We don’t normally talk about brand-new smart phones as being in anyway affordable and let me be clear with a price-tag of over $2000 it’s certainly not affordable in the truest sense of the word. But in the context of a brand-new style of smart phone that is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold range, a reduction in price of $500 year on year is remarkable.

Samsung was the first company to announce a brand-new folding phone couple years ago now, and they beat Huawei to the punch by just a few weeks. In the end they beat them to market by a long way,  But they did have their problems. The first version of the fold had problems with the screens and that caused them to get a bit of bad PR. But in the end the device worked out to be pretty popular and certainly stood out in a sea of bland boring smart phones.

Fast forward to 2021 and Samsung have knocked me off my feet. The brand-new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is impressive in every way.

It’s thinner and it’s lighter – sure, only by a small amount in every way, but it matters. It matters that they are refining the product, it matters that they’re improving the product not just trying to race ahead in a market they already lead – in fact the own it..

Compared to the 2020 Fold, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is 0.8mm thinner when closed, and 0.9mm narrower.  Unfolded it’s the same 7.6 inch screen, now 6.4mm thin down from 6.9mm, has a 120Hz refresh rate and weighs 11 grams less at 271grams.

For me, the advance is about the build quality. This years Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is water resistant; IPX8 – that means you can have it in 1.5m of fresh water for 30 minutes. The Aluminium used in construction is 10% stronger, and the gorilla glass used is 50% stronger than gorilla glass 6 – all these things making it a better product.

On the inside a new protective film, a redesigned layer structure make the whole inside  80% more durable. That matters matters most because the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is also S Pen compatible. That’s right you can use an S Pen to jot on the screen draw on the screen even navigate the device.  This is the device for huge Galaxy Note fanboys – in fact the Galaxy Note doesn’t exist in 2021.

Remember earlier in the year the Samsung Galaxy S 21 came with an S pen version? An S Pen compatible flagship smart phone appeals to the people that really only wanted the Galaxy Note because of the S Pen.

People that wanted the Galaxy Note because it had the biggest screen and the best features are probably going to be drawn most to thisSamsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G because now it’s S Pen compatible.  It’s essentially the new Samsung Galaxy Note.

There are two S Pens you can use.  The S Pen Pro which has Bluetooth and allows you to have device switching to switch between any other Samsung device and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G. And then there’s the S Pen Fold edition. A very basic Pen weighing 6.7grams which is also shorter in length and doesn’t support the air actions of the Pro which allow you to hover over the screen.  But it does the basics of what most people would use the S Pen for.  

Most importantly it’s only the S Pen Fold edition and the S Pen Pro that are compatible with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.  The use of any other S Pen could ruin your Galaxy Fold, and that is a big, costly disaster.

In our early testing, the S Pen doesn’t work on the front screen, only the larger inside screen. But, it’s also as responsive and touch-sensitive as I’ve seen on the Note series in years gone by.

Of course the rear camera array is the stand out here when it comes to the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and it looks a lot like the Galaxy S21 though they’re not pushed to the edge like the S21. You’ve got an ultra Wide, a wide and a telephoto lens. But it’s on the inside we are all the talk will be about cameras.

Never before have we seen a major smart phone manufacturer introduce a selfie camera that is underneath the screen.  Sure we’ve got Notches, we’ve got  Dotches, we’ve got hole punches we got all these different things – but on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G the front facing camera is literally under the screen. When you are using a bright white screen you can see where it – is there’s a whole lot less pixels in that area, but on a black screen you can’t tell at all and when you’re taking a photo there’s no obvious sign the quality is any worse than you expect.

This is a remarkable innovation for Samsung and obviously all eyes are now on the Galaxy S22 early next year and whether they’ll bring forward this under-screen camera to that range and even the A series in the next 12 to 24 months.

Again, in early testing, we think this is a very new technology that doesn’t meet the standards of even the most affordable smartphone front-facing cameras. It’s a great headline act, but it wouldn’t yet cut it on the flagship phone. The reality is, if you’ve got the fold, you’ll use the “rear” cameras for everything – so I really don’t see a need for a “front” camera anyway – so on this one Samsung will get a pass.

The front screen of the device is very nice but the improvement on last year’s Fold2 was all the device needed. It really does take up the whole front of the device and frankly in the hand the whole thing feels lighter it feels smaller – and that’s ridiculous given how incrementally smaller and lighter it actually is.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G will come in three colours all in a matte finish on the back. A Phantom Green, Phantom Black and Phantom Silver. The green is my pick – every day of the week.

All that is great. In fact it’s amazing. It looks good, it feels good, it’s snappy, it’s a great great phone. But I just can’t get past the price. For $2,499 you’re actually getting Samsung’s best, most innovative, latest technology.  Last year, and the year before, the Fold was a $2,999 device – this reduction is a big deal.

At just $100 more than the flagship phones from both Apple and Samsung – the race really is on, folding really is the future.

Pre-orders start today, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G goes on sale on September 10.