Considering buying a foldable phone? This Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review is the right place to be - it’s arguably the best folding phone for most people because it’s much more affordable than any other foldable device out there right now.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G was unveiled at the Galaxy Unpacked event in August 2021 alongside Samsung's top-of-the-line folding phone, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G, as well as the Galaxy Watch4 series and the Galaxy Buds 2.
Unlike a lot of other attempts to corner the market, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is a flip phone that looks like it could actually work for the average person. I recently got my hands on one and actually, I think it’s great. It’s sure to be one of the best foldable phones you can buy in 2021.
Here I’ll take you through everything I thought about the phone in this Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review from its design and build right through to the hardware and software.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: video overview
First, watch this video overview where I’ll take you through everything you need to know about both of Samsung’s Galaxy Z 3 series folding phones.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: price and release date
You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G now with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $999 in the US, £949 in the UK and AU$1,499 in Australia. You can also buy it with 256GB of storage for about $1,049 / £999 / AU$1,599.
Although it’s still quite expensive, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is now the same price as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus so it's much cheaper than other clamshell folding phones like the Motorola Razr. At launch, it was about £350 cheaper than the original Galaxy Z Flip which is sure to make this a much more convincing piece of kit.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: design and build
Most smartphones look more or less identical. They are often samey slabs of glass that don’t really have much to set them apart physically, other than maybe a camera notch here and a curved screen there. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is definitely not one of those. It looks completely different and I think it’s a really good looking phone.
When it’s folded up, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G will fit in the palm of your hand. Unfolded, the phone feels very slender and it looks just like a regular smartphone, so you get the best of both worlds.
Naturally, when you fold it up it does feel quite thick. Measuring 72.2 x 86.4 x 17.1 - 15.9mm, it does add some bulk to your pocket but it’ll still be small enough to fit into it in the first place. At 183g, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G weighs the same as a regular smartphone which makes it just as comfortable to use and hold.
You can buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G in 7 glossy colours including lavender, cream, black and green to name a few. The coloured phones have a two-tone design where the body meets the cover screen. It looks quite cool, and you’re sure to have people ask “what’s that?” when you pull it out in public.
Not only does it look a bit different but it’s actually practical as well. The cover screen has some really handy uses and you get everything you're used to having on your phone from the main screen as well. I’m enjoying seeing a shakeup in the phone world now that Samsung has made it feel more plausible.
To unlock the handset, you can choose between the usual pin, pattern and password. There’s also the choice of facial recognition and the fingerprint scanner which is located on the power button. Personally, I found the scanner was placed a little too far up to where my thumb sits which meant I kept missing it. Ultimately that meant that I didn’t manage to unlock my phone every time I went to touch it.
One of the biggest changes in this year’s Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is the build quality. Like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G, this is one of Samsung’s toughest phones yet. It’s made from a durable Armor Aluminium, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and it has the highest IPX8 rating which means it’ll survive being dunked in water. When I tried it out, the hinge felt firm to open and close and it clicks into place when folded out. The overall build does feel strong and premium as well.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: displays
On the original Galaxy Z Flip, the cover screen was only 1.1 inches which was just too small. It meant you couldn’t do much on it and it could only display one notification at a time. Now, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G has a screen that is quadruple the size, so it can fit up to 4 notifications on it at once. That’s not all it can do though.
You’ll be able to customise what you see on the cover screen by adding widgets that you swipe through to check out the weather, access Samsung Pay, control your music, set your alarms and so much more. It feels surprisingly natural to use, you soon get used to checking your messages from there to save time on opening up the phone.
The large 6.7inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display inside has an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz which makes it feel buttery smooth to scroll and swipe on. Mobile games feel slick and browsing the web feels effortless.
As you would expect from Samsung, the screen looks seriously crisp with bright colours, although because it is so long video doesn’t fit neatly onto it horizontally instead leaving you with two black strips on either side of the content. In saying that, for reading articles or shopping, that extra length is really useful.
The crease on the screen doesn’t dramatically change the experience of using the main display. That’s not to say you can’t see it at all though because when the screen is white, tilted or when light reflects off it, it becomes very obvious and can sometimes warp images a little. One other problem was that the screen wasn’t always completely responsive near the crease and sometimes missed my tap, this wasn’t a major problem though.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: software and hardware
Running on Android 11 with Samsung's One UI, the overall experience when the main screen is folded out flat is just as you’d expect from a Samsung phone. It’s intuitive, user friendly and there’s easy access to Google’s suite of apps. There have been a few software upgrades this time around to suit the folding nature of the phone.
When the phone is partially folded, the Flex Panel shifts your app content to the top half and places settings like the volume on the bottom half. I tried it out across a few different apps and it’s especially useful for streaming video. For instance, you can watch a video from YouTube on the top half and adjust the volume or switch on subtitles below. You can also split the screen and have multiple windows open at once, like if you wanted to continue watching the video while you do a bit of online shopping.
The phone is powered by the most recent Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 CPU which means it should be faster than the original Z Flip which had a 7nm chip. In use, larger apps like games seemed to load very quickly and I didn’t notice any lag in mobile games although it did sometimes heat up a little when you’ve got it hard at work.
On Geekbench 5, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G scored 1,103 in single-core and 3,494 in multi-core which is just as good as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. Finally, a flip phone that you can rely on for speed and efficiency. Not only is it fast but this phone is future-proofed as well with 5G connectivity so you’ll get the fastest internet speeds possible if you live in an area that supports it.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G has a 3,300mAh battery inside, that's a lot smaller than most smartphones I see but it still managed to last the majority of the day before it needed to be charged again. I ran a video on it over two hours on full brightness and in that time, the battery level dropped by 14% which suggests the phone would have lasted over 14 hours in total. While that’s not the best battery life there is, it is pretty good.
Recharging the phone again from empty to 100% took just over an hour which is good going as well, although it's worth knowing that there's no adaptor in the box, you just get the cable.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: cameras
Full disclosure, the camera tech isn’t the most impressive you’ll see on a smartphone at this price. In fact, it’s far from the quality you'd get from the best phones you can buy. There’s a 10MP hole punch style camera on the main screen and on the back there’s a 12MP wide-angle camera as well as a 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens.
All in all the camera was quite hit and miss depending on the point of focus and the lighting conditions. It’s not just as easy as snapping the shot. Some of my point-and-shoot photos using the rear cameras came out looking great, while others, even on the sunniest day came out lacking sharpness and without much in the way of detail. At times, it struggled to balance contrasting areas of the shot as well. Similarly, colours looked vibrant and accurate for the most part, but without the right lighting, they could look dulled out at times.
While the camera system is unlikely to blow you away, there are a few really useful features you should know about. Firstly, Flex Panel works here as well. With the screen partially folded you can have the preview placed on the top panel with the camera settings on the bottom, which means you can keep the camera steady while adjusting the settings and switching between the different modes.
You can also change where everything sits on the screen, like if you wanted the settings on the top half and the preview on the bottom half. If you want to see everything in more detail the Capture View can take up the whole screen as well.
The other cool camera feature to highlight is that you can actually take shots without unfolding the phone at all, you just double press the power key. Although the screen will be too small to see much on, it’ll still be great for snapping quick selfies on the go. You won’t ever miss a photo opportunity again.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: verdict
While the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G won’t be for everyone, this is a device that proves folding phones can actually work for the masses - I really like it and would actually buy it as my next phone.
Samsung has done a really great job at making this accessible and convenient. They’ve managed to combine style and standout features with well thought out software, and it all comes under a price tag that doesn’t make your eyes water so much.
The one major downside is the simplicity of the camera system because at this sort of price you would expect the camera to be seriously accomplished as opposed to just quite good, folding phone or not. Despite that, I would still consider buying this phone myself because frankly, it’s a pretty cool piece of kit.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: also consider
As far as clamshell-style folding phones go, you literally won’t find a phone better than the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G. There are other options to consider, of course, like the Motorola Razr but it is very pricey and not quite as effective. The cameras, chipset, and battery life aren’t quite at the same level as you get here.
If you want a larger phablet display then Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G is the one really worth buying but you could also consider the Huawei Mate Xs which has a foldable display on the outside as opposed to on the inside to reveal an 8inch OLED screen.
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