At this point, Samsung owns the foldable market. Although we’ve seen a handful of other companies launch foldable phones, none of them can match Samsung’s breadth of options, software support, and durability. This all culminates with the company’s latest flagship foldable, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Comparing the first Galaxy Fold against this newest Z Fold 3 is like looking at a rough prototype and the real finished product. Samsung has fixed numerous problems that have plagued its foldables over the past few years, made many refinements, and (finally!) dropped the price.
In this Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 buyer’s guide, we’ll give you all the information you need to know about Samsung’s new foldable flagship.
See also: The best foldable phones you can get
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 at a glance
Samsung launched the Galaxy Z Fold 3 on August 11, 2021, during the summer version of its online-only Galaxy Unpacked event. As with previous Galaxy Z Fold devices, the Z Fold 3 has two states: a folded state which works like a “normal” smartphone, and an unfolded state that works like a tablet. The device unfolds like a book.
Inside, you’ll find a foldable display. This time around, though, Samsung says the display is 80% stronger which should keep the interior looking better for longer. You’ll also find, for the first time on a Samsung device, an under-display selfie camera in the top right of the unfolded display. This should make your experience more immersive when using the phone in its unfolded mode.
Despite all the upgrades to this new foldable, it’s actually cheaper than any previous model. It starts at $1,799 / €1,799 / £1,599 for the model with 256GB of internal storage. Granted, that’s still not cheap, but that’s significantly cheaper than any phone of this kind from the brand. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 was released for sale on August 27.
Is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 worth buying?
If you want a foldable phone, you don’t have too many options. But the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best option you can get in terms of the overall experience. Even if it weren’t the best foldable in terms of pure specs, the Z Fold 3 will have the most availability, the most software support and optimization, and a higher level of durability than any other foldable out there.
Obviously, the device is still very, very expensive. At $1,800, this isn’t the kind of device you buy on an impulse. If you’re excited about the foldable market, though, this is going to be one of the best — if not the best — options.
Keep in mind that Samsung also launched a smaller, less powerful foldable phone on August 11: the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. That phone starts at $1,000, which is a lot less than this phone. That could allow you to get into the world of foldables without causing you to miss a rent payment.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that there will not be a Galaxy Note phone this year. If you are used to spending a lot of money on Samsung’s best-of-the-best smartphone in the second half of the year, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is that phone. It even supports the S Pen! There won’t be anything else of this caliber for the rest of 2021.
What reviewers are saying about the Galaxy Z Fold 3
Our own Eric Zeman thought the Galaxy Z Fold 3 was a better foldable than its predecessors. Eric specifically praised the more robust folding display, water-resistant design, and addition of S Pen support. He did however feel that the phone’s camera performance was middling, battery life wasn’t amazing, and that it was still bulky and awkward to hold when opened.
Eric noted the $200 price cut compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 2, but felt that the price still remained too high for most consumers. This is especially notable given the aforementioned complaints about camera quality and battery life.
What other reviewers from around the web think
- Engadget‘s Cherlynn Low praised the foldable screen, camera quality, and S Pen support in her review. But she criticized the “narrow” external screen and the heft compared to other devices. She reckoned that the device tries and fails to be both a tablet and a phone, and that it’s therefore not quite ready for mainstream consumers just yet.
- Patrick Holland of CNET praised the Galaxy Z Fold 3 when using it as a tablet, while also pointing to S Pen support, water resistance, and various software improvements as positives. But the reviewer criticized the smartphone experience, battery life, and price tag. He concluded by saying that he wasn’t actually sure who this device was for.
- Mark Spoonauer of Tom’s Guide said the device looks like the best foldable yet, praising the durability, water-resistant design, S Pen support, and multitasking features. But he also bemoaned the price tag, the lack of camera harwdare upgrades, endurance, and bulk when closed. In any event, Mark lamented the lack of foldable competition.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 specs
Most of the big changes Samsung made this year are related to the design and durability of the phone rather than raw specs. Still, Samsung did make some significant internal upgrades. Check them out in the table below:
|Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3|
- 6.2-inch AMOLED
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2,268 x 832 resolution at 387ppi
- Gorilla Glass Victus
- 7.6-inch AMOLED
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2,208 x 1,768 resolution at 374ppi
- Foldable display covering
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|Storage||256GB or 512GB|
No expandable storage
25W wired charging
10W wireless charging
4.5W reverse charging
No charger in box
- 12MP wide, 1.8μm, OIS, Dual Pixel AF, ƒ/1.8
- 12MP ultra-wide, 1.12μm, ƒ/2.2
- 12MP telephoto, 1.0μm, OIS, 2x zoom, ƒ/2.4
- 10MP ƒ/2.2
- 4MP, 2.0μm, ƒ/1.8
Dolby Atmos support
No 3.5mm headphone port
|SIM||Dual nano-SIM tray|
|Biometrics||Side-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor|
|Dimensions and weight||Folded dimensions:|
- 158.2 x 67.1 x 16mm (measured at hinge)
- 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm
|Colors||Phantom Green, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver|
Samsung is serious about foldable durability
When Samsung launched the original Galaxy Fold, it was a disaster. Early review units broke quickly and people immediately noticed dust, lint, and other small particles ended up underneath the screen. In a panic, Samsung demanded all the phones be returned and delayed the launch.
A lot has changed since then. The Galaxy Fold that made it to store shelves was stronger than the initial review model. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 refined things even more. Now, with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, Samsung is boasting an IPX8 rating for the phone.
Required reading: Everything you need to know about IP and ATM ratings
The “8” in the IPX8 rating means this phone is water-resistant. It can be submerged in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes and survive. The “X,” though, means that this phone is not rated against solid particles, such as dust and lint.
We asked Samsung about this and it explained that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 actually allows dust and water to enter the phone. Inside, however, there are protections in place to prevent the water from hitting any of the internal components. This is what allows the “8” rating. Since dust physically enters the phone, though, it was not able to earn a rating against it. Samsung is confident that its “sweeping hinge” mechanism and other protections put in place will prevent solid debris from ruining the device.
Regardless, this is the first foldable on the market with any kind of IP rating. That should set some hesitant buyers at ease.
S Pen support and the two new S Pens
Another first for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is S Pen support. This is the first foldable to support the use of a stylus. Previously, the inner displays of foldables were too delicate for styli.
In order to give people options when it comes to their stylus, Samsung is offering two different models. The S Pen Pro is similar to the S Pen you’d find with a high-end Samsung tablet or last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It has Bluetooth capabilities, gesture support, and other high-end functions. It starts at $100.
This is the first time a foldable device has worked with an S Pen.
Meanwhile, the S Pen Fold is specifically catered to the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It doesn’t have Bluetooth or gesture support and is thinner, lighter, and shorter than the S Pen Pro. It’s also cheaper at $50.
With either choice, you get an S Pen with a softer, rounder tip that makes it safer for use with a foldable display. They both also feature retractable points that weaken if you apply too much pressure. This should help preserve the lifespan of your foldable display.
Unfortunately, your purchase of a Galaxy Z Fold 3 does not include either S Pen. They are sold separately.
Is the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s camera good?
For all intents and purposes, the camera hardware in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is identical to that of the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Other than some minor refinements (and a redesigned exterior module), the systems are essentially the same.
Our reviewer Eric Zeman felt that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 camera experience was a mixed bag. He noted that images shot via the rear cameras were very good but not excellent. Those looking for 8K video or great long-range zoom will also need to look elsewhere, as the phone offers 4K/60fps recording and a 2X telephoto lens respectively.
Samsung also offers two ways to take selfies, namely via the outer screen’s selfie camera and the main display’s under-display selfie camera. The former camera offered “decent” results but the latter shooter was worse. “Shots are noisy, soft, and demonstrate odd color and white balance,” Eric said of the under-display selfie camera, stressing that it simply doesn’t take very good shots.
Samsung did, however, update the way you compose shots with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The camera app itself is now better suited to use in the phone’s unfolded state, with the controls and viewfinder laid out separately across each half of the display.
All in all, Eric says image quality in general is an upgrade over the Galaxy Z Fold 2. But those wanting the best camera experience should consider the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
How is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 battery life?
Samsung actually shrunk down the dual battery system of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 2. It’s only 100mAh smaller, but that’s still a shrink. This was necessary to make the Galaxy Z Fold 3 thinner and lighter as compared to last year’s model.
However, Samsung contends that this reduction in battery capacity has little to no effect on battery life. The company says you should see the same battery life with the Z Fold 3 as you saw with the Z Fold 2. So how does the Galaxy Z Fold 3 compare?
Our reviewer noted that he generally enjoyed total screen-on time of about five hours when primarily using the foldable display. He also found that the phone would last for a day when using both screens, with about ~20% juice remaining come bedtime.
As far as charging goes, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a maximum charging speed of 25W. It also can wirelessly charge at a maximum speed of 10W. There is no charger of any kind in the box, though, so you’ll need to use a charger you already own or buy a new one from Samsung. Eric found that charging with a 25W USB PD PPS charger took 90 minutes from empty. That’s not great compared to rival devices on the market.
How is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 performance?
Inside the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, you’ll find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 paired with 12GB of RAM. Although the Snapdragon 888 Plus is technically superior, an SD888 with that much RAM should be more than enough power for the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
This is indeed the case according to our review, with Eric noting that multitasking and dragging content between app windows was a very smooth experience. He also said that demanding games ran fine here.
Phone software and updates
Samsung now offers three years of Android upgrades and four years of security patches for all its major releases. Obviously, that includes the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. Since the phone ships with Android 11, you can expect Android 12, Android 13, and Android 14 to come in the future.
Do keep in mind that the stable launch of Android 12 should happen only a month after this phone’s launch. Considering that, it’s possible Samsung won’t count Android 12 as one of the Z Fold 3’s three upgrades. As such, there’s a possibility the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 could also see Android 15 — we just can’t guarantee that.
Regardless, Samsung has been setting the bar for Android updates over the past few years. You can rest assured that your Galaxy Z Fold 3 will get plenty of after-purchase support.
Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Galaxy Z Fold 2: What’s new?
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an upgrade over the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in several ways. While it would be difficult to recommend people with a Z Fold 2 upgrade to a Z Fold 3, it might just be worth it thanks to Samsung’s changes. Below are all the biggest changes for this year’s model:
- Overall size/weight: The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. That means not only is it thinner when unfolded but also folded. This should make it more pocket-friendly.
- Durability: Samsung earned an IPX8 rating for the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 has no IP rating at all, which makes the Z Fold 3 much tougher than its predecessor.
- Better/stronger displays: This time around, both the interior and exterior displays see 120Hz refresh rates (only the interior display of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 boasted this feature). Additionally, the interior display is stronger by 80%, according to Samsung.
- Processing power: The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 under the hood. This is faster than the Snapdragon 865 Plus from last year. RAM and internal storage options remain the same, though.
- S Pen support: Thanks to the stronger interior display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, S Pen support is now possible. Samsung offers two models: the S Pen Pro and the S Pen Fold. See more info on this in an earlier section.
- UDC: For the first time in any Samsung phone, the Z Fold 3 has an under-display camera (UDC). It appears in the upper right of the interior display. Fair warning, though: even Samsung admits this camera will produce sub-par images. It should be used mostly for things like video chats.
- Battery: The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a slightly smaller battery when compared to last year’s model. The difference is only 100mAh, but that’s not a negligible amount.
What are some good alternatives?
As mentioned a few times now, Samsung dominates the foldable market. If you want a foldable phone, you don’t have too many options that don’t have Samsung’s branding on the back. Regardless, here are some alternatives to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3:
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 ($1,799): The most obvious competitor to this year’s foldable is last year’s. However, by all metrics, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a weaker device when compared to the Z Fold 3 (see the previous section). Therefore, the only real advantage to getting a Z Fold 2 would be if you can find it at a very steep discount.
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 ($999): If you want to enter the world of foldables but stay more near the $1,000 range, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a good option. Launching on the same day as the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the latest Flip model has a clamshell design. In its unfolded state, it has the size and dimensions of a “normal” phone but then folds down to about half that size.
- Huawei Mate X2 (~$2,777): If you want to stick with the design of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 but don’t want to buy from Samsung, the Huawei Mate X2 is basically your only other option. However, you will pay a lot more for this phone and you won’t have access to Google apps. With those two major caveats in mind, it’s difficult to recommend anyone outside China get this phone over the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (256GB): $1,799 / €1,799 / £1,599 / Rs 149,999
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (512GB): $1,899 / €1,899 / £1,699 / Rs 157,999
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes in two flavors: one with 256GB of storage and one with 512GB of storage. You’ll have three colorway choices: Phantom Green, Phantom Black, and Phantom Silver.
Pre-orders for the phone opened in many countries shortly after the reveal, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe. General sales for the phone began on August 27, 2021. However, the foldable goes on sale in India from September 10, with pre-orders opening from August 24.
Here in the US, those who chose to pre-order the phone directly from Samsung got $200 credit to use at Samsung.com. They also got their first year of Samsung Care+ for free if they agreed to sign up for three years of the insurance service. Additionally, you could trade in up to two devices to help cut down the cost of the phone.
Don’t forget that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports the S Pen but does not come with one in the box. The S Pen Pro will cost you $100 while the S Pen Fold will cost you $50. There is also no charger in the box, so you might want to add one of those to your cart, too.
As with unlocked models, pre-orders for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 started on August 11 at Verizon. You are now also able to grab one directly from August 27.
Verizon was offering several promotions for buyers:
- While supplies last, you could get a free case and S Pen bundled with purchase.
- Additionally, you could get 25% off all Galaxy Z cases and screen protectors as well as the same discount on Samsung-branded charging accessories. This only applied during the pre-order period.
- If you buy a Galaxy Z Fold 3 you can get a free Galaxy Z Flip 3 if you pair it with a new unlimited plan.
- Verizon was also offering various trade-in deals to help cut down the cost of the phone.
If all you want to do is grab the phone, it will cost you $59.99 each month for 30 months or $74.99 each month for 24 months. If you want to splurge on the 512GB model, that price goes up to $63.33/month for 30 months.
The nation’s second-largest wireless carrier had the Galaxy Z Fold 3 up for pre-order on August 11. It also had the phone available in stores without a pre-order from August 27.
AT&T was offering the usual trade-in/new line offers for the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Combined, they could knock up to $1,000 off the cost of the foldable.
Finally, for a limited time, you can get 50% off any Samsung-branded accessories with the purchase of the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Outside the US
In the UK and Europe, you got the same $200 Samsung credit for pre-ordering as well as the free first year of Samsung Care+. However, your ability to trade in multiple devices could be limited within certain countries. Check your local version of Samsung.com for more info.
Q: What does the IPX8 rating mean?
A: The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will be safe if submerged in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. The rating does not make any claims towards dust/particle resistance.
Q: Does the Galaxy Z Fold 3 have a 3.5mm headphone port?
A: No, this has not appeared on any of Samsung’s foldable phones to date.
Q: Is there a microSD slot?
A: No. You are locked to the two internal storage options of 256GB and 512GB.
Q: How many SIM cards can the phone support?
A: There are two physical SIM card slots in the phone. Additionally, it also supports an eSIM card. Theoretically, this could allow you three different SIMs.
Q: Does the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 have an in-display fingerprint sensor?
A: No. To unlock the phone with your fingerprint, you’ll need to use the capacitive sensor on the side of the device.