OPINION: The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is without a doubt one of the most interesting options on the market for any phone buyer at the moment. But is it enough to convince a sceptic of the form factor? I put the phone to the test over the last three days to find out.
For the uninitiated, the Fold 3 is the latest flagship foldable from Samsung. It features a custom folding screen technology that lets you use it as both a tablet and regular smartphone, in theory.
Newcomers to Trusted Reviews may be surprised to hear, but I wasn’t bursting with excitement when the phone first arrived at our labs last week, ready for review. To be clear, this isn’t because I’m biased against the Fold 3 – it’s because of the experience I had using the first and second generation Galaxy Folds.
The first Fold was a disaster that fell apart in reviewers’ hands. The second was better, but I couldn’t get over the fact that Samsung had put an inherently more fragile screen into a very expensive phone to serve a need I don’t necessarily think exists. If you’re going to make a foldable phone/tablet, at least make it so that the screens included have a regular aspect ratio to allow apps to be displayed correctly. This isn’t the case on either of the Fold’s screens.
After three days of testing the Fold 3 however, I’ve found the changes Samsung’s made to be generally useful.
Starting off with my primary concern: Build quality. Samsung made a lot of big claims about the new Fold’s build quality at the phone’s launch. Specifically, the company claims the Fold 3’s folding screen is 80% stronger than its predecessors’ thanks to a new protective film. The front screen and chassis have also been given work, with it featuring stronger Gorilla Glass Victus, plus a tougher aluminium body. This, in addition to its IPX8 water resistance rating, make the phone technically a lot more rugged than Samsung’s earlier foldables.
In hand it certainly does feel toucher. Folded, though undeniably chunky, the phone has a rugged sensibility and offers no noticeable flex. The hinge, which is the part I used to cringe at when using when playing with the Galaxy Fold, has a solid feel and I’ve gotten used to folding and unfolding the phone without worry. With that said, this is not a child friendly device.
Over the weekend I nearly had a heart attack when my goddaughter started using the Fold 3 in tablet mode. In a fit of excitement watching YouTube she pushed the two screens a little too far back, if I hadn’t noticed then I may well have been sending the phone back to Samsung in two parts. Be warned parents, you don’t want to let kids use the Fold unsupervised, its hinge is stronger, but definitely not toddler proof based on my experience.
Then there’s my second main issue with foldables: their halfway house screens. Being clear, this isn’t a technical issue with the Fold 3’s screens, but rather a practical one. The Fold 3 features two screens – the first is a smaller 6.2-inch OLED that sits on the phone’s front, and the second is the larger 7.6-inch OLED display housed within the phone’s innermost section. Both have variable 120Hz refresh rate screens and are wonderfully bright in operation. Beyond this however, my previous criticisms with the Fold-line still stand.
The front screen still carries an atypically tall and thin 25:9 aspect ratio, while the inner tablet has distinctly square 22.5:18 one. This makes everything on the outer display look unattractively long and the keyboard feel slightly squashed. This has led me to make more mistakes typing quick-fire replies to incoming messages using the handset than I would on a normal phone.
The square tablet screen also still isn’t optimised to play most types of content. Unless you plan to watch content mastered for old CRT televisions, you’re going to get huge black lines around a video. This means you’re only actually getting a moderately larger window than if you watched it on a Galaxy S21 Ultra or older Galaxy Note 20 Ultra smartphone.
Despite all this, I still find the screen useful at times. The tablet mode has made editing spreadsheets on the fly much easier, and I do enjoy the extra screen space it gives when doing things like reading comics using the Crunchyroll Manga app. The trouble is, I’m still not convinced that this is enough to justify the added price. You can easily get a tablet and phone for the same price as a Galaxy Z Fold 3 at the moment.
Which is why my answer to the question, can the Galaxy Z Fold 3 change a proven foldable sceptic’s mind on the technology is: “it’s too early to tell”.
I still have plenty of areas to check as part of my review, including how its camera and screen perform in our synthetic benchmarks. Given how quickly my habits are changing whilst using the device over the weekend I also feel I need more time with it as my main phone before offering a definitive verdict.
Check back on Friday when I’ll update this page with my final Galaxy Z Fold 3 review to find out my final answer.