So many people have this love for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold – I get it, it’s a really cool thing to have a phone that becomes a Tablet right? But for me, ever since the folding screen revolution began I always felt that a flip shut design was a better more usable potential winner for smartphones going forward and I really think the 2021 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is the real deal, quite possibly the smartphone of the year.
Fascinatingly, the fundamentals of the Flip for Samsung haven’t changed much in the year and a half since it first launched – but there are, I would say, three critical changes that take this from being a gimmick to a first class contender for the consideration of millions of smartphone buyers.
- Improved Durability
- Much larger cover-screen
- Bloody great price.
When it comes to durability there’s little I can report after a couple of weeks of usage, but lets be clear, there aren’t widespread reports of issues from last year’s Flip – either the 4G or 5G version. They test these folding screens and the mechanism to last for 200,000 opens and shuts. Even if you open it 100 times a day – that’s five years use.
Samsung isn’t some cheap startup with a cool product here, they’re the biggest smartphone brand on the planet, they aren’t going to let these onto the market if they aren’t going to go the distance. Have confidence in that – and if any doubt sits in your mind, remember we’re protected in Australia by Australian Consumer Law.
The Cover Screen
The general function of the cover screen is the same as last year – see your notifications, use it as a screen for the main camera when closed and glance at the time during your day.
Bring four times the size of the cover screen on the original Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, this screen is way more useful.
Firstly, as your viewfinder when taking photos. It’s much easier to see what’s in frame, and with a simple swipe you can switch from standard to wide angle, or swipe to switch from photo to video. Double click the power button to initiate the camera app when the Flip is closed, and trigger the shutter with the Volume button. Works well, great quality.
What’s interesting is that in the closed position using the cover screen, the camera takes Square photos, not wide (16:9). However, flip the phone open and use the “inside” or “selfie” camera and you’re quickly realising why you should opt to use the Cover-screen and main cameras. All about quality:
It is entirely possible to use your Samsung Pay to tap and go payments when the phone is shut. This has been brilliant for me. Double tap the cover screen to bring it to life, then swipe up on the screen, in the same way you initiate Samsung Pay on the main screen inside, you do on the outside.
Fingerprint verification and you then have 50 seconds to tape the bottom of the phone and make your payment. Works really well.
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 Cover screen is also great for seeing your notifications.
Your messages, reminders, alarms and even phone calls appear on the screen. Screening calls has never been easier, and because it’s touch sensitive you can of course snooze alarms and even swipe away unwanted notifications.
I found enabling the Always On Display was ideal, so the time is always available at a glance.
A double tap activates the screen so you can swipe through the “widgets” and get to your notifications, though I didn’t use anything but the notifications in my time using it.
There are definitely some apps or notifications that didn’t pop up on the screen, just a sound and then they were in the list, so I think that might be a developer thing – frustrating though to hear a notification sound, look down and see nothing. Have to double tap and swipe to find out what it was.
Some apps also allowed a deeper look at notifications, like reading part of an email, others just let you see the headline but not read the message.
You really need to retrain your brain to not want to get all the info all the time to get the most from this – glance at notifications, not read every damn one – means you keep the phone shut more often than not.
Can you hang up on people by flipping it shut?
Yes, Yes you can!
It’s just as satisfying as you’d think. Answering a call is also possible with just opening the phone, that has to be enabled in the settings.
$1,499 – that’s ridiculous. When it launched last year this was a $2,199 phone, so to drop that price by $700 shows Samsung knows they are onto something, but need to make it more reasonable.
That’s on par with an iPhone 12 so makes it less of a guilt purchase for those on contract, and puts it within consideration of a large amount of users who love the form factor, but just can’t justify the price. Now you can.
Honestly, for a technology (Folding screens) that is just over two years old, this is a fantastic price point – at $2,199 this is a hard to recommend phone. At $1,499 this is a buy buy buy recommendation.
Battery Life on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3
There’s no doubt in my mind this is a compromise of the design. Battery life isn’t anything like what you get on a traditional smartphone. However, it’s by no means a deal-breaker.
I think in my two weeks I’ve had two days where it’s gone down to panic levels by middle of the afternoon – those were days I was glued to the screen. On most days, I’m getting to my 15% worry line by dinner time, so an evening charge is in order.
It would take a lot more data to quantify but if pushed, I think you get 75-85% of your normal smartphone use-time, totally fine given what it is, but certainly the next big thing for Samsung to improve.
That crease in the folding screen?
Dear god, the haters love to hate. Comments on videos about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 are always filled with “oh that crease” or “the fold is so visible on the screen”. Yes it is.
But you absolutely don’t notice it in daily use. Ever. It doesn’t get in your way, it doesn’t distract you, it’s just part of the phone.
At most angles and light it doesn’t “show”, but yes with the right glare it’s an obvious crease.
You notice it more scrolling up and down a page, your thumb or fingers rolling over the fold – but again, it’s not at all a hinderance to the use of the phone.
The good and bad of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Form Factor
I love folding it shut and putting it in my pocket. There’s no scratches on the screen at all, an I’ve had iPhones with scratches after just a week of use.
You don’t realise how those buttons in your jeans, or keys in your pocket or bag will scratch the heck out of the best smartphone glass.
Not here because the very form-factor of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 protects the screen.
Strangely though, the NFC chip is in the lower half of the phone. So if you’re using Samsung Pay with the phone open, the touch point is at the bottom of the phone. That’s fine when it’s shut, and you can double tap the screen and swipe up to activate Samsung Pay when it’s shut too – which is cool.
Finally, Wireless charging can be a difficult one. On a lay-flat charging pad, no problem. But any upright stand I’ve got with Wireless Charging built-in doesn’t work with the Flip because the Qi charging coil is in the bottom of the phone, not the centre like on most phones.
You get used to it.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3?
No question, this is a great phone. It does everything you’d expect plus it folds in half to flip shut.
The cameras aren’t a patch on Samsung’s best, or Apple’s at this price point, but that’s only a concern for those deep into photography. For socials, sharing and general family memories, this has worked a treat for me.
This is a phone that shows you’re at the forefront. This is a phone for someone that want’s something new, something different, and in many ways something better.
No, not for everyone, but I really do think in ten years we’ll look back on 2020/21 not just for Covid-19 but for the start of the Folding phone revolution, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is the game changer the category needed because it hits the spot on features and price.