Samsung’s new flagship foldable, the Galaxy Z Fold 3, is a splendid device, at least on paper. It’s got many fancy features, such as water resistance, an under-display camera, and S Pen support, a mostly flagship-grade spec sheet, and an attractive price tag.
We went hands-on with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 before Samsung’s August 11 Unpacked event and came away impressed with all the refinements Samsung has made, and I have now been able to spend 24 hours with the device and have a few thoughts to share before our review arrives in the next couple of weeks.
First off, the design. While it hasn’t changed drastically, the Z Fold 3 feels better in the hand than the Z Fold 2, and the back side in particular feels very expensive. However, Samsung has made a disappointing change here. The three camera rings now stick out from the camera island, which also sticks out from the rest of the phone, though I will have to spend more time with the device to say if it makes a difference in day-to-day use.
Next up is the under-display camera. I’ll be honest: In the first couple of hours, it constantly gave me the impression that the display is broken. The UDC isn’t completely invisible, as we’ve shown before, but I have a feeling it isn’t going to be a problem in the long run. I’m already adjusting to its faint presence when I’m using the phone, and its quality isn’t exactly that bad, either.
The camera software, or rather, the image processing, seems to have been improved, even though the camera sensors remain exactly the same as last year. That said, I will have to look deeper into this to be sure as I haven’t had the time to take too many pictures yet. Naturally, the lack of modern zoom capabilities is a bummer, and no matter how many improvements Samsung may have baked into the software, the 2x telephoto lens is going to fall short.
The phone’s user interface, meanwhile, feels mostly the same to me as a (ex-) Galaxy Z Fold 2 user. There’s a ton of new software features and improvements here, including all the stylus-related stuff, that will need a thorough inspection, but the basic experience is mostly unchanged. For those wondering, the Z Fold 3 (and Z Flip 3) indeed runs One UI 3.1.1 instead of One UI 3.5, and we’ll be digging into the changes it brings in the coming days and telling you all about it.
What about battery life? Unfortunately, my Z Fold 3 isn’t doing great. I know this is too short a time to give any verdict on battery life, but I distinctly remember the Galaxy Z Fold 2 being noticeably better from day one. Perhaps the addition of 120Hz refresh rate on the cover display is to blame, perhaps it’s the 100 mAh smaller battery, or perhaps it’s both. But I’m hoping battery life improves over time, because the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and the original Fold were both pretty excellent in this regard.
As for the S Pen, I haven’t been able to use one yet so I can’t say how it works on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but we will have all the details in our full review, so stay tuned for that.