And while there was plenty of good work on show with the new flagship Z Fold 3, with it including a more rugged design, better specs and slightly less ridiculous price tag, for me there’s a lot more that can still be done.
The Z Fold 3 is the third generation of Samsung’s flagship folding phone series. It lets you use it as a regular phone and tablet using a custom folding screen technology developed by Samsung.
Regular readers will know, I’m not the biggest fan of foldable devices as a category in general, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see a sliver of hope for the form-factor. In fact, I think it’ll only take five key steps for Samsung to fix its folding line of phones. Here’s what they are.
Sort out the crease
The Fold’s folding screen has always been its coolest feature but it has caused issues on previous versions of the Fold.
To be fair to Samsung, the work it’s done ruggedising the tech on the Z Fold 3 sounds impressive. Specifically, making it “80% more durable”, adding Gorilla Glass Victus on the outside and designing it to meet the IPX8 water resistance standard. The IP rating means it can survive an accidental encounter with water at shallow depths.
Sounds good right? Except, as our deputy editor discovered testing the phone for our early hands-on Galaxy Z Fold 3 review, it still has a very noticeable crease (see above). It also doesn’t fold completely flat, which means dirt and stray debris can easily sneak in when it’s folded, damaging the screen. These, for me, are clear design flaws that need to be fixed in future versions.
Make the Fold an actual tablet
When folded out into tablet mode the screen is still distinctly square and has an atypical aspect ratio.
This means that most apps either display incorrectly or don’t take advantage of the entire display. Watching Netflix, video has noticeable black bars around the movie, for example.
This brings me to my next point…
The same issue applies to the phone’s front 6.3-inch screen, which is far thinner than a standard smartphone’s. This means whether you’re using it as a tablet or phone, some apps aren’t optimised to run correctly.
If Samsung wants to make foldable phones succeed, it needs to make sure that the big names are correctly optimised to run and display correctly on both screens. Otherwise the entire experience is compromised, which is unacceptable on a device at this price.
Properly implement the S Pen
I’ve always been a fan of Samsung’s S Pen stylus. It was a great little feature on the Galaxy Note that made it quick and easy to do things like scribbling down a shopping list. This is why I was pleased to see Samsung add support for it to the new Fold 3.
But, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the implementation is a little bit compromised. Sure you can use an S Pen, but you have to pay extra for it. Even if you do, there’s no docking station, so you’ll have to then shell out for a custom case unless you want to carry it separately. If Samsung wants to make the Z Fold a proper productivity aid it needs to design it with a slot to store the stylus, as it did on the Note phablet.
Focus on the phone’s core specs
The final and the potentially biggest change I’d like is for Samsung to remember, no matter how cool a design is, if you don’t get the camera and battery right, it’s going to struggle to be one of the best phones on the market.
This is why I was slightly disappointed when I saw the Fold’s camera and battery specs. It features a triple sensor (wide, ultra-wide and tele) rear camera setup. This isn’t bad, but the tech’s nowhere near matching the Galaxy S21 Ultra, or Galaxy S21 Plus at a hardware level. There is no advanced zoom features nor high megapixel sensors.
A 4400mAh battery is slightly small for a phone this size and it’s outright tiny for a tablet, which leaves me very nervous the Fold 3 won’t offer much stamina if used that way. Next time round Samsung should load it with a much bigger cell, in my opinion, as a result.