It must be getting boring. Having to outdo itself every year. Into the third generation now. All that noise, all that posturing and yet, the only real foldable phone in the form factor that is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is still the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G. Before you say the Motorola Razr 5G, that flip form factor is competing with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G, and why would you even consider that is a separate debate. Samsung has such a first mover advantage with the Galaxy Z Fold series, they pretty much have the attention of Microsoft and Google to optimize apps for this screen type, form factor and functionality. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is priced at Rs 1,49,999 for the 12GB+256GB config and Rs 1,57,999 for the 12GB+512GB variant. Serious money splurge territory this, but it is now three years more mature too.
First things first, what happens with your apps. Compared with the first-generation Samsung Galaxy Fold, we are already significantly better off with apps now more receptive to this screen size, aspect ratio and that you can have sharing the 7.6-inch display real estate too. Yet, what immediately stands out for this generation is the promise that Microsoft and Samsung are indeed working to add even more. Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office will get to use this screen size and functionality better. For instance, Outlook will behave more like it does on your desktop, using the dual-pane mode to give you half of the screen space for reading an email and the other half for previewing other mails. Similarly, dragging and dropping stuff between Office apps will become easier, and you’ll also be able to run two instances of Word or Excel or PowerPoint, for instance. At the same time, Google has optimized Duo and added Flex mode for YouTube too. If you aren’t getting these changes now, you’d get these in the coming weeks.
It may not seem that way at first glance, but a lot has been tweaked with the design and durability. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is IPX8 water resistant, which immediately gives you a sense of ease. Add to that the use of the new Armor Aluminum, which Samsung claims is the strongest aluminum ever used on a Galaxy smartphone—the in-hand feeling is definitely inducing more confidence than before, and the gripper matte finish on the back also has a part to play in that improvement. And the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus layer at the front and the back adds a bit more to the increased structural strength of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3. Mind you, this generation of the foldable phone isn’t dust resistant, so that’s something you must keep in mind.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is 11 grams lighter than the predecessor, but 271 grams isn’t exactly the lightest phone around. Think of this more as a tablet, and you’ll start to feel better. You wouldn’t mind this weight for the uniqueness it offers, would you? Very slightly less thick too when folded, but the bulge in your trouser pocket would still be very apparent—the bulge where the phone replaces money, perhaps. There are two colour options to choose from—Phantom Black and Phantom Green with Phantom Silver eventually on the menu. What you see photographed here is Phantom Black, and the duality of matte and glossy (thanks to the glass) does come through quite nicely. Have to say, I’m most chuffed about more matte finish on the phone, which means less smudges showing up.
The highlight continues to be the display duet, more than anything else. There’s two of them here, as before. Two phones in one. And the second screen isn’t actually just there for formality. Let us talk about the unfolded brilliance first. On paper, the large foldable screen is still 7.6-inches, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, supports 120Hz and has the 2208 x 1768 resolution as before. What has changed is that this one is 29% brighter than before, something that is an improvement on the predecessor which already never had any usability issues with brightness. Look closely and you’ll notice another big change. The front camera is, the first time ever, an under-display camera that’s been used in a Samsung Galaxy phone. Yes, it isn’t completely hidden, you might point out. True, but this is a pretty good job of having pixels between your eyes and the front facing camera, illuminated to go with what’s on the screen. Pretty soon, you’d stop noticing this sorcery altogether. Makes a world of difference when you’re watching videos on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, in the unfolded mode. It is a more of an uninterrupted display.
Much like last year, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 when folded, remains a very usable proposition. The display size is the same as last year—6.2-inches and it is taller than it is wider. More pixels though, and it looks a tad more vibrant to the eye, as well as 120Hz refresh rate here too. Nothing has been left to chance. To be fair, this can be used for pretty much every task—sending a message, browse something on Edge, quickly catch up on your Instagram or Twitter feeds and ignore irritating WhatsApp groups! If you’re using an app on this cover display and unfold the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, the open app seamlessly switches to the larger display and stretches to fill the contours of the aspect ratio and resolution.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G doesn’t follow the same rulebook as a lot of other Samsung Galaxy phones. And there is no Exynos and Qualcomm Snapdragon version differentiation to contend with. In India as you would in any other country where this is on sale, you’d get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 powering the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3. Two variants though for you to choose from—12GB RAM with 256GB storage and 12GB RAM with 512GB storage. Really, what can I say about the Snapdragon 888 that I haven’t already said in reviews about this top-of-the-line chip. Multitasking, something that the foldable screen’s real estate revels in, is silky smooth. All the additions that Samsung has done about pop-out and multi-view really come through with all the brilliance you’d expect. In fact, delve a deeper into the Settings app and you’d see a Labs option to enable all apps to fit the screen irrespective of whether the app intrinsically supports it or not.
Battery life is, well make of these stats what you will—a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G with the large screen unfolded and used for viewing 4K movies and TV shows, at alternating between 60% to 80% brightness, drains 7% battery charge every hour. That is around 14 hours and a bit more of video content consumption, on a single charge, from the 4,400mAh battery. In my book, that is very good stamina, and should put to rest all apprehensions about the battery capacity.
It is a bit of a dampener that the camera tech in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G remains the same as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G. What doesn’t change is the fact that there are a lot of cameras in one phone. Let’s start counting—a selfie camera sitting above the cover display, a selfie camera sitting behind the display of the foldable display and three cameras at the back, for the main photography and video recording fun. And it this module which remains the same as earlier—a 12-megapixel wide, a 12-megapixel ultrawide and a 12-megapixel telephoto. In fact, what has changed is the under-display selfie and video calling camera is now 4-megapixel instead of the more conventional camera that clocked 10-megapixels on the spec sheet, in the predecessor. If you are buying the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G for the camera prowess, do keep in mind you’re buying something that is good but not great. Isn’t that an expectation from a phone as premium as this? For perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra leads the way with a 108-megapixel camera alongside a 12-megapixel ultrawide, a 10-megapixel telephoto and another 10-megapixel periscope telephoto camera. That camera combination, or something similar, is what you’d like to see in a phone such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.
The Last Word: We Have Reached The Evolution Stage, Sooner Than Expected
There isn’t a simple buy or don’t buy tag on something that’s still as unique and rare as a foldable phone. Yet, it is hard to shrug off the feeling that at least with Samsung’s take on foldable phones, in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G mold, have reached the evolution state instead of a revolution. At least for this year. There isn’t any drastic change, unlike last year when we saw a big upgrade for the cover display, the build and weight reduction as well as cameras. The focus this time is on snipping at the edges and finetuning what needs to be finetuned. The new materials make the build and in-hand feel better, the display is brighter and has the vividness tuned up a bit, the protective layer on the foldable screen is one year more improved and software gets more smarts to better utilize the large, unfolded screen too. There are two types of foldable phones you can choose from. There is this, and there is the clamshell style form factor, and your choice there should be the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G. Whichever style works for you, with budget surely being a critical factor in all this, Samsung’s foldables are a safer bet to splurge on. Unlike a brand that is still clinging to the past in the hope of a brighter future. And that isn’t a solid foundation to stay on for too long.