In many ways, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 should be the first foldable for a mainstream audience. It's basically a regular smartphone you can fold in half and it could appeal to the swaths of people who miss the satisfying snap of a flip phone. Plus, with a price drop, the new Flip now costs about the same as an iPhone or Galaxy S flagship. Samsung’s latest foldable also features a larger external display than its predecessor, making it more useful when closed, and has water resistance for some peace of mind. It’s even got a faster screen than Apple and Google offer and nifty software that makes better use of the screen when you prop it up on a surface. But the question remains, even at a more reasonable $1,000, is the Flip 3 good enough to usher foldables into the mainstream or are they still a gimmick?
Design and durability
One of the most important factors in determining if the Flip 3 is ready for daily use is durability. Samsung used stronger aluminum for the Flip 3’s frame, refined its hinge and made the screen tougher with a new flexible PET protector. I can’t tell exactly how much more durable the Flip 3 is compared to its predecessor, but I have been taking more risks with it. In fact, I consider my placing the Flip 3 (and the Fold 3, for that matter) into my bag along with my keys, laptop and DSLR the bravest thing I’ve ever done during a review.
- Impressive folding screen technology
- Attractive build
- Water resistance
- Short battery life
- Slippery exterior
- Uncertainty around durability
I’m mostly worried because of a bad experience when I took the original Z Flip out for a day. It vibrated off a table and cracked its corner. I’ve been fairly careful with the Flip 3, but I’ve avoided babying it, and so far it’s survived being tossed into a bag with various sharp objects. While it’s still prone to sliding around due to its glossy glass exterior, it’s yet to fall off anything. I’ve placed it on treadmills, ellipticals, window ledges and restaurant tables and I don’t want to jinx it but: so far my Flip 3 is scratch-free.
Does that mean it’ll remain pristine a week, a month or even a year from now? Probably not. But as someone who’s cracked her fair share of phone screens, I feel like the Flip 3 is about as sturdy as most glass-covered flagships.
That is, with one exception: Its flexible internal screen is still more likely to break than others, if for no reason other than you’ll invariably end up pushing into some part of it to close the device. I’ve yet to damage the Flip 3’s screen, and I’ve been careful not to push my thumb into the middle of the panel to close the phone, but I’ve been shutting it with some force. Whether the durability is indeed improved is something that’s hard to tell without months of testing or deliberately trying to damage the device, so I might have to revisit this after some time.
Speaking of closing the phone: Like its predecessor, the Flip 3 isn’t easy to shut with one hand. It can be done, but the hinge is stiff and provides enough resistance to let it stay open at various angles. Unless you have Dwayne Johnson’s hands, you’ll probably need some leverage to open or close the Flip 3.
Oh and thanks to the IPX8 water resistance, I was a lot less worried about leaving the Flip next to my sink when I washed my face and dripped all over it while reaching for the soap.
Besides improved durability and a larger external screen, not much has changed between the new Flip and the last generation. They weigh the same 183 grams (6.45 ounces) and the Flip 3 is a hair thicker. Samsung’s also offering a few new color options, including my two favorites: green and lavender. My review unit is a boring cream/off-white, though.
Phones in the same size and price range like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy S21+ are slightly heavier and thicker, but not by much. Of course, these devices are dust-resistant and sport triple cameras, while the Flip has just two. The conventional flagships are also not as narrow. But aside from the aspect ratio, the Flip 3 feels very much like a regular smartphone when unfolded. Bonus: It’s more compact when folded in half, which helps it fit into most of my pockets without peeking out. It actually almost reminds me of a pager when closed. Remember those?