The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the latest foldable Android phone from Samsung. And unlike its predecessors, it is a fairly solid phone. But is it worth buying? Let’s find out…
I never thought foldable phones would catch on. And to date, they haven’t, though is mostly down to how much they cost – they’re still prohibitively expensive for most users. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is no exception either, despite a modest price cut.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Price & Release Date
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is now available and it retails for an eye-watering $1799 in the USA and £1599 in the UK. That is cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, but only just – and that, in my mind, is still the biggest stopping block for most people.
I mean, do you know anyone that would go out and drop almost $2000 on a phone just because it folded? I don’t. But then most of my friends have young families and would be murdered by their spouses for even considering such a thing. But I digress…
If you do decide to get this phone, there is no way of doing it cheaply. On plans and contracts, it is listed as over $100/£100 a month with massive upfront costs. Offline, you can buy one direct from Samsung and spread the cost over 12-24 months using Samsung Finance. This would get you the phone for around $30/£30 a month.
But then you’d need to get a plan to run the phone, and even the cheapest – currently Mint Mobile’s Unlimited Plan – still comes in at $30 a month, so you’re already at $60 a month to run this phone. And that’s if you can even get approved for financing via Samsung or other third-party credit and/or financing companies.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 PROS – What’s Good
The Novelty Factor
If you’re a massive tech fan, and you want something completely different and novel, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is just about as unique and novel as it gets. As phones go, this is the de facto foldable phone on the market right now. In this small niche, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is king.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, get stopped on the street by strangers, then the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the phone for you. Like its predecessors, the phone itself is so rare that people will often think you’re a time-traveler from the not-too-distant future.
I live in London, I go out quite a bit, frequent bars and coffee houses, and I have yet to see ANYONE using a foldable phone. And foldable phones have been around for three years now. Despite better than expected pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, these types of phones are still about as rare as unicorns in the wild.
Samsung, after producing three of these phones, has finally nailed the concept. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the most accomplished, robust, and actually useful foldable phone we’ve seen to date. It actually works as you’d expect, and the hinge will last a good many years.
The physical design and aesthetic of the phone are very nice too; Samsung is brilliant when it comes to engaging industrial design and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a testament to this fact. It looks unlike anything else and it is a beautifully executed feat of engineering.
If you’re a tablet user, for instance, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 effectively offers a phone and tablet experience in one. Folded and unfolded, it is a phone. But when you open up its display to reveal its full screen, it is essentially a tablet device. And that makes it a two-in-one device, a device that is both a phone and a tablet.
Samsung has also been working its nuts off to get more developers to create app experiences for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. Its hard work has paid off too; there are now foldable-optimized apps than ever, and we have Samsung to thank for this. The app experience still isn’t 100%, but it is moving in the right direction.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is now also water and dust resistant, a first for Samsung’s foldable phones. And it comes with built-in S-Pen support. But you’ll have to pay EVEN MORE if you want the S-Pen, for some reason Samsung isn’t bundling it in with the phone. And for the asking price, I’d have like to have seen the S-Pen included.
Great Specs, Hardware
This is a flagship phone. This means you get access to all the latest and greatest specs and hardware, including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 CPU, 12GB of RAM, 256GB or 512GB of storage, and a 2208 x 1768 120Hz Adaptive OLED screen – all good things.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs like a beast too. With respect to benchmarks, the phone is comparable to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra but not quite as potent as Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Does this matter? If you want the most powerful phone on the market, you need to get an iPhone. But if you hate Apple, this isn’t going to happen. Benchmarks are great tools for comparison. But they’re not usually reflective of real-world performance.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has more than enough power under the hood. It will not leave you hanging and will gobble up pretty much anything you can throw at it, thanks to its masses of RAM and SD888 chipset.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 CONS – What’s Not So Good…
OK, we’ve covered off some of the main PROS of buying the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. But what about the downsides? As always, there’s plenty – here’s a breakdown of all the issues and problems we have with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.
The Under Screen Camera
Samsung has brought an under-screen camera to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, a first for the company. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3’s under-screen camera replaces its selfie camera and is designed to be completely invisible when you’re not using it, which sounds great.
But in practice, this just isn’t the case. The camera’s performance is weak, for starters, it’s only a 4MP sensor, and when the background on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3’s display is white, you can clearly see the camera under the display, which isn’t ideal.
It Weighs A TON
Because the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is essentially two screens in one phone it is bigger and thicker than most single-screened phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro Max.
But it ain’t just a few grams heavier, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 weighs a METRIC TON compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max (228g) and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (229g) at a whopping 271g.
This means the phone itself is weighty in the hand and the pocket, and because it is a rather large phone – especially when it is unfolded – you will get quite a wrist workout while using it for prolonged periods of time.
Is it too heavy to use? Not by a long shot. But it is considerably heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and just about every other phone on the market right now.
Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend on what you want from a mobile device. Me? I prefer my phones on the lighter side.
It Is Still Stupidly Expensive
Whichever way you slice it, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is still ridiculously expensive. Unless you’re working an extremely well-paid job or a member of the landed gentry, this kind of price is just not feasible.
For the same price, you can buy a brand new laptop. Or a massive 4K HDR TV. Or a Pixel 5a and an iPad. I do like what Samsung is doing with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, I like that it is pushing the boundaries of design, that it is doing something different. But the cost is still costly, and in my eyes, the phone is just too expensive for what it is.
The Camera Tech Hasn’t Really Been Updated
You’d think at this price point that Samsung would have heavily updated the cameras, right? Wrong! The Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs much the same hardware as its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 2. This is just one of the ways Samsung was able to reduce the price.
This is a shame too; this phone is meant to be a flagship. It’s certainly priced like one, but it doesn’t possess a flagship camera module. And at this asking price, well, that’s just criminal.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra Is Still A Better Option
As I mentioned above, I do like the Galaxy Z Fold 3. I like that Samsung is pushing things, trying new things with phone design. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is novel, it looks awesome, and, as foldable phones go, it is pretty darn functional. But is it better than the Galaxy S21 Ultra?
Is The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Worth It?
I’d argue, no; the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a vastly superior phone and the reasons are threefold:
1) the Galaxy S21 Ultra is cheaper and just as powerful, with regards to specs and performance; 2) the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a better camera, like way better; and, finally, 3) the Galaxy S21 Ultra has better battery life. The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s, meanwhile, is just about adequate.
For this reason, I’d recommend that you go with the Galaxy S21 Ultra over the Galaxy Z Fold 3 if you’re looking to update your phone in 2021. Or the iPhone 12 Pro Max. You’ll pay less for both of these phones and get better performance across the board. In this respect, it is a no-brainer.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.