scores as the Z Fold 3, which meant it did well on CPU tests but was a little slower when the GPU was rated. It’s still well within the margin of today’s best devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Sony Xperia 1 III. The Z Flip 3 managed to best a few phones on Android Authority‘s homegrown Speed Test G benchmark, which it ran in one minute 18 seconds. That’s quicker than the Galaxy S21 did with the same processor.
Samsung was sure to include the latest wireless specs, which means sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, as well as Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.2. Our review unit included a T-Mobile SIM card and we were able to test it out on T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G network in the greater New York City area. Download speeds were impressive across the board, but uploads lagged a bit behind what we saw on the Z Fold 3. The phone remained connected to T-Mobile’s 5G network the entire time we tested it. It also supports AT&T and Verizon’s 5G networks in the US, as well as various 5G networks around the world.
- Software: The phone ships with Android 11 running Samsung One UI 3.1. Samsung has promised three years of system updates and four years of security updates, which is class-leading across the industry. One UI itself is the same version that’s available on the Z Fold 3, Galaxy S21, and other modern Galaxy phones. It’s a bit heavy-handed but offers plenty of flexibility when it comes to customization.
- Multitasking: The Z Flip 3’s 22:9 aspect ratio display makes it great for multitasking. It handily supports two app windows at the same time, which are dead simple to launch via the Edge Panel tool. You can create app pairs and quickly launch two apps at a time, such as Gmail and the Calendar, or YouTube and Chrome.
- Flex Mode: Like the Z Fold 3, the Z Flip 3 supports Flex Mode. This tool lets you launch a separate control panel on half the screen when you have it set as a tiny laptop. Some included apps, such as the camera and YouTube, support this tool natively. Others from third-party developers have to be forced into it via the settings menu. It’s most useful with the camera app since it’s so easy to set the phone down somewhere for a timed shot.
- S Pen: The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not compatible with any of Samsung’s S Pen stylus accessories, not even the new S Pen Pro, which supports a handful of legacy Galaxy Note and Galaxy S phones. No stylus for you!
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 specs
|Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3|
- 1.9-inch AMOLED
- 512 x 260 resolution at 303ppi
- Gorilla Glass Victus
- 6.7-inch AMOLED
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2,640 x 1,080 resolution at 425ppi
- Foldable display covering
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|Storage||128GB or 256GB|
No expandable storage
15W wired charging
10W wireless charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
No charger in box
- 12MP wide, 1.4μm, OIS, Dual Pixel AF, ƒ/1.8
- 12MP ultra-wide, FF, 1.12μm, ƒ/2.2
- 10MP, FF, 1.22μm, ƒ/2.4
Dolby Atmos support
No 3.5mm headphone port
|SIM||Single nano-SIM tray|
|Biometrics||Side-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor|
|Dimensions and weight||Folded dimensions:|
- 72.2 x 86.4 x 17.1mm (measured at hinge)
- 72.2 x 166.0 x 6.9mm
|Colors||Global: Cream, green, black, lavender|
Samsung only: White, pink, gray
Value and competition
With the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Samsung turned the value equation on its head. The older Z Flip and Z Flip 5G were priced at a premium, above competing flagships of their time. That made sense, given the expensive nature of the folding screen technology. The Z Flip 3, however, is priced the same as many competing flagships and it has most of the specs to back up the price tag. However, there are two areas the Z Flip lags behind its competitors: camera and battery performance. For the most part, any standard $1,000 flagship is going to net you a better camera and superior battery life. But the Z Flip 3 has something they don’t: the folding screen and easy-to-pocket clamshell form factor. That experience alone goes a long way to balancing out the value, as it’s hard to put a dollar figure on “fun.”
But Samsung is taking things a step further. The company is offering aggressive trade-in deals and financing if you preorder the phone via its website before general sales start on August 27. For example, I could trade in my Galaxy Note 10 Plus and earn $475 toward the Z Flip 3. Samsung is allowing for trade-in of up to four devices during the preorder period, which means you can really knock down the final cost of the Z Flip 3. The company is also offering discounted accessories, such as cases, smartwatches, and true wireless earphones — so it’s best to act quickly.
If you're all about the bendy screens, the Z Flip 3 is the only real game in town.
What about competitors? There are two obvious ones. Naturally, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 ($1,799) should be the first you consider. The Z Fold 3 may be a different animal from the Z Flip 3, but it’s still a bendy phone from Samsung that offers a dual-screen experience with a large internal display that excels at multitasking. It costs a pretty penny without trade-in discounts, but it really impresses.
Then there’s the Motorola Razr 5G ($1,399). Motorola’s nearly year-old folding phone is the most similar device to the Z Flip 3 in the market right now. Motorola has been offering steep discounts on the Razr of late, so you can get it for the same $999 price tag as the Z Flip 3. It’s not quite as robust a device, however, and lacks clutch features such as an 800 series Qualcomm chip and an IPX8 rating.
The Huawei Mate X2 is a bit of an outlier. It’s far more expensive than the Z Flip 3 and is limited in availability outside of China. More importantly, it lacks Google Play Services and native access to Google Apps.
Beyond these, almost any $1,000 flagship could be viewed as a legit alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. And there have been a lot of them this year.
There’s the Sony Xperia 1 III ($1,299), which is a pricey but enticing option. The OnePlus 9 Pro ($1,069) is out there, as well. Don’t forget Samsung’s own Galaxy S21 Plus ($999). You could also look at the Oppo Find X3 Pro ($1,099) or even the Apple iPhone 12 Pro ($999) if you’re looking for something different from Android. The bulk of these devices pack above-average cameras and battery life that lasts, so they are worth your consideration if you’re not dying for the folding nature of the Z Flip 3.
If you’re all about the bendy screens, however, the Z Flip 3 is the only real game in town.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review: The verdict
Samsung tweaked the Z Flip 3 in just the right ways to make it an enticing option for regular consumers. It’s the first foldable that feels like an easy recommendation for regular buyers rather than early adopters, as it delivers the whole smartphone experience at an attainable price point. There are, though, a few shortcomings.
When it comes to pros, Samsung really dialed up the quality of the hardware. The Z Flip 3 is a more robust smartphone thanks to the new glass, aluminum, display cover, and IPX8 rating. The processor does an admirable job, as does the 5G connectivity, and Samsung gave the phone powerful software tools for making use of the folding screen.
Some things are worth taking a chance on and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of them.
As for the cons, well the battery and camera are what bug me the most. Nearly any other $1,000 flagship will beat the Z Flip 3 in those clutch categories. It’s all about what you’re willing to compromise on.
There’s no question the Z Flip 3 is an enjoyable smartphone to use. It’s novel compared to the boring slabs of today’s market — and novel sometimes goes a long way. If you’re looking to change up the daily experience of how you use your phone, you can do a lot worse than the Z Flip 3. It’s not a perfect phone and certainly has its share of faults, but some things are worth taking a chance on — and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of them.