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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 revisited: The good and bad over six months later
Foldables had an interesting year in 2021, and Samsung has continued to be at the forefront of this device category, polishing what is now its third iteration of a tablet-sized foldable. At its initial launch, Android Authority named the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as the best all-around foldable to get. Over half a year and a major software update later, is it still the king of the hill? Let’s find out in this Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review revisit.
Our verdict: The original Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still one gorgeous piece of industrial design. Samsung’s flagship lineup over the past year has been about one thing — refinement. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a prime example of the company’s design goals. From front to back, Samsung essentially perfected the book-like stature of its Z Fold line.
Samsung mostly stuck to the design of the previous Galaxy Z Fold 2 but made its successor slightly thinner. It has a larger outer 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED display and opens up to an even bigger, almost square 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity X Display that’s uninterrupted thanks to an under-display camera. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is available in three beautiful colors, including Phantom Black, Phantom Green, and Phantom Silver, all of which feature a satin finish that feels premium in the hand while effectively hiding fingerprints.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still — at least for now — the pinnacle of what is possible with this form factor.
The most prominent hardware feature of a foldable continues to be the hinge. It determines the longevity and usability of any given foldable phone. Having used the Galaxy Z Fold 3 since launch, I can confidently say that the hinge on this device is still one of the best you’re going to get in the market. After seven months of consistent usage, the hinge on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has stayed firm and secure, allowing the device to utilize Flex Mode (as pictured above) without issue.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 remains one of the only foldable phones, along with its smaller brother the Galaxy Z Flip 3, to offer IPX8 water resistance. You can confidently use it near the pool or outside on a rainy day. The lack of water resistance in previous foldables was seen as a compromise compared to the mainstream form-factor, but to see it here is an excellent addition in improving the durability and longevity of these devices.
See also: The best Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 cases
Now in its third iteration, it’s safe to say that Samsung effectively owns the foldable market, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is — at least for now — the pinnacle of what is possible with this form factor. However, the device still holds fundamental drawbacks due to its uniqueness. For one, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still the thickest of the currently available foldables, with the weight to match — it comes in at 16mm when folded and weighs 271g.
I’ve personally gotten used to the weight, and the extra thickness weirdly has given me more confidence when handling it in one hand. However, in terms of portability, you’ll certainly see limitations as you won’t be able to comfortably stow the phone in the pocket of skinny jeans, shorts, or other pairs of pants that don’t have large enough pockets.
Dust resistance is another limitation of foldables. While the hinge of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers measures to keep dust out, the device still isn’t rated for any dust resistance. Although the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is more durable than other foldables, users still have to keep in mind how and where they use their devices (i.e. don’t take it to the beach).
Aside from the typical limitations of a foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 excels in aesthetics and groundbreaking durability improvements that still put it out ahead of its competition seven months later.
Unsurprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has world-class displays on the outside and the inside. Both the outer and inner displays support a 120Hz refresh rate, something that was missing from the outer display of the Galaxy Z Fold 2. There has been plenty written about how good Samsung’s displays are (including by us at Android Authority), but really all you need to know is that both displays are bright, vibrant, full of contrast, and clearly viewable in direct sunlight without much hassle.
Initially, I found the 22.5:18 squared-off aspect ratio of the inner display to be quite odd, but it makes perfect sense when it comes to multitasking. You can comfortably fit two or three apps within the screen without it being redundant or limiting. While less optimal for watching movies and shows with thinner aspect ratios, the bigger overall real-estate still justifies picking up a foldable over a typical candy bar phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers the best movie-watching and multitasking experience on any smartphone, period.
The inner screen’s under-display camera (UDC) is the elephant in the room, however. While implementing a UDC on the Z Fold 3 seems rather excessive and not on par with the rest of this otherwise incredible display experience, you’ll never really notice it unless you’re hunting for it. Whether watching movies, playing games, or reading articles, the pixelation above the camera isn’t an issue for most day-to-day tasks. That being said, Samsung shouldn’t have included such an experimental feature in their most premium flagship. It’s also notable that there are far better examples of UDCs on phones that are much cheaper than the Z Fold 3. Hopefully, it’ll get it right on the next generation of the Z Fold.
Software and performance
Samsung’s software has historically been a mixed bag of duplicate apps, redundant features, and cartoonish app icons, all paired with super late software updates — or at least it was. The software experience of One UI on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is, in short, leaps and bounds ahead of anything the company has tried in the past, and it’s genuinely a seamless experience that’s ahead of many other Android manufacturers.
Initially, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 shipped with Android 11 with One UI 3.1, which was then Samsung’s best software work in years. The company has since improved the integration of Google services like Google Discover and Google Messages with its main skin, making the device feel more seamless and coherent. Samsung still has certain duplicate apps and bloatware, but it’s toned down its approach to forcing users to use Samsung apps over the installed Google apps.
Read more: Everything you need to know about One UI
Arguably the best aspect of Samsung’s software approach is its updates. Since launch, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 not only moved to One UI 4.0 skin on Android 12, it’s also received numerous timely security updates. In February, on top of receiving consistent updates, Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Fold 3 had been added to the list of devices that will get four years of Android OS upgrades and five years of software updates — a guarantee that surpasses even Google.
Even after the updates, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 yields the same great performance as seven months ago. Apps open fast, multitasking is a breeze, and you won’t notice any lag or hangs; the device is reliable and fast. The issues that are here are more of an Android problem than a Samsung one, with apps that aren’t optimized for larger screens. Here’s hoping Android 12L goes some way to fixing that.
The not so good
Truthfully, the battery life on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn’t bad by any means, but it falls short of being great. The device ships with a 4,400mAh cell, which can certainly last you an entire day of usage, but it’s all dependent on how you use this device. On most days where you’re primarily using the cover display, you’ll comfortably last the day with 20-25% of battery, with a bit of juice left in the tank. But on days where you’re using the inner display at high brightness, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 may struggle to get through the rest of the day without a charge.
I typically balance my usage equally between both the outer and inner display, averaging about five to six hours of screen-on time most days. This is by no means terrible battery performance, but it’s nowhere close to the battery life of the Galaxy S22 Ultras and iPhone 13 Pro Maxes of the world.
Related: The best charging accessories
In terms of charging, there’s nothing impressive here either. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports fast charging at a maximum of 25W using a USB Power Delivery PPS charger and wireless charging at 25W. Again, while this isn’t bad by any means, it’s behind the 45W charging of Samsung’s latest flagships. Typically, the device takes around 80-95 minutes to charge, but I achieved similar results with a 15W charger.
Overall, there’s nothing much to say about the battery performance on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It’s not the best, but also not terrible. The more important takeaway here is consistency; I’m achieving the same battery life I was getting at launch, and if Samsung can continue optimizing its software for this phone, I believe this should stay relatively similar down the line.
The wider Galaxy Z family has never offered Samsung’s best imaging, and that fact remains true with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 over six months later. It’s important to note that the camera performance on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is good, it can take really nice shots and offers a fairly flexible setup. It’s just that expectations are higher for a phone that costs as much as a brand new MacBook.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is equipped with a triple rear 12MP camera array that includes the main wide, ultrawide, and 2x zoom. On the cover display, you’ll find a 10MP selfie camera, and once you unfold the device, there’s the aforementioned 4MP under-display camera.
Don’t miss: The best camera phones
Straight off the bat, the images out of the three back cameras are decent. In good lighting, you’ll easily achieve some beautiful shots from all three sensors. The software does a great job balancing color, detail, and HDR. The cover display selfie camera also achieves similar results in this regard. Though Samsung has been using these sensors since 2020, it’s clear it has put in the effort to maximize the performance coming from these cameras.
Things start to fall apart with the 4MP UDC, as there are no good reasons anyone should use the inner display selfie camera for anything. The images from this camera are hazy, soft, and generally don’t yield anything usable in any context. With four other cameras on board that provide better results — and can act as selfie cameras quite easily — it’s hard to justify the use of the UDC.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s camera experience is unsurprisingly OK. There’s nothing that sets it apart from the competition, but at the same time, there’s nothing that takes away from the experience unless you’re counting the inner display selfie camera. With all that said, if you want the best Samsung camera phone, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the obvious choice.
Let’s face it, very few people are happy to drop nearly two grand on a smartphone. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 continues to be the most expensive smartphone in Samsung’s lineup.
Right now, the phone is selling for $1,799 in the US for the base 256GB/12GB variant, climbing to $1,899 for the 512GB model. So far, there haven’t been any reductions in terms of pricing unless you count Samsung’s trade-in offers.
At nearly $2,000, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 continues to be at the very top of the ultra-flagship category simply due to its novelty. For most users, the price of this device is still too high to genuinely be considered as a buying option.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review revisited: The verdict
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 remains one of the most interesting and innovative devices in the market in 2022, and the phone is a testament to how far Samsung has come since the launch of the original Galaxy Fold back in 2019. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 overcomes many of the barriers most foldable phones have yet to fix, but it still suffers from the fundamental design flaws of the phone-tablet hybrid form factor. The limited number of competitors are certainly getting stronger, but a lack of global availability makes them a non-starter.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Is it still worth buying?
If there was one word to describe the experience of using a Z Fold 3 from launch until today, it would be consistent. Whether it’s software, performance, battery, or camera, regardless of where this device falls short, the experience has remained consistent and reliable since day one. Not many devices can match that, especially not ones that are this innovative. Despite its shortcomings, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has delivered on an experience that just lacked a bit of polish, but never once sacrificed usability or reliability.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 might be the most expensive device on your radar, but more than six months later, it’s still as good, if not better, than it was at launch, and it undoubtedly remains the best foldable phone available in the mainstream smartphone market.