Galaxy Z Flip3 review: Proof that folding phones aren’t a gimmick

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When Samsung revealed its first foldable smartphone back in 2019, I was left baffled by the whole concept. Why would anyone want to own a phone that was so fragile you’d be forgiven for wearing jewellers’ gloves to handle it and so expensive that you could buy a new phone for your whole family for the same price? “What a ridiculous idea,” I remember grumpily muttering to a colleague after the Samsung Unpacked keynote had come to a close.

Although I had my worries, Samsung seemed sure that this was the future of smartphones, with the company launching iterative updates to its folding phones last year.

And now, the South Korean company is back with yet more foldables. With the latest generation of folding phones in our hands, it’s clear that Samsung was right to back this clever technology …and I was probably wrong to dismiss it following the original launch.

The new Galaxy Z Flip3 arrived at my front door just over a week ago and I have to admit that I’ve become pretty smitten with this folding device.

The retro-style flip phone design looks stunning, plus there’s now a more expansive 1.9-inch “cover display” that fits on the front, which lets you read messages, check the latest weather reports, set timers, and even take selfies.

That’s all great, but perhaps the most important upgrade on the new Flip is that it’s now much more robust. To achieve that, Samsung is using Armour Aluminium and Gorilla Glass Victus, which makes it 80 percent stronger, but it’s also fully IPX8 water resistant. That’s no mean feat given that this phone has an opening, a hinge and a screen that folds in half.

That rating allows the Flip3 to be submerged in water for 30 minutes without fear of a soggy circuit board. However, it’s not rated against dust… so you need to be careful if you start to see a build-up of pocket lint around the hinge.

The moment you pick up the Fold3 and hold it in your hand you’re struck by just how solid this handset feels. Even when you flip it open, the device stays rigid and Samsung should be commended for some pretty astonishing build quality.

The strong hinge also allows you to open the case halfway – like a book – which looks great on your desk and offers hands-free video calls.

Once closed, the Flip3 fits neatly in your pocket or bag and the minute you fully open the clamshell case you get a stunning 6.7-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate for silky smooth scrolling.

There’s also a fast side-mounted fingerprint scanner, speedy processor and full access to the latest 5G data network. As I mentioned earlier, this phone has really impressed me, but it’s not without its faults.

First off, I can’t ignore the horrible crease that sits right in the middle of the 6.7-inch display. Clearly, this is a foldable phone but you need to be aware that this technology creates a pretty nasty bump that stands out like a very sore thumb.

It’s particularly noticeable when using the screen in daylight and is pretty distracting when having a quick binge on a Netflix boxset. Along with not looking very nice, you can also feel the bump every time you scroll on the screen. Yuck!

The next problem the fold brings is the button placement on the side of the device. Where you really want the power and fingerprint scanner is in the same place as the hinge.

That’s meant Samsung has had to move these buttons up the side of the device making them quite hard to use.

There are also issues with its wireless charging as when you stand the phone on a Belkin-style dock it doesn’t work so you’ll need to make sure you have a standard wireless Qi base and nothing more extravagant.

The battery life could be better and the dual-lens camera takes solid snaps but doesn’t offer the same features as other Samsung phones. For example, there’s no dedicated Zoom lens on the Flip3 and you can’t film footage in 8K – something the S21+ has no problem with.

And the price is my final niggle as the standard Galaxy Z Flip3 costs a whopping £949. I get that this is a new technology and Samsung is slowly making its foldables more affordable but it’s a lot of money just to have a phone with a flexible screen.

Galaxy Z Flip3 review: Final Verdict

PROS • Better and more robust design • Stunning 120Hz screen • Improved cover display
CONS • Expensive considering missing features such as triple camera • Wireless charging doesn’t always work

There’s no question that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a stunning device that will put people into a spin when they first flip it open. For those who are frustrated by the palm-stretching size of modern smartphones, this is a great way to pack a huge screen in your pocket.

The Flip3 is incredibly clever and, minus that nasty crease in the middle of the main display, the upgraded 120Hz AMOLED screen is an absolute thing of beauty. Not only that, the updated cover display makes the whole device user friendly and the fact it’s now more robust should help settle the nerves of those buying one.

I really, really like the Flip3, but would I actually spend over £900 on one?

Well, that’s a tricky question. If you’re all about style and want to impress your Instagram followers and real-life friends with a flip-able, folding phone, the Flip3 should be high up on your wishlist.

However, if you want all the very best features in a £900 smartphone, there are better options on the market, including the Galaxy S21+. For the same price as the Flip you’ll get a better camera, faster charging, an embedded fingerprint scanner, and the option to refill the battery without wires on any dock you place it on.

That said, the new Flip3 is a brilliant little phone that’s made me eat my words and change my mind on the future of foldable phones. Bring on the Flip4, I can’t wait to see what Samsung has planned next.

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